Norwalk Celebrates 40th Annual Oyster Festival This Weekend

By Casey Donahue

NORWALK, Conn. -- The Norwalk Seaport Association held a ribbon-cutting Wednesday to
officially celebrate the opening of the 40th annual Norwalk Oyster Festival, which runs Friday,
Sept. 8, through Sunday, Sept. 10.

The Norwalk Oyster Festival offers three days of fun for the whole family. There will be live
music from dozens of bands on multiple stages all weekend, including Billy Joel tribute
band, Mike DelGuidice & Big Shot on Friday; Latin Rock Santana tribute band, Sacred Fire, and
Desert Highway, a band celebrating the music of the Eagles, on Saturday; and Eight To The Bar
with swing-influenced music on Sunday.

There will also be aerial stunt artists the Nerveless Nocks Thrill Show, the Paul Bunyan
Lumberjack Show, a craft beer tent, international food court, Kid's Cove with rides and games,
an arts and crafts pavilion, an oyster-slurping contest, and more.

The Oyster Festival will be held at Veterans Park on Seaview Avenue in Norwalk. Festival hours
are 6 to 11 p.m. Friday; 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday; and 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday.
Through a partnership with the Norwalk Parking Authority, attendees can save $2 off parking at
any on-street parking meter or outside lot just over the bridge in South Norwalk using the
Parkmobile app on their cellphone with the code: oyster2off. In addition, for those who want to
take the train, Metro-North offers discount packages.

Police are warning that motorist should expect delays in lower East Norwalk and South Norwalk.
Motorists should also be cautious due to increased pedestrian traffic in the area.
While the festival is open, Seaview Avenue will be closed to traffic. Lower East Avenue will
become a one-way street for northbound traffic only. Streets surrounding Veterans Park will be
designated "Resident Parking Only". Violators will be ticketed and possibly towed. Traffic
officers will be positioned throughout the area to allow for a smooth flow of traffic. Motorists are
asked to be attentive to their directions.
More Oyster Festival information and tickets can be found at www.seaport.org or by calling 203-
838-9444.


Oyster Festival volunteers gear up for 40th festival

By Leslie Lake

NORWALK — The Norwalk Seaport Association will mark a milestone this year when it puts the 40th annual Oyster Festival.

Association president Mike Reilly calls that “a very big deal.”

“The average time for most festivals is 7.5 years,” said Reilly, who is also chairman of the Oyster Festival. “The fact that we’ve been around for 40 years is a real long time for a festival and it really is all about the dedication of more than 1,000 volunteers.”

After scaling back to a two-day event at Veteran’s Park last year, this year’s festival will be three days — Friday, Sept. 8 through Sunday, Sept. 10.

“We’re very excited to get back to a three-day festival with the same hours as in the past,” Reilly said.

The festival will feature live music from dozens of bands on several stages.
Friday night’s entertainment on the main stage is the Billy Joel tribute band, Mike DelGuidice & Big Shot. DelGuidice was hand picked and hired by Billy Joel himself, and is currently on tour with Billy Joel playing rhythm guitar and vocals, along with other members of Big Shot, Reilly said,

Saturday’s entertainment will include Latin Rock Santana tribute band, Sacred Fire, and Desert Highway, a band celebrating the music of the Eagles.

On Sunday, Eight To The Bar, a colorful mix of forties jazz and swing, fifties jump blues, and their own swing-influenced music, will perform on the main stage.

Other musical acts during the weekend include Ripchord, of the Connecticut National Guard 102nd Army Band, singer/songwriter Alex Shillo, the VMI Commanders Jazz Band, and Funky Dawgz Brass Band.

Entertainment includes The Paul Bunyan Lumberjack Show, the Nerveless Nocks Thrill Show with motorcycle acts and other daredevil stunts, a craft beer tent with more than 40 beers, an Arts & Crafts Pavilion with items from more than 100 artisans and crafters, and an oyster slurping contest with local dignitaries.

Food will be on sale by local nonprofit organizations.

For children, there will be amusement rides and live entertainment at the Kid’s Cove all weekend with circus acts by the Seaport Circus featuring clowns, jugglers, magicians, acrobats and hula hoops artists under the big tent.

