Alison Milwe Grace’s Reveal Party

Reveal parties are all the rage these days. They showcase everything from home renovations to the gender of a fetus.

The other day, Alison Milwe Grace — one of Westport’s favorite caterers — got into the reveal party act.

But she did far more than provide hors d’oeuvres for a new dining room, or the cake to say whether the new baby will be a boy or girl.

Alison hosted a reveal party for Kaden. He’s Make-a-Wish Connecticut’s newest recipient. The organization fulfills the dreams of youngsters battling serious illnesses.

Kaden’s friends and family gathered in Alison’s kitchen. They cooked together: Hawaiian sweet and sour chicken, with fresh pineapple and coconut rice. Plus Hawaiian potato salad.

Yep — Kaden is headed to Hawaii.

Scenes from Alison Milwe Grace’s reveal party. (Photos/Eileen Sawyer Photography)

When the cooking was done, everyone ate together at a communal table. They had a wonderful meal.

And they talked about Kaden’s upcoming Hawaiian trip.


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jUNe Day flags, on the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Post Road bridge (Photo/Heli Stagg)

Tim Hayes: “Staples And Westport Made Me Who I Am”

Tim Hayes is a clinical psychologist in Syracuse. He got his undergraduate degree in 1982, and earned a Ph.D. at the State University of New York-Binghamton. He has not lived in Westport for decades (though his mother is still here).

But he often think of his hometown.

As the Staples High School Class of 1977 graduate and his wife begin to plan for retirement, he realizes that where he is today is a direct result of where he grew up. He believes he’d be a very different person even if he was raised in Fairfield or Norwalk.

Tim was born and raised in Greens Farms. “His” Westport was beautiful and idyllic. Within a 3-mile radius were the “wonderlands” of Burying Hill Beach (his “personal playground”), Long Lots Junior High, Staples, downtown Westport, and much more.

Tim Hayes’ Bombers went 19-1, and won the Westport Little League championship. He’s standing, 4th from right.

He put on his first Little League uniform, instantly transforming himself into “a new personality: a baseball player.” The program had a profound impact, from the coaching he received to playing at beautiful Gault Field, on the Saugatuck River.

He starred at Staples. Coach Brian Kelley called him the best player he’d seen since Bobby Valentine. Tim earned a full Division I scholarship to Kelley’s alma mater, Seton Hall University.

“My family could not afford college for me,” Tim says. “But baseball paid for my education. I believe Westport helped that to come about.”

Tim Hayes (#6) celebrates another Staples High School baseball win.

Growing up here, Tim says he was surrounded by wealthy and famous people. But they were regular folks. When Andy Jones encouraged Tim to skip school and go downtown, Paul Newman and Robert Redford walked by. “No one seemed to care,” Tim says. “That was great.”

His Staples classmates included Harry Reasoner’s daughter Ellen, and Linda Blair (star of “The Exorcist”).

Tim remembers Cindy Bigelow too. The other day, as he and his wife were grocery shopping, her huge photo promoted Bigelow Tea. Her parents bought her a new car for graduation. “That was not my middle class experience in Westport,” he says.

Tim calls Staples “a fabulous high school that I never fully appreciated. Going out into the world, I came to realize that many American high schools did not teach psychology or Latin — my 2 favorite subjects.”

Thanks to 2 long-ago psychology classes taught by Charles Burke, Tim Hayes found his life’s work.

“I write all of this to express my deep gratitude for my beloved hometown, Westport, and my beloved Staples High School,” he writes. “They made me who I am today.”

Staples High School English teacher Karl Decker took this photo of the Hayes siblings, which they gave to their parents for Christmas. From left: Tim’s older sister Kathy, Tim, his younger sister Theresa and his older brother Larry.

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Time for a swim, at Ned Dimes Marina (Photo/Sandy Rothenberg)

ConGRADulations, Staples Class of 2018!

Staples High School sent 460 new graduates into the world today.

The 131st commencement went off flawlessly. The fieldhouse was packed (but not sweltering). The brief speeches were insightful and on target (and the sound system worked well). The graduates were happy and well-behaved (as were the parents, grandparents and siblings).

Congratulations, Class of 2018! Enjoy your day. Westport is proud of you.

Just remember: In a couple of months, you’ll be freshmen all over again.

Five of the 460 soon-to-be graduates are at the front of the line, before marching in to the fieldhouse….

… while most of the rest of the class gathered outside.


Empty diploma cases, ready to be picked up. Graduates get their actual diplomas after the ceremony.

Sarah Stanton waits for the processional to begin.

This sign hung from the rafters, for all the graduates to see.

