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Ten Minutes With – A Bossa Nova Singer

Chrissy Armstrong now croons Portugese lyrics as the lead singer in the Bossa Nova band A Lua Alicia. Growing up in a musical family, Armstrong joined a cappella group in college and was the song leader at her sorority, Music, however, naturally fell by the wayside once Armstrong began her career and then took time [...]read moreTen Minutes With – A Bossa Nova Singer

25 Most Dedicated, Most Creative, Most Influential

Cara Blazier is a former clinical social worker. A Litchfield resident, she is a trustee of the Oliver Wolcott Library and has served on its Festival Committee for seven years. She volunteers for Friends in Service to Humanity (FISH) in Torrington, the Litchfield Aid of the Connecticut Junior Republic, and is a trustee of the [...]read more25 Most Dedicated, Most Creative, Most Influential

Ten Minutes with Todd Forrest – The Head of NY’s Botanical Garden

Todd Forrest oversees the New York Botanical Garden’s 250-acre site: indoor and outdoor exhibitions, the 50-acre Thain Family Forest, 50 gardens and plant collections, conservatories, and more, managing the staff of 85. He started with NYBG in 1998 after completing a master’s at Yale School of Forestry. Forrest lives in Ridgefield with his wife, two [...]read moreTen Minutes with Todd Forrest – The Head of NY’s Botanical Garden

Connecting a Community Through Art

Located on the eastern side of town and anchored by the 125-year-old Brooklawn Country Club, Brooklawn Park counts among its early residents businessman (and accidental inventor) William Russell Frisbie (1848-1903) and local titans of finance and industry Horace Merwin (1888-1948) and Webster Walker (1895-1966). In addition to its “Who’s Who” of turn-of-the-century personalities, one of [...]read moreConnecting a Community Through Art

The Right Stuff – Katonah space enthusiast explores on Netflix ‘Space Dealers’

Cole Sommers is The Right Stuff-obsessed. He stars in “Space Dealers,” a series produced by WAG TV that’s had successful runs in Europe and Australia and is now available on Netflix. It’s a kind of “American Pickers” meets “Antiques Roadshow”—for space collectibles. The Katonah resident also runs Moon Space Suits, a company that sells high-end, made-in-the-U.S.A. space suit replicas that range in price from $1,799 to nearly $13,000. He’s particularly passionate about NASA, using his 1:48-exact-scale models to show “the incredible growth in size and sophistication from the Mercury Redstone to the Apollo Saturn V, in only a six-year period.” And he’s ebullient getting to show off his own prized finds, like the personal preference kit that Buzz Aldrin used to carry the items he needed to take Holy Communion upon landing on the Moon. Sommers gushes, “Can you believe it? It’s the holy grail! It’s been on the Moon! Anything from Apollo 11 is precious, but this...! Aldrin’s communion bag! I tremble every time I take it out, and I’m totally humbled to have this unique piece of history!”


Sommers is not one of those enthusiasts out in Area 51 looking for UFO parts left by aliens. In fact, he doesn’t even pay much attention to memorabilia from Russia or elsewhere, saying: “It’s not like in the U.S., where we have a law that grandfathers things Apollo and pre-Apollo astronauts were given, but strictly prohibits owning just about anything significant from the shuttle era. That’s why there’s a real market for any Mercury, Gemini, or Apollo tidbit with provenance. Even something as unusual as this uneaten food ration that Alan Bean took from Apollo 12 that I just picked up. It’s been to the Moon, and it’s fully authenticated. You can spend a lot of money on some Russian capsule or space suit and never really know what you have!”


