Category Archives: Children

“Art About Town” Floods Main Street

Once a year, downtown turns into a pedestrian mall. It’s “Art About Town” — one of Westport’s newest traditions.

Part art exhibit, part street fair — and all fun — it’s a great way to kick off a month-long exhibit of art (for sale!) by 65 artists, in 60 locations.

It started an hour ago. If you’re reading this before 8:30 p.m. on Thursday — there’s still time to go.

Just don’t think of parking on Main Street.

There were plenty of great artist demonstrations tonight. But none was more impressive than Rosiejon. She has no arms -- so she uses her feet. Amazingly, she has been painting for just a year.

There were plenty of great artist demonstrations tonight. But none was more impressive than Rosiejon. She has no arms — so she uses her feet. Amazingly, she has been painting for just a year.

Harry Moritz graduated from Staples in 2010 -- and from Pratt less than a week ago. Here's one of his creations.

Harry Moritz graduated from Staples in 2010 — and from Pratt less than a week ago. Here’s one of his creations.

Another kind of artist is performer Jared Rydelek. This was just his warmup.

Another kind of artist is performer Jared Rydelek. This was just his warmup.

This young man may be trying out for Art About Town -- the 2035 version.

This young man may be trying out for Art About Town — the 2035 version.

Joyce Landon is among 65 artists who is showing downtown, for the next month. Her works can be seen in the TD Bank lobby.

Joyce Landon is among 65 artists who is exhibiting downtown, for the next month. Her works can be seen in the TD Bank lobby.

Building Castles In The Sand

For some reason, the Castles in the Sand event seems to be held every year on the chilliest Saturday in May.

But for many other reasons, no one cares.

Judging one of the contest entries. (Photo/Jeff Wieser)

Peter Cadoux judging one of the contest entries. (Photo/Jeff Wieser)

It’s one of the most intriguing events on the civic calendar.

It brings a variety of Westport organizations — plus families and friends — to Compo Beach for good-natured competition.

And it’s fun.

Animals seemed to be a theme this afternoon at Compo Beach. (Photo/Jeff Wieser)

Animals were a theme this afternoon at Compo Beach. (Photo/Jeff Wieser)

This year, approximately 40 “lots” were sold.

That’s a lot of sand. A lot of creativity. And a lot of much-needed funds for Homes With Hope, the non-profit that does so much housing good, for so many.

The most colorful creation, by far.

The most colorful creation, by far.

An intricate ziggurat.

Relaxing after building an intricate ziggurat.

I have no idea what this is. But the kids who made it seem to be having a blast.

I have no idea what this is. But the kids who made it seem to be having a blast.

It was cold at Compo today -- and, in a way,

It was cold at Compo today — and, in a way, “Frozen.”

Perhaps the only true

The Greens Farms Church’s lighthouse: intricate, clever and very well constructed.

Queen Of F***ing Everything

No, I didn’t write out the whole “f-bomb” in the headline.

But it’s there — uncensored — right on Main Street. Just check out the checkout counter at Brandy Melville.

Brandy Melville 1

Which prompted one irate mother to write “06880”:

As I walked through downtown yesterday on a glorious afternoon with my 11-year- old daughter, we talked about how nice the new sidewalk will be. It’s great to see.

But the afternoon was dampened for me when we stopped briefly at a popular clothing store. I was really bothered by the pile of stickers that Brandy Melville gives out.

I guess this national retailer considers it to be a “fashion-cool” statement. Yes, I get the message, but I don’t think it has any place in a store catering to elementary, middle school and high school-age girls.

As we strive to clean up our sidewalks and make our downtown shine, we should also strive to “clean up” the stores that peddle their wares to our kids.

Maybe a solution is to gets kids (through the support of their parents) to stop shopping at Brandy M until they clean up their act. The town and Downtown Merchants Association should take a stand.

What do you think? Is it a harmless marketing tool? Or very offensive? Is a boycott the right idea? Should the town and DMA get involved, or is it none of their business?

Click “Comments” below. We want your f***king opinion.

Brandy melville 2

Bedford Middle Schoolers Head To Olympics

In just their 2nd year of existence, Bedford Middle School’s Science Olympiad team won the state championship.

There’s no telling how far they’ll go now.

Well, actually there is. They’re headed to University of Nebraska, for the national tournament next month.

