Andrew’s Army Marches On — To Mini-Golf

Seven years ago, Andrew Accardi had a dream. The 13-year-old wanted to create a foundation to raise money for neuroblastoma.

Andrew had a very personal dog in that fight. He’d been living with the pediatric cancer — for which there is no known cure — for 8 years already.

Andrew Accardi, doing what he loved.

Andrew Accardi, doing what he loved.

He battled it for 7 more, before succumbing last October. Before he died, though, he and his many friends raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for the cause. Much of it came from golf-related events. Andrew was a 4-year member of the Staples team.

Andrew is gone, but his friends — “Andrew’s Army” — still raise money. Andrew’s legacy lives on.

The 1st annual Andrew’s Army Miniature Golf Classic is set for this Sunday (July 27, 4-7 p., Norwalk Cove Marina). The admission price of $20 — payable there — includes a round of mini-golf, food, soft drinks, a raffle and more.

“And more” includes the “36 Challenge.” Two years ago, Andrew shot a fantastic 36 on the course. If you think you can match that, put your money on the line. Pledge to donate an amount of your choice for every stroke over 36. The lowest score by anyone undertaking the challenge can win 2 NY Ranger tickets for next season.

But wait! There’s more! Everyone participating in the “36 Challenge” will also receive a special raffle ticket for each hole-in-one. They’re part of the grand prize item, from Saugatuck Sweets: a basket of candy, plus a couple for 1 free double-scoop ice cream every week for a year.

How great is Andrew’s Army? Well, this Miniature Golf Classic should vault their fundraising over the $1 million mark.

 

Rick Eason Flies Under The Radar

Rick Eason graduated from Bedford Middle School in June. But the teenager knows aircraft technology, FAA regulations — and Westport skies — like a pro.

Rick has always been interested in electronics. Not long ago, the rising Staples freshman got a drone. His DJI Phantom FC40 Quadcopter is amazing. Equipped with a GoPro camera providing very high quality 2.6K resolution still photographs and video at 30 fps, plus 4 rotors, it tilts, spins and zooms its way over beaches, homes and fields.

Rick Eason and his drone.

Rick Eason and his drone.

Thanks to GPS it holds its position in wind, moves around a center point, and can even return to the exact spot it was launched if contact is lost.

“It’s so much fun to fly,” he says. “It’s so easy and intuitive to control.

“You can get views no one has ever seen before,” Rick adds with pride. “This is not like Google Earth. You can see your house from 20 feet above.”

Or the Westport Library. Here’s a view from Rick’s website that I’m pretty sure is the 1st of its kind:

Library - Rick Eason's drone

Rick’s dad, Tony Eason, installs solar panels. Rick’s drone helps him inspect roofs.

Drones are still pretty new. Rick saw another Phantom at Winslow Park. “06880” has posted amazing videos, taken by another owner, of Compo Beach and Sherwood Mill Pond. But right now they’re rare, and Rick gets plenty of admiring stares — and questions — when he launches his.

Drones are so new, in fact, that federal regulations can’t keep up. Though drones can rise 2000 feet high, the FAA classifies them as “remote controlled aircraft,” with a limit of 400 feet.

Technically, they can’t fly beyond the owner’s “line of sight.” But, Rick says, he can watch and control his drone through the GoPro camera, using goggles or a laptop.

Rick Eason's drone hovers over his front lawn.

Rick Eason’s drone hovers over his front lawn.

Owners need a license to make money off drones. So legally, Rick can’t charge for his photographs and videos. (That hasn’t stopped others from doing so.)

Rick has learned about privacy laws too. “When you’re 30 feet up with a fisheye lens, you might catch someone’s private home,” he says. “If they ask me, I’ll delete it.” But, he notes, “it’s really no different from taking a photograph of someone’s house from the beach with an iPhone.”

Drones are here to stay. Just a couple of years ago, they cost thousands of dollars each — and did not fly particularly well. Now, Rick says, “you can buy one for $300 at Barnes & Noble.”

Rick's drone, inspecting a roof.

Rick’s drone, inspecting a roof.

Rick loves his drone — but he’s already looking ahead. He’s saving up for a gyroscopic gimbal, to keep the camera even steadier than it is now.

Meanwhile, he’s thinking up clever new uses for his drone. At Staples, he might contribute aerial photograph to Inklings, the school newspaper.

And last Thursday Rick was at Compo, for the 2nd annual “06880” party. While the rest of us were eating, drinking and chatting, he was hard at work.