There will also be meet-and-greets with characters from movies and television shows on Saturday and Sunday.

Special family and children’s packages for entrance, rides and meals are available on Sunday, Family Day.

Reilly said that when weekend weather is good, weekend attendance at the festival exceeds 40,000.

The weather hasn’t always cooperated for the outdoor event. In what may be the most memorable cancellation, rain and wind knocked down tree limbs and tents at the 2014 festival, causing the Joan Jett concert to be canceled.

The festival hours are 6 p to 11 p.m. Friday, Sept. 8; 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 9; and 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 10.
Through a partnership with the Norwalk Parking Authority, attendees can save $2 off parking at any on-street parking meter or outside lot just over the bridge in South Norwalk using the Parkmobile app on their cell phone with the code: oyster2off. MetroNorth is offering discount packages.

For more information and tickets go to www.seaport.org or call 203-838-9444.

First County Bank is the presenting sponsor of the festival for the seventh time.
The nonprofit Norwalk Seaport Association was founded in in 1978 to preserve and maintain the Sheffield Lighthouse, as well as educate and raise awareness about Norwalk’s maritime environment and history.

In addition to the Oyster Festival, the Norwalk Seaport Association offers trips and tours to Sheffield Lighthouse, harbor cruises, special events, maritime education programs and habitat
restoration projects with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.


First County Bank Foundation & The Power of Giving Back

Reyno Giallongo, Jr. President of the First County Bank Foundation and Chairman and CEO of First County Bank discusses the importance of giving back to the community. In Rey's word's, "engagement in the nonprofit community should come from someone's DNA." Find out how else, the First County Bank Foundation is making a difference in local communities.


FCB Brings on New VP in Commercial Banking Division

By The Commercial Record

First County Bank recently hired Brad Lupinacci as vice president and commercial banking officer.

A Stamford native, he will be originating and building commercial relationships for the bank.

“With over 13 years in business banking and an extensive network in the community, he will be a strong contributor to the bank’s commercial lending team,” Reyno Giallongo, First County Bank’s chairman and CEO, said in a statement.

Prior to joining First County Bank, Lupinacci held commercial lending and relationship management positions focused on the lower Fairfield County market. He has expertise with commercial and industrial, Small Business Administration and commercial real estate lending.

Lupinacci is a member of the Stamford Chamber of Commerce, Exchange Club of Stamford, Knights of Columbus and Gravinese Mutual Aid Society. He is a board member of the James Barbara Inverno Foundation.


First County Bank Presents Teen Chefs Challenge at Stamford Museum, March 3&4

By SM&NC, Fairfield's HamletHub

Stamford, CT - The Stamford Museum & Nature Center and First County Bank are currently accepting applications for the 2018 "Teen Chefs Challenge." We are seeking Chefs age 13-19 to compete in the Challenge on Saturday March 3, 2018 at the Stamford Museum & Nature Center's Bendel Mansion.

In February and March, SM&NC collects sap from 200+ maple trees on our property and produces our own pure maple syrup in our Sugar House. Our Maple Sugar Festival Weekend (March 3 & 4) is an opportunity for the public to learn about the process of making maple syrup, taste samples, and celebrate the maple season. The Teen Chefs Challenge incorporates our maple syrup into an original recipe to be presented at the Festival.

Details are as follows:

  • The Teen Chefs Challenge will be held on Saturday, March 3 from 11:30am - 1:30pm
  • The winner will be announced at approximately 2pm.
  • All contestants need to incorporate maple syrup in an original dish/dishes.
  • We will provide ½ gallon of our maple syrup for the chefs to use.
  • We will provide a $75 stipend for each teen chef to use for recipe development and ingredients.
  • Table set up begins promptly at 10:00am.
  • Each participant needs to provide tastes/samples for 300+ guests.
  • We will provide serving plates, tasting utensils, napkins, two tables (one for prep and one for serving) with basic table cloths.
  • Chefs must provide all serving utensils and extension cords if needed.
  • There will be power outlets at each station.
  • No open flames allowed. If needed, chefs can use sternos or other small appliances to keep things warm.
  • There will be no use of the SM&NC kitchen.
  • All of your food needs to be prepared prior to arrival.
  • You are welcome to bring your own tablecloth(s), as well as any other items you would like to decorate or enhance your serving table.
  • Each chef is responsible for being at their table, serving their dish, and talking with the public about their dish/dishes throughout the Challenge.
  • We invite our Festival visitors to taste and vote for their favorite.
  • We also have "celebrity judges" and the winner wins by a combination of celebrity judge votes and the public votes.
  • Due to space constraints, the number of teen chefs will be limited.

