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BillB

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Uncle Sam's Voyage: How A Danbury Icon Found Its Way Back Home

Ever wonder exactly how Danbury ended up back in possession of that enormous Uncle Sam statue? Yeah, we did, too...

Uncle Sam's Voyage: How A Danbury Icon Found Its Way Back Home (City of Danbury) 

DANBURY, CT — Don Miller and his wife Jennifer are the biggest Danbury fans not living in Danbury. In fact, they may be the city's biggest fans, anywhere. It is fitting, then, that they played such a key role in the return of the Uncle Sam statue to the city.

Don Miller grew up in the shadow of the Danbury Fair, before it was a mall, and moved to Vermont while still in high school. But the magic that was The Fair, and the nearby Racearena, left an impression that has proven indelible.

October 12, 1981, was the Day the Sawdust Died, when the Danbury Fair punched its last ticket. The land was bought by the Wilmorite Corporation, who opened the doors of the Danbury Fair Mall there just five years later. 

The shuttering of The Fair and the Racearena left an itch with Don Miller, even way up in Vermont, that he couldn't figure how to scratch, until 2012.

"Don had the idea to — although it may be far-fetched — to collect his childhood memories of the Danbury Fair and Racearena. He never thought that he would find anything, but he had to try," his wife said.

The Millers hit pay dirt in 2016. After years of scouring websites and social media, they discovered a Dutch Girl figure, from the fair's "Dutch Village" attraction. They made the purchase, and although it was far from being their favorite fair memento, it was an inspiration, and validation: the Danbury Fair memorabilia was "out there," they just needed to keep looking.

But bigger-than-life-size pieces of Americana don't come cheap, and Dutch Girl was a reminder to the Millers that they really couldn't afford their new hobby. So the couple started Millers' Screen Printing & Embroidery, from their home in Wells, VT. They would use the revenue from their new T-shirt business to fund their Danbury Fair memorabilia jones.

The Millers began selling their work from their personal Facebook page, but soon after created the Danbury Fair and Racearena Memorabiliagroup on the social media network. Along the way they became social media experts, e-commerce wizards, and the go-to gurus on all things Danbury Fair.

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"People always ask us what we're doing with it all," Jennifer said. "We let them know that we display all of our collection in our home. The only items that are not on display currently are the old newspaper clippings, and any original photos. We preserve these the best way possible."

Of course, there will always be those items that are just too large, and too expensive, to make their way into the Miller's cozy collection.

Like, say, that 38-foot statue of Uncle Sam.

Right Place, Right TimeRight Memorabilia Experts

On a visit to the Magic Forest amusement park in Lake George, NY, with their children, the Millers discovered their mother lode. The first glimmer came in the form of a pixie figurine in a display. Don Miller was certain it had originated at The Fair.

They tracked down Jack Gillette, the park's owner, to confirm his suspicions, and to inquire whether Magic Forest might have any more items that had originated at The Fair.

Boy, did they ever!

Gillette's father, Arthur, who operated Magic Forest before bequeathing it to his son, had made a deal to roll away with 20 truck loads of Danbury Fair statues, figurines, artwork, tsotchekes and gimcracks when the fair closed, and all of that had made its way to Magic Forest. 

Both Jack Gillette and Magic Forest were starting to feel their age, according to Jennifer, and Gillette was preparing to sell off the park's assets. He wanted to know if that was something with which the Millers could help him.

"The agreement was, if we helped sell items for Jack, that Jack would ensure that we were taken care of," Jennifer said. "We made a list of items that we had already seen at the park that were of interest to us. He showed us items that had never been displayed (at The Fair). Some of the items that I placed for Jack, he had forgotten came from Danbury!"

A Journey of 40 Minutes Begins with a Single Step

At one of the cataloging and indexing and photo-taking sessions, Don brought up the 38-foot elephant in the room. 

"What's going to happen to Uncle Sam?" he recalls asking Gillette, who informed him that the City of Troy, NY, had placed dibs on the statue a long time back, and was anxious to take possession. Gillette had just never gotten around to pulling the trigger on the deal, he said.