So here’s the “06880” community — 2014-style:

 

Mahackeno Y Opens August 29; Long Journey Ends, New Road Begins

The new Westport Family Y at Mahackeno faced years of approval and litigation delays.

But once construction began 17 months ago, the Y raced ahead.

Now — ahead of schedule — the new facility is almost ready for prime time.

The final touches are underway. The cardio and weight machines are rolling off the truck. Next month, the pool will be filled.

On the evening of Thursday, August 28, a ribbon will be cut. The next day — at the usual bright-and-early start time of 5:30 a.m. — the Wilton Road building opens for business. Throughout that Labor Day weekend, the community is invited to use the new Y, for free.

The view of the new Y, from Mahackeno.

The new Y, as seen from Mahackeno.

It’s just 2 miles from the 90-year-old Bedford facility downtown. But measured another way, it’s a world apart.

The old Y — which includes the Weeks Pavilion, shoehorned in 36 years ago next to a former fire station — had 17 different elevations on the 1st floor alone. The Mahackeno building has 2 normal stories.

Westport Y CEO Rob Reeves stands proudly by the nearly completed front entrance.

Westport Y CEO Rob Reeves stands proudly by the nearly completed front entrance.

It’s also got:

  • The Gault Welcome Center, including tables and seats.
  • A 10-lane pool — with lanes wider than the current Y’s — and an adjacent 20-yard warm water/family therapy pool.
The pool is scheduled to be filled in mid-August.

The pool is scheduled to be filled in mid-August.

  • The Vince and Linda McMahon Gymnasium with 4 adjustable basketball hoops, and scoreboards. It’s also lined for badminton, pickleball and volleyball.
  • A cafe serving healthy food.
  • A “Fort Mack” play space featuring slides and other fun equipment, to be used when siblings are in the pool or parents are taking classes.
Youngsters admire the light and airy new Y.

Youngsters admire the light and airy new Y.

  • A cycling room, with 21 new bikes.
  • 3 studios for dance, cardio and Zumba classes, and small-group personal training.
  • Adult locker rooms with steam and saunas. There are youth lockers too, plus a special one for families and dependent adults.
  • A large cardio and weight room — the Robin Tauck Wellness Center — filled with all new equipment. Large windows look out onto woods and the Saugatuck River.
Cardio machines are delivered to the Robin Tauck Wellness Center.

Cardio machines are delivered to the Robin Tauck Wellness Center.

It’s a serene setting — if you ignore the traffic speeding by on the nearby Merritt. (Every part of the building is oriented away from that side.)

The Y has planted 300 trees. They’ve regraded some of the Mahackeno land — and upgraded much of what was in the old Y.

The road from downtown to Mahackeno is fairly straight. But the route the Y has traveled had countless twists and turns.

Next month, they’ll unveil a new map. They hope it will guide them for the next 90 years.

Y - rear view

Jose Feliciano, Mimi Levitt Launch New Pavilion

Saying “I look forward to returning for years to come,” 93-year-old Mimi Levitt shined with excitement as she welcomed Westport’s newest jewel: the refurbished Levitt pavilion.

The $9 million public/private project — propelled by a $4.5 million grant from the Levitt Foundation — represents a complete overhaul of an already intriguing downtown attraction.

With a soaring, sail-inspired, state-of-the-art stage; a killer sound system; amenities like dressing rooms, food concessions, ramps and restrooms — plus a completely renovated riverwalk that now extends all the way to the point behind the pavilion — this Levitt marks the 2nd transformation of a former landfill.

Parks and Rec, politicians, architects and construction folks all took their bows.

Then Jose Feliciano took over. His kick-butt show is just the start of a summer filled with entertainment.

And there was not a mosquito in sight.

A small portion of the large crowd, and the new Levitt stage.

A small portion of the large crowd, and the new Levitt stage.

The one and only Jose Feliciano. The Weston resident donated his fee to the Levitt building fund.

The one and only Jose Feliciano. The Weston resident donated his fee to the Levitt building fund.

The lawn was full -- but there was plenty of room to relax.

The lawn is full — but there’s still plenty of room to relax.

Mimi Levitt -- 93 years young -- and her daughter Liz Levitt Hirsch.

Mimi Levitt — 93 years young — and her daughter Liz Levitt Hirsch.

Dancing in the aisle, to Jose Feliciano.

Dancing on the grass, to Jose Feliciano.

Freda and Carleigh Welsh: 2 of the driving forces behind the Levitt Pavilion's success.

Freda and Carleigh Welsh: 2 of the driving forces behind the Levitt Pavilion’s success.

The new Levitt has real restrooms. And they are already in use.

The new Levitt has real restrooms. And they are already in use.