CLICK HERE TO APPLY: http://www.stamfordmuseum.org/Teen-Chefs-Application.pdf


First County Bank opening branch in Fairfield

By Kevin Zimmerman, Westfair Online

First County Bank is opening its first full-service branch in Fairfield, which it says will provide more convenient banking services to its customers within Lower Fairfield County. The new branch, at 1312 Post Road, diagonally across from the Fairfield Library, is due to open in early February following completion of renovations.

The Fairfield branch’s retail staff will be led by Branch Manager Benedict Peter and Assistant Branch Manager Iliana Nikolova. Also on-site will be bankers specializing in business banking and residential lending. Investment and trust services will be provided by First County Advisors, the wealth management division of First County Bank.


First County Bank Announces Expansion Into the Town of Fairfield

By First County Bank, ConnecticutPlus.com

STAMFORD, CT - First County Bank is proud to announce it is expanding its footprint and opening a full service branch in the Town of Fairfield. This will allow the bank to provide more convenient full-service banking services to its customers within Lower Fairfield County. The new First County Bank branch is located in downtown Fairfield at 1312 Post Road, diagonally across from the Fairfield Library, steps away from the train station, and it provides plenty of on-site parking. It will be open for business in early February, after some renovations are completed.

“First County Bank is excited to bring our community banking to the Town of Fairfield,” said Reyno A. Giallongo, Jr., chairman and CEO of First County Bank. “This expansion provides more convenient local banking to our customers in Fairfield and surrounding communities. We have been delivering personalized banking services to Fairfield County customers for over 165 years, and expanding our footprint into Fairfield confirms our commitment to this area. We are conveniently located in the heart of town, close to the train station.”

The new Fairfield branch will offer a full-service team of bankers. The retail branch staff will be led by Benedict “Ben” Peter, as branch manager and Iliana Nikolova, as assistant branch manager. Also on site will be bankers specializing in business banking and residential lending. Investment and trust services will be provided by First County Advisors, the wealth management division of First County Bank.


Connecticut bank sees success in offering prizes for saving

By Macaela J. Bennett, Greenwich Time


What if you didn’t have to gamble to win the lottery?

The payout isn’t exactly PowerBall, which won someone nearly $759 million last year; it’s typically closer to a few thousand dollars. But it’s a prize people can win for investing in their savings.

First County Bank, which is based in Stamford and has branches around southwestern Connecticut, says one of its most popular savings accounts acts sort of like a raffle, complete with $1,000 prize payout that’s awarded quarterly.

Customers don’t use scratch-off tickets or pull levers on slot machines. They make deposits of $25 or more in their “FirstPrize $avings” accounts, and each deposit — capped at ten per month — win them another chance to win.

First County Bank has offered the product for a little more than a year, opening up hundreds of accounts every month, said Chairman and CEO Rey Giallongo. The winners have used prize money to save for a new car and fund vacations, but, most importantly, executives believe the chance of winning is prompting people to save more than they otherwise would, said SVP of Retail Banking Willard Miley.

“The importance of financial education to our constituency is embedded in our DNA,” Giallongo said. “We vetted this product extensively, and the reason we began offering it goes back to our mission to promote savings. It provides an additional incentive to promote savings. The prize might be just enough to entice people to save.”

Legalization

Lottery or raffle-style savings products are often called prize-linked savings accounts, or PLSAs.

While countries all over the world have been offering iterations of them for decades, the United States is relatively new to the game, because it was illegal for most American financial institutions to tender them until 2014.

