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Next Stop Thursdays last show is this Friday, benefitting the Beth-El Shelter, Inc., and featuring The Alpaca Gnomes

Written by: Karen Pasacreta

We all need that place we can go to meet up with friends, enjoy a good laugh, try the latest stout and hear some great music. It’s called community, where you might run into your neighbors, former teachers, a few childhood buddies—or even make some new ones. We know a place like this, it’s called Milford. Our little diverse city with a heart big enough to include everyone.

Julie Nash, Director of Economic and Community Development for the City thinks of Milford as the place to be, and of course she’s right—for many years people have come here, planted their seeds, got involved and grew their families. It’s a wonderful heritage where everyone knows one another and welcomes new neighbors with open arms.

Great things are happening here

Building on this Milford legacy, Julie had a vision to grow the community a little larger—bringing people together from surrounding areas, too. “How do we get the word out about all the great things that are happening here,” she thought, “so even more people can enjoy our events?” She launched this site, Discover Milford, a multi-social platform that promotes the City and all its fun happenings. A list of great information is a click away.

“We want people to think of Milford as a destination, as a place to come and have fun,” said Julie. “For people who grew up here to stay and raise their families, and for this community to grow.”

Milford isn’t just a pretty shore town with its beautiful stretch of coastline and family-friendly beaches. It’s also home to businesses, farms, the second longest green in New England, and is a premier hub of cultural activity. The Milford Arts Council or the MAC, now in its 50th year, is a big part of the artistic collective people come in to enjoy. Making its home right in the downtown center at the train station, it is the perfect location for people to come in from Metro North to stop and see a show. Or enjoy a happy hour…

That was just the thinking Julie had in mind. So she teamed up to brainstorm with MAC Executive Director Paige Miglio and mobile Irish pub partners Damian Cashman and Troy Stuckey of The Rambling Inn. The group unanimously decided to host summer weekly happy hours at the MAC.

C’mon get happy

Next Stop Thursdays have been taking place every Thursday since the beginning of July and have been a great success. From 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. people can purchase a $25 pub wristband that includes all drinks and light food. And they can feel good about their involvement—a percentage of the proceeds goes to a different local charity each week. “These happy hours are great examples of the power of art has to bring in a unique setting with a new experience,” said Paige. “Art and culture play such a key role in our society as the glue that binds us together.”

Each week people sit at the bar that feels like a living room but is actually a former fifth wheel RV trailer. They enjoy the light snacks and live music playing on the MAC patio. It’s an eclectic crowd. You might find yourself striking up a conversation with a local official or with the person walking by with their baby stroller curious about the music and decided to stop in for a while. “What is this?” they’ll inevitably ask. It’s a place people come for a couple of hours to enjoy themselves, mingle and lose their worries.

It embodies the very essence of neighborhood Damian, former owner of the Playwright in Hamden, means to bring with his bar on wheels. “The whole idea of the Irish pub is neighborhood, where people can catch up and find out what was happening locally,” he said, “and we are delighted for this opportunity.”

Season finale

The very last Next Stop Thursday gathering will actually take place this Friday from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. featuring favorite local folk-rock band, The Alpaca Gnomes. With the band’s young and old fan “Gnomie,” hat-wearing crowd, the event was moved to the Milford Bank parking lot to accommodate.

Literally founded on friendship in Bridgeport, the band was a perfect fit for the finale. Featured with leader singer Benny Mikula will be drummer Mike Gargano and flautist/violinist Kimberly Nordling-Curtin to form The Alpaca Gnomes Trio. Benny describes the band’s popularity like this: “We started out in the Black Rock section with our friends and family coming, and they would bring their friends, and they would become our friends, and the following took care of itself. We’ve made so many friends through music,” he said.

We are all in this together

There is no denying that music brings people together. So bring yourselves, your kids, and your parents, their friends and their friends’ friends. If your friends are coming in on the train, tell them to get off at the Milford stop. Wear a gnome hat and, if you are 21 or older, buy a $25 wristband or make a donation. This last happy hour benefits the Beth-El Center, an organization working to alleviate homelessness and hunger, with 15 percent of the wristband purchase being donated to its programs.

“We are so lucky to have a community like Milford,” said Center Executive Director Jennifer Paradis. “To have these collaborations with the City, the arts and non-profits—and to promote their differing missions through tourism is what makes Milford such a special community. This event is bringing out the best the community has to offer. It’s about the people. I see it as we are all in this together.”