The landscaping extends beyond the stage, out to the point where the Levitt juts into the Saugatuck River. A newly enhanced riverwalk adds to the beauty.

The landscaping extends beyond the stage, out to the point where the Levitt juts into the Saugatuck River. A newly enhanced riverwalk adds to the beauty.

Papa John’s Comes To Westport

Well, sort of.

I got a semi-frantic email yesterday, from an alert and very concerned “06880” reader. She wrote:

I was having dinner with my parents and a couple of their friends.

We were moaning about the  beach and some of the plans for downtown. Anyway, one of them asked if I had seen a sign for Papa John’s coming to Main Street in the old Remarkable Book Shop (Talbots).

I haven’t been down to investigate. Frankly, I’m not sure I can handle it. It might put me over the edge again, like Dunkin Donuts in Saugatuck.

Wondering what you know or have seen.

“06800” is a full-service blog. So I headed downtown — braving the art show crowds — and I can report that, without a doubt, it definitely is true.

The sign — at the corner of Main Street and Parker Harding Plaza — can’t be any clearer:

Pappajohn

 

 

Cool Weather For Very Hot Art Show And Book Sale

It’s a Westport rite of summer: Artists and art patrons bake on the blacktop at the annual Fine Arts Festival. Book lovers swelter in the Jesup Green tent, at the library book sale.

It’s a satisfying — if sweaty — search for gems.

This year is different. The temperature is in the mid-70s. There is no humidity. Clouds are keeping crowds away from the beach.

Compo’s loss is downtown’s gain.

Art show culptures frame the Saugatuck River.

Art show sculptures frame the Saugatuck River.

One of 130 artists shows off his work.

One of 130 artists shows off his work.

There is more artwork -- plus food and kids' activities -- on Gorham Island, adjacent to the Parker Harding lot.

There’s more art — plus food and kids’ activities — on Gorham Island, adjacent to the Parker Harding lot.

What's an arts festival without music. Bands play under a tent, next to the Saugatuck River.

What’s an arts festival without music? Bands play under a tent, next to the Saugatuck River.

Some book sale patrons can't wait to start reading what they've bought. Or maybe they're deciding whether  to buy.

Book sale patrons read up before deciding whether to buy.

The Westport Library book sale depends on the services of hundreds of volunteers.

The Westport Library book sale depends on the services of hundreds of volunteers.

Lots of people no longer needed their copies of this book. Lots of others were ready to buy them.

Lots of people no longer needed their copies of this book. Lots of others were ready to buy them.

The Downtown Merchants Association’s 41st annual Fine Arts Festival runs today — Saturday, July 19 — until 6 p.m., and tomorrow (Sunday, July 20) from 10 a.m.-5 p.m., at Parker Harding Plaza and Gorham Island. Across the Post Road, the Westport Library book sale is on today until 6 p.m. It continues tomorrow from 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Everything is half-price on Monday. On Tuesday, July 22 (9 a.m.-1 p.m.) it’s all free (donations are accepted).

 

 

Downtown Trees Get Priority Treatment

Remember all the hand-wringing 2 years ago, when trees were suddenly removed from Main Street? And when others were posted for removal in front of Town Hall?

Westporters love their trees. And, true to its campaign promises, the Marpe administration is making sure the next generation of trees gets the care they need.

A company cleverly named “Care of Trees” is deep-watering the roots of 5 new trees on Main Street, with an injection method. One or 2 slow-drip 20-gallon bags of water continue to nurture each tree throughout the week.

Tree care on Main Street.

Tree care on Main Street.

Taking care of young trees after planting is tricky, notes tree warden Bruce Lindsay.

“Their root systems are new. Watering is really important, to help them take hold. Street tree planting requires a great deal of planning, design, maintenance and funding to reach establishment.”

The Main Street trees were donated. The weekly cost of $300 per visit by Care of Trees comes out of the town’s tree maintenance budget. Lindsay says that after this year — once the trees are acclimated to the environmental conditions — watering will not be needed.

“The initial growing years are hardest on newly planted trees, especially in difficult site conditions like Main Street,” Lindsay notes. “Heat is radiated from cars, asphalt and sidewalks. There is limited root space and lower water access.”

The 8 new trees around Town Hall are getting the same treatment (below):

Tree in front of Town Hall

Meanwhile, Lindsay had a company trim and crown clean the trees around the Imperial Avenue parking lot, near the bridge leading to the newly renovated Levitt Pavilion.

Invasive growth was removed, and the area was scoured for safety and higher visiblity purposes. Each tree was climbed and cleaned, in a very detailed process.