Until the federal government passed the American Savings Promotion Act, most states had a monopoly on hosting lotteries. Previously, several states had individually passed laws to allow some PLSAs, but the federal legislation opened up the opportunity to banks across the country.

Years before the federal government took up the issue, First County Bank and the Connecticut Bankers Association were lobbying Connecticut to join other states in passing legislation to make PLSAs legal, Giallongo said. Those efforts culminated in a law passed in 2013 and amended in 2014, which made it possible for First County Bank to offer a prize-linked savings option, according to Tom Mongellow at CBA.

First County Bank learned of the concept through Massachusetts-based industry group Commonwealth, which helped several states launch successful programs.

Combining excitement with certainty

Analysis of some of America’s earliest prize-linked savings programs show there’s sizable consumer demand for accounts that blend gambling with the certainty of saving.

“This overlap between prize-linked savings and lotteries is important as survey results show that low-income American families believe they are more likely to build wealth by playing the lottery than by traditional saving with compound interest,” according to a paper published in 2008 by several Harvard Business School professors and a Commonwealth executive. “The power of compound interest provides little incentive to savers with short and uncertain savings horizons and small principal balances that generate meager amounts of interest.”

Depending on the bank, PLSAs operate differently. At some, customers forfeit their interest, which is used to fund the prizes. That’s not the case at First County Bank, where account holders earn interest at a tiered rate on par with its other savings products, Giallongo said.

That’s a crucial distinction, according to Phil Lane, an associate professor of economics at Fairfield University. “Is it a way to encourage people to save? Yes,” he said. “It’s another service to help people put aside more than they would.”

But a prize can’t replace the power of compounding interest on savings, he said.

Lane acknowledges that PLSAs have the potential to cultivate better saving habits, especially among those who may not otherwise save at all, but he warns they won’t necessarily help someone “achieve long-term financial stability.”

It will take more time for First County Bank to gather the data that will help them determine how their prize-linked savings option influences customers’ savings options, Miley said, but they’re happy with the outcome so far.

Looking ahead, the bank is considering more ways to use PLSAs. “The fundamentals would stay the same,” Miley said, “but maybe we’ll change it a little for tax season where if you have your tax return deposited in this account, we’ll double the prize.”


Credit’s out there for small businesses, experts and owners say

By Phil Hall, Westfair Online

For many Connecticut small-business owners, access to financing is not a concern going into a new year.

“Our credit availability surveys are showing pretty positive results,” said Peter Gioia, vice president and economist at the Connecticut Business & Industry Association (CBIA). “It’s quite a dramatic change from where we were eight or nine years ago, when we did have serious credit availability problems.”

In the association’s Economic and Credit Availability Survey for the third quarter of 2017, 88 percent of respondents said that credit availability was not a problem for them, and 94 percent of the respondents said they were meeting most or all of their credit needs, according to Gioia. Bank credit was the top source of funds for 45 percent of respondents, while 9 percent used vendor credit, 9 percent used credit cards and another 9 percent said they used business earnings as their top source of funds.

“This is a very strong and competitive environment,” Gioia said of Connecticut’s small-business lending sector. “A lot of banks have come into the state or have taken over other banks, and we’re seeing smaller banks get into the commercial area where they haven’t been. That allows smaller business more choice and more access, which is a good thing.”

However, CBIA President and CEO Joe Brennan noted that not all small-business owners are benefiting from this environment.

“Anecdotally, I still hear complaints from small businesses that they still have trouble accessing capital,” he said. “It is because of either the regulatory changes or the lenders’ risk aversion after what they had in 2007 to 2009.”

Heidi S. DeWyngaert, executive vice president and chief lending officer at Bankwell headquartered in New Canaan, noted that financial institutions preferred using Small Business Administration (SBA) programs such as the 7(a) and 504 loans because the government guarantee helps mitigate the potential for loss. Direct lending without the SBA component can be more cumbersome, she said.

“It can take a lot of work, hand-holding and relationship building to make a small-business loan,” said DeWyngaert. Loan applications are rejected, she said, when borrowers “fail to do proper homework and due diligence” in presenting business plans, cash flow projections and their business’ mission statement.