Wait, Troy? Troy, New York? Danbury Fair's Uncle Sam relocated to Troy? As if.

So Jennifer Miller flashed the Hat Signal, and Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton swung into action. Boughton better-dealed the New Yorkers, and the rest was (extensively and lovingly promoted in social media) history. The city announced in December that it had scored the icon, and after some necessary restorationensconced the colossus outside the Danbury Railway Museum last month. Danbury also salvaged the Cinderella display from Magic Forest.

The Millers memorialized Uncle Sam's triumphant return home with a T-shirt, naturally, and Boughton took to Twitter to promote it (also naturally - see below). 

Jenn and Don Miller sell shirts that they may buy up and preserve Danbury Fair and Racearena mementos, so if you have any mementos, or need a shirt, be sure to contact them at appralgirl@gmail.com or 802-325-2259 or their Facebook group. Just don't challenge these Vermonters to any Danbury trivia, as you will lose.

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EdMenti

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I remember it well!  Glad to see him back in Danbury!
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BillB

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UPDATED!

Uncle Sam Takes Up Residence Outside Danbury Railway Museum 

What's red, white, blue and back where it belongs? 

By Rich Kirby, Patch Staff | May 8, 2019 9:53 pm ET
That Uncle Sam statue, Danbury's 38-foot-tall icon of icons, took up residence outside the city's Railway MuseumThat Uncle Sam statue, Danbury's 38-foot-tall icon of icons, took up residence outside the city's Railway Museum (City of Danbury) 

DANBURY, CT — What's red, white, blue and back where it belongs?

That Uncle Sam statue, Danbury's 38-foot-tall icon of icons, took up residence outside the city's Railway Museum on Wednesday afternoon.

Mr. Stars-and-Stripes presided over the Danbury Fair from 1971 to 1981, at which time it was purchased by the Magic Forest Amusement Park in Lake George, NY. The city re-acquired the statue in December, and has spent the intervening months prepping the statue for its third act.

 

The city has a few more weeks of work on the installation before Uncle Sam is ready to greet his public.

[WmjeBDKH_bigger]
Mayor Mark Boughton
 
@MayorMark
 
 

#Repost @cityofdanbury
• • • • •@mayormark almost as tall as Uncle Sam! http://bit.ly/2VrCfGD 


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151 Fan
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I was a longtime patron of the Danbury race arena, the best and prettiest race track I have ever been to, and working on Cup and Xfinity teams, I have been to probably 150 different tracks in my lifetime!  I'm glad to see Paul back in Danbury, but sad and angry at these same politicians and sleezeballs that sold it from under us back in 1980.   There will never be another Danbury Racearena!  
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BobBarney

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[Uncle-Sam-Danbury-Fair]

[image]  [bc1ce9edf8162a677c0327be59b42793]
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BillB

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Uncle Sam is On His Way Home to Danbury

The colossus has been reclaimed from an amusement park in Lake George

Uncle Sam is On His Way Home to Danbury

DANBURY, CT — The rumors are true: the statue of Uncle Sam is coming home to Danbury.

Before there was a Danbury Fair Mall, there was a Danbury Fair, and those festivities were presided over by a 38-foot statue of Uncle Sam. The colossus held court in the city from 1971 to 1981, at which time it was purchased by the Magic Forest Amusement Park in Lake George, NY. 

Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton has not kept his desire to reclaim the icon a secret, and today took to Twitter to announce that the Big Man was finally on his way back:

The statue was hauled onto a flatbed Thursday morning and is expected home before nightfall.

Sam will need a little love before before he is settled into his permanent and yet-to-be-disclosed new digs in the city. Restoration of the statue is scheduled for this winter.

The restoration of the world's largest Uncle Sam statue will be performed in a hangar at the Danbury Airport, according to the News Times.

Photo via Danbury Public Works/@MayorMark Twitter feed

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