The 21 middle schoolers compete in a grueling “academic track meet.” They are judged in 23 events, covering topics like earth science, epidemiology, ecology, topography, chemistry, anatomy, entomology, forensics, physics, geology, environmental science, robotics, and mechanical/engineering construction.

The youngsters designed a wooden glider launched by rubber bands, as well as a robot that can pick up small objects and move them around. They’ve also studied a crime scene (including chromatography, fingerprints and soil patterns), then written an essay about who did what (and how).

The Bedford Middle School Science Olympiad team. (Photo/Casey Donahue)

The Bedford Middle School Science Olympiad team. (Photo/Casey Donahue)

The Science Olympiad program was introduced at Bedford by principal Adam Rosen — a former participant himself.

Teachers Art Ellis and Rebecca Kaplan run it as a club. Students put hundreds of hours into preparation — after school nearly every day, and some Saturdays too.

They’ve accomplished a lot. But they can’t do everything alone.

Now — as they prepare for their trip to the nationals — they’re trying to raise $30,000, to cover airfare, buses, accommodations, meals and supplies for the Olympians and chaperones. A GoFundMe webpage has started them on their way.

Team members include Mark Ballesteros, Ethan Chin, Genevieve Domenico, Tyler Edwards, Chet Ellis, Tommy Fabian, Anna Hill, Angela Ji, Vignesh Kareddy, Zach Katz, Charlie Kleeger, Augustin Liu, Maria Maisonet, Aniruddha Murali, Nishika Navrange, Swami Parimal, Sirnia Prasad, Jory Teltser, Alex Tsang and Derek Ye.

Maker Faire: Westport’s Greatest Collection Of Nerds, Geeks, And Way Cool People

Westport’s 4th annual Mini Maker Faire is in full swing today. Up to 6,000 creative, inventive folks of all ages are expected to flood Jesup Green and the library. They’ll spend the day building, designing, creating, hacking, learning, connecting, eating, drinking, listening and playing.

And that’s just at one of the hundreds of interactive, interdisciplinary, interesting exhibits.

The Maker Faire runs till 4 p.m. today (Saturday, April 25). The inspiration will last forever.

“The Great Fredini” is constructing an entire scale model of Coney Island, with a 3D printer. Faire-goers could have their own body scanned — and printed — to be included.

Anyone can play regular foosball. It takes a certain type of person to be part of a human foosball game.

Anyone can play regular foosball. It takes a certain type of person to be part of a human foosball game.

Getting set for the Nerdy Derby: a Pinewood Derby with no rules.

Getting set for the Nerdy Derby: a Pinewood Derby with no rules.

A scavenger hunt includes -- naturally -- QR codes. As noted, this event was developed by the Kids' Committee.

A scavenger hunt includes — naturally — QR codes. As noted, this event was developed by kids. Participants earned a free download of digital goodies; the randomly selected 1st prize was a gift certificate to robotics camp.

Where can you find a real live violin-maker? At the Maker Faire, of course.

Where can you find a real live cello-maker? At the Maker Faire, of course.

But sometimes it was fun just to play with a low-tech toy: the sculpture outside the library.

Sometimes it was fun just to play with a low-tech toy: the sculpture outside the library.

It Was 20 Years Ago Today: Coleytown Consoled Oklahoma City Kids

In April 1995, online providers like CompuServe and Delphi charged by the hour, and by modem speed.

So it took a tragedy like the Oklahoma City bombing — on April 19, 1995 — for Westport realtor Mary Palmieri Gai to spend time on the fledgling internet. She felt compelled to see what other people were thinking, and find emotional support.

Many in the Oklahoma City area flocked online too. Students in particular were very afraid.

Suddenly, Mary had an idea: bring together local youngsters, and those 1500 miles away. Her daughter Melissa helped facilitate an important, human connection, through the computers at Coleytown Middle School.

To see what happened, click the YouTube video below:

(If your browser does not bring you directly to YouTube, click here.)

Leaving Childhood Behind

Among his many gifts, Staples High School principal John Dodig has mastered the art of communicating important truths with simplicity and grace.

Recently, he sent a note to parents of graduating seniors. But its message is far broader. It should be read by anyone with children, of any age — and anyone who ever was a child. Dodig wrote:

Each year at this time I send a message to senior parents warning them to be ready for the feelings of loss as graduation day nears. This year, you and I are in the same boat. Both of us will face the end of our involvement in our child’s/student’s school life. Whether you have only one child or several, you will be hit with this intense sense of “the end” at some point between now and graduation day.

