As the Fourth of July weekend approached this summer at Ocean Beach Park in New London, there were plenty of signs that it was returning to its pre-pandemic normal — but not without a few reminders of the past year and a half.
Jeff Mullen watched customers enjoy the carousel ride on a recent overcast day. Mullen opened the carousel, the jumping star and other rides at the park in 2000. “We like the nostalgia stuff,” Mullen said, sporting a straw hat with a gold horse sculpture above its brim.
But Mullen isn’t so devoted to the past that he can’t embrace change. Noticing the adverse conditions that essential workers faced during the pandemic, Mullen and one of his employees came up with the idea last winter to write the names of essential workers on the flanks of the carousel horses.
“We wanted to honor people who we think are important,” Mullen said.
As he spoke, people were having drinks near the boardwalk, listening to live music, taking selfies and walking on the beach holding hands. Massachusetts resident Jan Canedo, 16, and his family from Massachusetts were among them. As Canedo and his family threw chips in the air, birds from around the beach flocked to the family.
“Very good,” said one woman in the group about their time on the beach. “Beer, smoke, everything. That’s a life.”
Yehyun joined CT Mirror in June 2020 as a photojournalist and a Report For America Corps Member. Her role at CT Mirror is to tell visual stories about the impact of public policy on individuals and communities in Connecticut. Prior to joining CT Mirror, Yehyun photographed community news in Victoria, Texas and was a photo and video intern at USA TODAY and at Acadia National Park in Maine. She holds a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia. Yehyun was born and raised in South Korea.