NAUGATUCK - It wasn’t long ago when the annual Sao Paio Portuguese festival in Naugatuck was attended by, well, just the Portuguese residents in town.
“The ‘Americans’ would drive by the (Portuguese) Club wondering what was going on in there,” said Domingos Branco, 48, of Naugatuck. “A brave few would stop in for food” but that was rare.
Fast forward some 30 or so years to 2012, when the annual festival has become part of the fabric of the community. It’s a tradition that many Naugatuck residents, regardless of their heritage, enjoy at the end of every summer. (The is ongoing this weekend at the .)
The large Portuguese community in Naugatuck has become an important part of the culture of the borough, and many say people like Domingos Branco are part of the reason why. The consummate community leader, “Mingo” Branco volunteers at everything from youth sports, to his church, to the borough government, where he currently serves as a member of the police commission.
For his efforts, Branco was named the honorary Portuguese Mayor of the Day in Naugatuck on Friday during a ceremony at Town Hall.
“When they first told me I thought, ‘I’m not old enough for that,’” he quipped. “But I guess I am. …In all seriousness, this is quite an honor, and I’m very thankful to be given this opportunity.”
Branco, who is married and has two children, is the type of person who makes the community special, Naugatuck officials said. Both Mayor Bob Mezzo and Deputy Mayor Tamath Rossi praised his selflessness and community involvement during Friday’s ceremony.
Perhaps the person who is most proud of his achievements is none other than his mother.
Frances Branco said her son is a successful businessman – he’s the president of a document shredding company called Shred It – and someone who views community service as, simply, the right thing to do. Like a proud mother does, she rattled off some of his many accomplishments Friday, saying that the thing she was most proud of is that he's a good family man.
Still, she joked with him Friday, saying: “I was actually hoping one day, he would be the real mayor. Who knows, maybe one day!”
(Attached to this story, see Branco’s list of accomplishments attached with a proclamation that names him Portuguese Mayor of the Day.)