But for Sommers, “the right stuff” is actually about something more important than his space “stuff” being “right.” Sommers is particularly impressed with what he calls the “can-do attitude, bravery, fortitude, ingenuity, glory, and honor” of the NASA astronauts. He can pinpoint when he first became fascinated with “the right stuff” to March 16, 1966, when he was just six and watched Commander Neil Armstrong and co-pilot Dave Scott launch Gemini 8 on the black-and-white TV at his kitchen table in Mahopac. Sommers breaks into a detailed history, recounting the 50-year-old mission as if it happened yesterday, and as if everyone had the same encyclopedic recall: “The mission nearly ended in disaster when a stuck maneuvering thruster sent the spacecraft into a faster and faster roll. The astronauts were blacking out when Armstrong used the re-entry thrusters to gain control of the vehicle.” Sommers has ever since been simply taken with the challenge and adventure of human space exploration!


Sommers can tell you everything about each of the astronauts, whom he refers to as “explorers,” and talks most proudly about being friends with a few. On request, he can give you a full Ken Burns on any NASA mission, with documentary detail about each astronaut’s life and exploits. When Sommers gets to the narrative about Apollo 11 landing on the Moon, and how “with warning alarms sounding and not far from the surface, and the computer targeting a landing zone that was filled with giant boulders, Armstrong took over manual control, firing full thrusters to pilot the lunar module Eagle to a perfect landing at ‘Tranquility Base’...with only 15 seconds of fuel remaining! Everything it took to get there! Their lives depending on the engine to ignite to get them off the surface and then back to rendezvous with the orbiting command module! Now that’s the right stuff!”


Sommers, a former dentist, is himself an aerobatic pilot and did apply to NASA to be an astronaut. He’s got the letter of reference that his friend, Apollo 14 astronaut Ed Mitchell, sent to NASA on his behalf to give provenance to even that space detail.


He’s yet to gain the kind of relationships and access at SpaceX that he’s enjoyed at NASA, but, even at 58, the father of two proclaims, “If Musk asks, I’m fit to fly, and I’m ready to go!” Sommers’s motto is “Your Deeds Are Your Monuments,” and he does define himself as a man of principle...so he might just have “the right stuff” to be chosen. To be sure, as his license plate reads, Sommers is the “ROCK8MAN!”


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Ten Minutes With an award-winning choreographer – Reggie Wilson

Reggie Wilson recounts a ring shout. Voices call and respond as men and women move in a circle in a pulsing tresillo, keeping the three-beat rhythm while singing in ecstatic ritual. Here and in the Caribbean, those enslaved from Africa created new forms of dance. This one is alive today on the Sea Islands off [...]read moreTen Minutes With an award-winning choreographer – Reggie Wilson

A Poet’s Place – Amy Clampitt’s home is a reprieve for writers

Jessica Piazza walks through each room with a sense of familiarity, even intimacy. She has been living in Amy Clampitt’s home for five months now. She picks up objects and imagines how they got there, who used them. She knows Clampitt loved hats; she uncovered three boxes of them in the closet. She knows Clampitt [...]read moreA Poet’s Place – Amy Clampitt’s home is a reprieve for writers

On Call – Being a firefighter is much more than fighting fires

Dan Garner is a juggler by default. When he’s not suited up and responding to a call, the 45-year-old deputy chief of the Pittsfield Fire Department is consistently training his squad, writing reports, checking equipment—or taking care of his two young children. “People think that when you’re a firefighter you jump out of this big [...]read moreOn Call – Being a firefighter is much more than fighting fires

Ridgefield 25 Nominations

Ridgefield Magazine is proud is celebrate The 25 Most Creative, Most Talented and Most Influential individuals in our town. Deadline: August 1, 2019 – Honorees featured in the Nov/Dec issue of Ridgefield Magazine Click for nomination form    

Ten Minutes with a Museum Director — Cathy Fields

Cathy Fields

Cathy Fields has been executive director of the Litchfield Historical Society for nearly 32 years. Coming from a family of museumgoers, Fields spent a lot of time during her youth in places like Old Sturbridge Village, Colonial Williamsburg, and Monticello. She knew she wanted to work in a museum as soon as she understood that [...]read moreTen Minutes with a Museum Director — Cathy Fields

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