Chances are you learned about your state’s flag, motto, and song back in elementary school, but did you know that each state has several more obscure symbols, as well? The categories do not apply to every US territory – Idaho certainly doesn’t have a state shellfish, for example. Rather they seem to give us a glimpse into the heart and soul of the region they represent.
For the next six weeks we will explore some of New England’s quirkiest state symbols and how they came to hold their places of honor. Let’s start with Connecticut!
Connecticut State Fossil: Dinosaur Track
In 1991 Connecticut designated a 200 million year old three-toed dinosaur track of the species, Eubrontes Giganteus as their official state fossil. Several legitimate Eubrontes tracks imprinted in sandstone during the early Jurassic period are on display at Dinosaur State Park in Rocky Hill.
Connecticut State Cantata: “The Nutmeg, Homeland of Liberty”
All states have their own song – Connecticut’s is Yankee Doodle – but cantatas are a bit different. A cantata is a medium-length narrative piece of music for voices with instrumental accompaniment, such as a chorus or orchestra. “The Nutmeg, Homeland of Liberty” by Stanley L. Ralph was designated the official Connecticut cantata in 2003. Fittingly, it explores the history of the state.
Connecticut State Folk Dance: Square Dance
Unfortunately, Connecticut is not the only state to lay claim to the square dance as its official state folk dance. In fact, 22 states call the square dance their own. It’s popularity led to square dancing becoming the national folk dance in 1995.
Connecticut State Insect: European Praying Mantis
Originating in Northern Africa, Southern Europe, and temperate areas of Asia, the European Praying Mantis is certainly not a New England native. However, this green bug is quite prominent in the state of Connecticut throughout the spring and summer months. They proclaimed the big bug their state insect in 1977.
Connecticut State Shellfish: Eastern Oyster
Oysters have been a major Connecticut food source since the time of its earliest native American inhabitants. They also became a staple in the diet of European settlers. By the 19th century, Connecticut had the largest fleet of oyster steamers in the world and they remain an important economic commodity today. The state honored the oyster’s importance in 1989 by declaring it their official state shellfish.
Tune in next week to learn all about the obscure state symbols of Maine!