Tree work being done near the Imperial Avenue foot bridge.

Tree work being done near the Imperial Avenue foot bridge.

Lindsay says, “People see me removing hazardous trees. But a lot of my job consists of stewardship: trimming, cleaning, watering. We want to make sure we preserve what we have, and mitigate any potential problems.”

Trees — their cutting, growth and regeneration — will continue to be a hot topic in Westport.

But right now, their maintenance has not fallen by the wayside.

Library Dedicates Book Sale To Shirley Land

Visitors to this weekend’s Westport Library Book Sale may be surprised to see Shirley Land there.

The longtime Westport civic volunteer died Sunday, at 96. Among her many accomplishments: She started the book sale 21 years ago, as a fundraiser.

It’s fitting for the library to honor her at the event. Her photo will be posted prominently, in the Jesup Green tent and throughout the adjacent building.

Shirley’s image will be surrounded by over 80,000 items, in categories from “Art” to “Zoology.” There are hardcover and paperback books; vinyl records, CDs and audiobooks; artwork by Westporter Stevan Dohanos; civil rights memorabilia (some signed), from the estate of Westport’s Tracy Sugarman; special collections — even plenty of Playboy magazines.

Shirley would love them all. She’d even smile at the Playboys. Nothing says “Westport Library Book Sale” more than that.

The Westport Library Book Sale runs from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. this Saturday, Sunday and Monday (July 19-21). Everything is half-price on Monday. On Tuesday, July 22 (9 a.m.-1 p.m.) it’s all free (donations are accepted). For more information, check out this website.

Shirley Land. Among her many accomplishments, she founded the Westport Library Book Sale in 1993.

Shirley Land. Among her many accomplishments, she founded the Westport Library Book Sale in 1993.

 

 

Meet The Amazing Woman Around Whom Our Entire Universe Revolves

The 1st reaction to many “06880” entitled-parking photos is: “WTF?”

The 2nd is: “Where are the cops?”

Often, they’re powerless. They can’t intervene in private lots.

But Parker Harding Plaza is town-owned. Alert “06880” reader Amy Swanson captured this scene yesterday, around 3 pm:

Parking Parker Harding

Amy explains:

The woman in the Volvo decided her needs were more pressing than the owners of the 3 cars she blocked in, and left her car there for at least 10-15 minutes. Here she is trying to explain her way out of it.

One of the blocked drivers leaned into the car and said, “It’s people like you who give this town a bad name!”

In fact, there is a name for people like the Volvo driver. Too bad I can’t print it — this is a family-friendly blog.

But if you’ve got a non-X-rated word or two to describe people like her, click “Comments.” We’re all ears.

06880 Throws A “Blog Party”

The weather was perfect. The food was great. The crowd of over 100 was diverse: old and young, artists and bankers, 4th-generation Westporters and a woman who moved here 2 months ago.

Strangers made new friends. Folks on both sides of the political aisle laughed. Everyone marveled at the sunset.

It was just another “06880” day at the beach.

Rick Eason is a rising freshman at Staples. His drone flew over the "06880" party, and captured the happy crowd.

Rick Eason is a rising freshman at Staples. His drone flew over the “06880” party, and captured part of the happy crowd.

Audrey Hertzel baked fantastic cupcakes -- and added this festive touch.

Audrey Hertzel baked fantastic cupcakes — and added this festive touch.

Enjoying the "0" in the "06880." (Photo/Audrey Hertzel)

Enjoying the “0” in the “06880.” (Photo/Audrey Hertzel)

It was an "06880" party for the ages -- all ages -- at Compo Beach.

It was an “06880” party for the ages — all ages — at Compo Beach.

Nick Iskandar of the great Kibberia restaurant donated fantastic Middle Eastern food.

Nick Iskandar of the great Kibberia restaurant donated fantastic Middle Eastern food.

Betsy Phillips Kahn captured this wonderful Westport sunset, as the "06880" party wound down.

Betsy Phillips Kahn captured this wonderful Westport sunset, as the “06880” party wound down.

Recent Staples grad Lindsay Kiedaisch was there too. She captured the lighthouse off shore.

Recent Staples grad Lindsay Kiedaisch was there too. She captured the lighthouse off shore.

Rick Eason — a rising freshman at Staples — brought his drone to the party. The crowd got bigger later (when the light faded), but here’s a unique view of South Beach and the rest of Compo. Thanks, Rick!

(Special thanks to Mary Hoffman and Jennifer Hershey for helping organize the party; Audrey Hertzel for the cupcakes, and Kibberia restaurant for the food!)