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Basketball, Women's March, Goat Yoga: Bustling Weekend Ahead For Hartford

Between the highly anticipated men’s basketball game between UConn and top-ranked Villanova, a sold-out inaugural goat yoga session at Dunkin’ Donuts Park and the second annual Connecticut Women’s March at the state Capitol, this weekend promises to be bustling in the capital city.

“These are the weekends that you love,” said Jackie Mandyck, managing director of the iQuilt Partnership, a group that works to strengthen Hartford’s downtown.

UConn and Villanova will square off at the XL Center at noon Saturday, just a few blocks from where the Yard Goats will welcome the latest yoga craze that, given the team’s name, seems fitting. On Saturday morning, in two 40-person sessions, yogis can stretch, bend, plank and pose with young goats crawling among them.

“It’s yoga, but as you’re going through your poses there are little goats wandering around the room that will most certainly be interested in interacting with you,” said Tracy Longoria, who is supplying the goats for Saturday’s sessions. Longoria and her husband, DJ Lupacchino, are co-owners of Aussakita Acres Farms, the Manchester farm that appealed a goat yoga cease-and-desist order from the town’s zoning officer this summer and emerged victorious.

“Yoga is very natural, very therapeutic, and [the addition of goats] is a fitting blend,” Longoria said. “People leave these classes glowing, in euphoria.”

Both 40-person sessions are sold out, and Longoria said she plans to push for the Yard Goats organization to add more, given the “overwhelming amount of folks who are interested.”

The classes are a fusion of cosmopolitan meditative exercise and warts-and-all agritourism — a Courant reporter noted in an earlier session that the goats occasionally urinate on yoga mats. Longoria thinks it’s no coincidence that goat yoga’s earthy appeal resonated with urban dwellers.

“In today’s day and age, we’ve lost our connection with farming and agriculture,” she said. “There’s a lot of millennials who’ve never had that one-on-one connection with an animal. They’ve never had an animal curl up in their lap before.”

It is Longoria’s ultimate aim to have Yard Goats players take part in a furred meditative session. “Who doesn’t like animals — especially baby goats?” she asked.

One year after 10,000 protesters converged on the state Capitol for the Connecticut Women’s March — one demonstration in a nationwide outpouring of dissent after President Donald Trump’s inauguration the previous day — organizers are planning the second annual Women’s March, which begins at 12:30 p.m. Saturday and will culminate in a rally. U.S. Rep. Elizabeth Esty and Hartford city councilwoman Wildaliz Bermudez are among scores of women slated to speak Saturday afternoon.

Janet Rice, a youth liaison in Hartford, is among Saturday’s scheduled speakers. Rice, whose son was shot and killed five years ago, said she hopes the rally “brings awareness, awareness that we all need each other. That it takes a village.”

“I’ve been given so much support from women of all walks of life after I lost my son,” she said. “I can’t see myself being anywhere else or doing anything else than just that.”

The Women’s March is just one event in what organizers are calling a “Weekend of Women.” This weekend, the march’s organizers are urging women to patronize women-owned businesses.

“I’m hoping that the people who come down for the Women’s March won’t just leave after it’s over,” said Mandyck, the iQuilt Partnership director. “I’m hoping they’ll go support some community businesses — get a coffee at the shop on Capitol Avenue, or eat lunch at a local restaurant.”

This weekend will be the ice rink at Bushnell Park’s last. On Saturday and Sunday, skaters can enjoy the ice from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. before the rink closes until the next holiday season.

“This weekend’s weather should be beautiful — 40 degrees,” Mandyck said. “The streets are going to be packed downtown. It’ll be a really nice time to be outdoors in Hartford.”

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