A horse with 'New London Police Department' written in the back shines in the sunset. Staff at the carousel wrote the words of essential workers last winter. "We wanted to honor people who we think are important," said Jeff Mullen, the owner of the carousel at Ocean Beach Park in New London. Yehyun Kim / ctmirror.org

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.”

Jan Canedo, 16, tries to get a bird to eat out of his hand at Ocean Beach Park in New London. The bird did not cooperate. Yehyun Kim / ctmirror.org
Wave at Ocean Beach Park in New London. Yehyun Kim / ctmirror.org
A curious seagull inspects a pile of sand toys. Yehyun Kim / ctmirror.org
A carousel and a jumping star ride at the entrance of Ocean Beach Park in New London. Yehyun Kim / ctmirror.org
One of the horses at the carousel now reads, “Thank you essential workers.” Yehyun Kim / ctmirror.org
One of the horses at the carousel now reads, “Thank you essential workers.” Yehyun Kim / ctmirror.org
A horse honoring the New London Police Department shines in the sunset. Staff at the carousel wrote the names of essential workers on the horses last winter. Yehyun Kim / ctmirror.org
Jeff Mullen, who has run the carousel since 2000 at Ocean Beach Park in New London, wears a hat with a horse decoration. “We like the nostalgia stuff,” Mullen said. Yehyun Kim / ctmirror.org
Jeff Mullen, who has run the carousel since 2000 at Ocean Beach Park in New London, wears a hat with a horse decoration. “We like the nostalgia stuff,” Mullen said. Yehyun Kim / ctmirror.org
A binocular tower viewer shines at sunset . Yehyun Kim / ctmirror.org
Birds flock to eat as chips are tossed in the air. Yehyun Kim / ctmirror.org
People walk along the beach. Live music concerts were happening at the beach last weekend. Yehyun Kim / ctmirror.org
A seagull cleans its feathers. Yehyun Kim / ctmirror.org
Jay Dejesús, 6, of Massachusetts, walks up the beach. Yehyun Kim / ctmirror.org
A seagull in flight at Ocean Beach Park. Yehyun Kim / ctmirror.org
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Yehyun KimPhotojournalist

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.

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