Lenders are also less interested in originating loans for startups. “There are more resources around for Stage 2 companies,” said Reyno A. Giallongo, chairman and CEO at First County Bank in Stamford. “Most startups get their funds from family, friends, home equity loans and mortgage refinancing.”

Fran Pastore, president and CEO of the Women’s Business Development Council in Stamford, pointed out that this year marks the 30th anniversary of the Women’s Business Ownership Act of 1988, which was designed to enable equality for women business owners. However, the goals of that Reagan-era legislation have been lost on some of today’s lenders, she said.

“Thirty years later, bias still exists. It takes women an average of six attempts at securing capital in a traditional bank loan,” said Pastore. “From my experience at the WBDC, our clients still have trouble accessing capital. For them, access to capital is the most critical thing — even for smaller microloans under $50,000.”

At the CBIA, Brennan said some business owners denied loans have not separated their corporate and personal financial accounts.

“A lot of small businesses pay their tax on their business income through the personal income tax,” he said. “We’ve seen a couple of dramatic increases in the personal income tax have made it more expensive to do business here.”

“It is still difficult for businesses that don’t have great credit,” said Christopher Salem, a business and personal development consultant in Danbury. “Getting a loan from banks is not a given thing, and some businesses have to take loans from investors that charge higher rates.”

For small-business owners seeking financing, “There are a lot of myths out there,” said Mike Roer, president of the Entrepreneur Foundation in Fairfield. He said the 2010 film “The Social Network” romanticized the speed and ease that went into financing Facebook. “Everyone assumes it is easier to raise capital than it actually is,” he said.

Small-business financing is the focus of a Feb. 24 seminar co-sponsored by Housatonic Community College and Black Wall Street Bridgeport, an event marketing platform that showcases minority businesses. Eldorado Anderson, founder of Black Wall Street Bridgeport, coordinated the event out of concern over the lack of knowledge on financing.

“We are trying to find ways to educate our members,” Anderson said. “Most new businesses close because they do not have the financial backing to succeed.”

CBIA’s Gioia said small businesses that understand how the process works will have little difficulty finding a source for financing. “The banks I know are aggressively lending,” he said. “They’re really looking for customers big time.”


Fairfield County’s Giving Day sets Feb. 1 nonprofit deadline

By Alexander Soule, CT Post


Nonprofits have until Feb. 1 to register for the fifth edition of Fairfield County’s Giving Day scheduled for the first day of March, with last year’s fundraiser generating nearly $1.5 million in donations for more than 400 area nonprofits.

To date this year, more than 280 nonprofits have registered to raise money on Fairfield County’s Giving Day, which is organized by the Norwalk-based Fairfield County’s Community Foundation with sponsors including Bank of America and Hearst Connecticut Media Group. Of last year’s donations, more than a third were by people making a contribution to that nonprofit for the first time — a key point for organizations looking to expand their sources of funding.

Nonprofits will be eligible to win an additional $100,000 in cash prizes for various milestones on Giving Day, to include leading fundraising in certain hours of the day. As the case last year, Fairfield County’s Community Foundation is holding a “boot camp” on Feb. 1 to help nonprofits maximize their fundraising effectiveness on Giving Day, as well as webinars on varying topics leading up to the March 1 event.

In addition to Bank of America and Hearst Connecticut Media Group, other sponsors include Barrett Outdoor Communications; BlumShapiro; Chelsea Piers Connecticut; Cummings & Lockwood; Day Pitney; First County Bank; Moffly Media; News12 Connecticut; Neuberger Berman; Nikki Glekas Events; Sacred Heart University; Star 99.9 and 95.9 Fox; Webster Private Bank; and Whole Foods Market.

For information on donating, registering or sponsoring on Fairfield County’s Giving Day, visit fcgives.org, email fcgives@fccfoundation.org or call 203-750-3200.


First County Bank Foundation, Inc. 15th Anniversary

The 15th Anniversary of the First County Bank Foundation was celebrated the only way we know how; by taking time to meet with the local nonprofit organizations we support! At the 15th Anniversary event, we were able to hear from nonprofit organizations, their successes, and the impact we have been able to provide through the Foundation.