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Ms. Mulberry Gardens Senior Pageant

June 14, 2023

With all the fanfare of more familiar beauty pageants, the annual Ms. Mulberry Gardens Senior Pageant made its 12-year mark this June.

Contestants, all residents of the Hartford HealthCare senior living community, were eager to participate. This year’s theme was “What a Wonderful World” and invited each contestant to showcase their uniqueness while being judged on elegance, poise and final interview.

Starting the pageant from the terrace, Paula DePinto, director of finance, Hartford HealthCare Community Network, welcomed the crowd.

“I would first like to thank the residents of Mulberry Gardens for opening up their home for such a wonderful event and welcome their friends, family and the staff who care for them,” she said, pausing. “But first, a question, and I wonder if any of you feel the same way. Why is it that every time I walk into this building, I always feel like I am walking on sunshine?”

Queued by the song “Walking on Sunshine,” a flash mob of staff members in yellow boas and pom-pom headbands paved the way as DePinto strolled to the lower level.

Friends, family, residents and staff filled a beautifully decorated lobby as this year’s 10 contestants competed for the crown of Ms. Mulberry Gardens. Contestants were sponsored by staff members who helped prepare them for the big day and ushered them into the event.

Scot Haney, meteorologist and co-host of Great Day CT and five-time pageant emcee, listened carefully as contestants shared their most precious moments, quirky facts and secrets to staying young. Talents ranged from gardening to baking to dancing and even professional bowling.

Secrets to staying young included:

  • “Exercise and have fun” from Dolores Assaro;
  • “Sleeping late and eating well” from Elizabeth Lemelin;
  • “Keep moving and stay positive” according to Mary Kline;
  • “Reading and dancing with a chair as my dance partner” from Candde Sedlik;
  • “I treat people well,” from Joanne Solimini; and
  • “Have a good time,” according to Kathleen Tanasi

Returning judges included Kathy Faber, of Kathy Faber Designs, LLC, a judge since beginning; Renee DiNino, radio personality at River 105.9; and Rebecca Stewart, vice present for content strategy, planning and marketing, Hartford HealthCare. New and first-ever male judge, Michael J. Daglio, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Hartford HealthCare, joined the panel. This year’s gold sponsor was Hancock Pharmacy & Surgical INC., and the bronze sponsor was PERFECTEMP INC.

After contestant presentations, the judges deliberated as the audience enjoyed a musical performance by Jerry Limmer, Richard Daddario and Rebecca Russo. Soon, Haney was announcing the contest winner as Jacqueline Polanski, who was crowned with a tiara and draped with the 2023 Ms. Mulberry Gardens satin sash.

Polanski was born in 1937 in NY, and raised her two children in Hartford. In one of her stories, she spoke of a rose bush inherited from her great-great-grandmother that offers some of the most fragrant, biggest roses. She was in a garden club, worked at the Cheshire nursery and owned her own design business arranging floral displays. She played golf at Hawks Landing and was also a painter. Some of her paintings were displayed in local boutiques.

Each contestant earned a sash and bouquet from Donna Johnson, recreation director, and Jacquelyn Gaulin, executive director, Mulberry Gardens. Other contestant awards were:

  • First Runner-Up – Joanne Solimini
  • Second Runner-Up – Candide Sedlik
  • Ms. Congeniality – Kathleen Tanasi
  • Nicest Eyes – Burlyne Strom
  • Nicest Smile – Mary Kline
  • Most Elegant – Dolores Assaro
  • Most Charming – Elizabeth Lemelin
  • Best Sense of Humor – Elizabeth Derouin
  • Most Photogenic- Margaret Hampp