Graduation is a time for looking ahead -- and back.

Graduation is a time for looking ahead — and back.

What makes the American high school experience unique in the world is that high school is so much more than simply a place to go each day to learn. In most of the rest of the world, if you want to learn to play the cello, learn to draw or cook, or be competitive at a sport, you do so on your own time on weekends.

In America, all of these experiences are wrapped up in the same package. Our children leave home each morning and return sometimes late at night having studied French and calculus and then done something after school.

Chances are, you and I were on the sidelines to watch the team, or in the audience to hear the concert and to support our child/student. We become so much a part of their lives that facing the end of this experience is difficult to imagine.

Parents support many activities -- including the annual pops concert in the Staples courtyard.

Parents support many activities — including the annual pops concert in the Staples courtyard.

Think back, for a moment, on the 1st day of school for your child. Try to imagine holding his little hand as you walked him to the bus or to school or even to the classroom.

You might remember your child not wanting to let go of you, maybe even crying. You knew you had to let go and allow her to begin the 12-year journey through public school.

That journey was sometimes difficult and sometimes easy. Those little hands got bigger and, at some point, didn’t want to be held in public any more.

Growing up

Once in high school, these little boys and girls began changing into young men and women. Their bodies changed, their minds changed, their emotions changed, and they began to become somewhat independent people.

You still fed them. You still washed their clothes. You still paid for everything, but you sensed that they were beginning to separate from you and to prepare for a life apart from you and family.

On graduation day you will share in an emotional experience with your son or daughter. You will hug, get photos taken, have a party with family and then face a long summer where they will start preparing for what will come after high school.

They will always be your children, but you will never again be a part of their lives in the way you have been for the past twelve years. That will come to an end.

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Among the “graduates” this year: principal John Dodig (right).

I will share your sense of loss, because I have watched thousands of young kids walk into our high school and begin to grow into competent, well-educated young adults only to leave us on graduation day. This will be the last graduation day for me, and I am grateful to share it with your child.

Use the next few months to revel in your beautiful creation. Your son/daughter will take a part of you into the future and perhaps create a new generation. Make that last hug in school at graduation tighter and stronger than normal, so that the feeling of that hug will last forever.

Introducing Westport’s Most Famous 88-Year-Old “Baby”

Many Westporters know that “Little Toot” was born here, in the studio of longtime resident Hardie Gramatky.

Alert “06880” readers recall that the kewpie doll has a local connection: creator Rose O’Neill owned a 10-acre Saugatuck River estate.

But hardly anyone realizes that the Gerber Baby has Westport roots too.

In 1927, artist Dorothy Hope Smith made a charcoal drawing of her 4-month-old neighbor, Ann Turner. Ann’s father, Leslie, was an artist too; his comic strip “Wash Tubbs and Captain Easy” ran in 500 newspapers every day.

The original charcoal sketch of Ann Turner, and Ann Turner Cook today.

The original charcoal sketch of Ann Turner, and Ann Turner Cook today.

The next year, Gerber needed a face for its new line of baby foods. Smith entered her simple drawing in the contest. She competed with elaborate oil paintings — but the company loved it. By 1931, Ann Cook was the “official trademark.”

She’s been in every Gerber ad, and on every package, since.

But no one knew her. In fact — in an effort to appeal to both sexes — for many years Gerber did not even say if the baby was a girl or boy.

As years passed, several women claimed to be the Gerber baby. To end the discussion, Gerber paid Turner — by then married, named Ann Cook –$5,000 in 1951. That’s all she got — no royalties, nothing. (It’s better than Smith, though. She earned just $300 for her efforts.)

The Gerber baby at work -- and all grown up today.

The Gerber baby at work — and all grown up, some years ago.

Cook left Westport long ago. She had 4 children, and spent 26 years teaching literature and writing in  Tampa. After retiring in 1989, she wrote 2 mystery novels.

But now — at 88 — she’s been rediscovered. Oprah recently profiled Cook on her “Where Are They Now?” series. Huffington Post picked up the story.

Neither Oprah nor HuffPo mentions Westport. Nor does the official Gerber website.

But this is “06880.” It’s “where Westport meets the world.”

Which we’ve been doing — with tugboats, kewpie dolls and baby food — long before there were even zip codes or blogs.

(Hat tip: Carol King. No, not that one.)

Giving It Up For St. Baldrick’s

Most kids would do anything to make sure their hair looks cool.

Some would do almost anything.

So when they hear about an important fundraising event that involves sacrificing their hair, they say, “Go for it!”

The Westport Family Y gym buzzed today. That was the sound of clippers, as hundreds of youngsters got shorn.

Taking it all off, in the Y gym.

Taking it all off, in the Y gym.

It was all part of the 11th annual TeamBrent St. Baldrick’s Celebration.

The idea is simple: Participants raise funds to fight childhood cancer. In exchange, they give up their hair.

The Y was behind the effort 1000%. There were opening ceremonies, a DJ, head painting, complimentary T-shirts, hats and photos — and free use of every part of the facility.

A selfie to remember.

A selfie to remember. (Photos/Scott Smith)

Before today, TeamBrent — named for a 6th grader who, after a dozen surgeries, 6 rounds of chemo and 2 stem cell transplants, has survived Stage 4 neuroblastoma — raised $3.4 million for St. Baldrick’s, and $7.3 million overall.

After today, that figure is waaaay higher.

When we tip our cap to these kids, all we see is something beautiful.

Real Pugsley Pumps Up Coleytown’s “Addams Family”

What do you do after you’ve acted in 2 huge New York musicals: “The Addams Family” and “Shrek”?

You help middle school kids put on those same shows.

And — if you’re Adam Riegler, in Westport — that’s hardly a comedown.

Adam Riegler (right) in "The Addams Family." (Photo/Joan Marcus for Broadway.com)

Adam Riegler (right) in “The Addams Family.” (Photo/Joan Marcus for Broadway.com)

Riegler’s the Staples High School junior who — while still at Saugatuck El — played young Shrek, then followed up as Pugsley (he did online schooling and tutoring in lieu of Bedford Middle).

It was a fantastic experience. But Broadway roles for teenagers are rare, so Riegler is now a normal 11th grader.

He’s known Ben Frimmer — the director of Coleytown Company — for years. Last year, when “Shrek: The Musical” became available for schools, Frimmer asked Adam to help.

The duo clicked. So this year, as Frimmer prepared for “Addams Family,” the partnership was a natural.

Riegler’s official title is “associate director.” He helps run rehearsals, and works with individual actors.

A pair of Pugsleys: Adam Riegler (right) works with Coleytown's Oscar Hechter.

A pair of Pugsleys: Adam Riegler (right) works with Coleytown’s Oscar Hechter. (Photo/Kerry Foley)

Oscar Hechter — Coleytown’s Pugsley — is a 6th grader. “That’s young!” marvels 5-years-older Riegler. “I’m helping him bring out his character. Like, his song at the end of Act I — it’s really emotional, but in a comic way. We talk about how to do that.”

“Addams Family” includes several scenes with fathers and daughters. “These kids have no experience with being old,” Riegler notes. “Mr. Frimmer and I are working on making it natural — not ‘acting.'”

The middle schoolers have heard that Riegler was on Broadway, but most of them don’t really understand how impressive that is. One boy did — and said he was glad not to have known that before his audition.

The best educations work both ways. Riegler says he is learning too: how to work with children, with actors in general, and how to be a director.

Riegler is keeping busy in other ways too. He’s going for film and TV auditions, hoping for his next big role.

This weekend though, he’ll be in the Coleytown auditorium, as proud as any parent in the house.

(Two other Staples students are working on the Coleytown show: Johnny Donovan is assistant director, while Jane Schutte is assisting with choreography. “The Addams Family” is performed this Thursday, Friday and Saturday [March 27, 28 and 29, 7 p.m.], at Coleytown Middle School. For tickets and more information, click on http://www.showtix4u.com [search for “Westport”], or call 203-341-1666.)

Coleytown Company's "Addams Family" cast includes (clockwise from left): Anella Lefebvre (Morticia), Georgia Wright (Gomez), Maggie Foley (Wednesday) and Oscar Hechter (Pugsley).

Coleytown Company’s “Addams Family” cast includes (clockwise from left): Anella Lefebvre (Morticia), Georgia Wright (Gomez), Maggie Foley (Wednesday) and Oscar Hechter (Pugsley). (Photo/Kerry Foley)