From left: faculty marshal Nick Mariconda, superintendent of schools Colleen Palmer and Staples principal James D’Amico. The marshal is the faculty member with the longest continuous service at the school.

A small portion of Staples High School’s Class of 2018.

Luke Rosenberg (right) directs the Orphenians in the national anthem. They also sang “The Road Home.”

Class speaker Josiah Tarrant talked about his swim team’s great victory over Greenwich, his discovery of culinary class, and many other joys of life at Staples. The mace (left) is carried by the faculty marshal, and remains at the podium during the ceremony.

The money shot: awarding diplomas.

Cheering on a favorite grad.

Many graduates decorate their caps. This one took plenty of work.

A classic post-graduation family pose.

No, they’re not wondering where the next party is. They’re trying to find their parents.

Cigars for the guys …

… and the girl.

After the ceremony, there were celebrations all around town. At A Better Chance of Westport’s Glendarcy House, Jarod Ferguson (bottom) posed proudly with current and alumni scholars.

Hats off to Staples High School’s Class of 2018! (All photos/Dan Woog)

Greetings From Westport

Pop-up art galleries are a thing. They’ve popped up all over Westport, including the Post Road and Bedford Square.

There’s a new one in Saugatuck. But this is different: It’s the brainchild of a pair of fairly recent Staples High School alums.

Jake Shore and Alex Zukerman graduated in 2013. They earned degrees from Rhode Island School of Design and Pratt, respectively.

Since last fall they’ve staged a half dozen shows in Paddlecourt Gallery, a former catering storefront on Saugatuck Avenue. (It’s across from Westport Chinese Takeout. The name comes from its founding in a former paddle tennis court near Alex’s house.)

This weekend they present the work of up-and-coming artists Alicia Gibson and Butt Johnson. Though New York based, both have created drawings depicting well-known residents past and present, and local architecture and landmarks.

The show reflects views of the town by visitors. It suggests postcards, memories and impressions.

Jake and Alex have taken Westport’s artistic legacy to heart. They’re carrying on the tradition, in a modern, hip way.

The opening reception is tomorrow (Saturday, June 23, 1 to 6 p.m.). The show runs through July 29. Paddlecourt Gallery is at 58 Saugatuck Avenue.

(For more on Paddlecourt, check out this story posted today on ArtNews.)

Friday Flashback #96

Yesterday was the first day of summer.

Today is the last day of school.

Soon, we’ll see scenes like this at Compo Beach.

Well, sort of.

Westport artist Stevan Dohanos used our beach as the inspiration for this painting.

I’m not sure if the Good Humor man was ever allowed to hang out where he did.

But the raft is totally legit.

Back in the 1950s and early ’60s, several of them were anchored off shore.

Kids did actually what the models are doing in Dohanos’ work. And a lot more.

Which is probably why there are no more rafts in the waters off Compo Beach today.

New Paltz Artist Opens New Gallery Here

New Paltz is a funky Hudson Valley town. It’s home to the famed Mohonk Mountain House, and boasts (according to “a lively music scene, farm-to-table eateries, and charming boutiques and cafes.”

Sort of like we kind of imagine Westport to be (without the Victorian castle).

So when Ryan Cronin looked beyond New Paltz for his new gallery, he chose Bedford Square.

“As socially conscious, artistic entrepreneurs with a passion for community relationships and adventure, we put a great deal of thought” into their 2nd location, says CronArtUSA co-owner (and Ryan’s wife) Melanie Cronin.

Ryan Cronin

When they heard about this town, she says, “we sat down, cracked our knuckles, and immersed ourselves in the Westport world. Our extensive research all came back with one positive affirmation: Westport was the perfect place to spread our mission (‘Art for good’) and vision (‘Be part of the art’).”

Westport’s rich history as an artists’ colony, and strong appreciation for the arts, were important. The Public Art Collection — including so many works in each school — sealed the deal.

“Ryan is a firm believer in making art accessible,” Melanie says. “Any community that makes major works of art part of children’s everyday life is one we want to be part of.”

The Bedford Square gallery offers Ryan Cronin’s original works and prints, along with special merchandise ranging from apparel to home goods.

Inside CronArtUSA’s Bedford Square gallery.

So far, Melanie says, Westport has been “welcoming and inquisitive.”

The New Paltz gallery and gift shop has become a community hub and gathering place, for artists and social activists alike. The couple hope the Westport site becomes the same.

(CronArtUSA is open in Bedford Square from 1 to 6 p.m. every day except Monday, and by appointment. Click here for more information.)

Carlson And Gailmor: Reunited (And It Sounds So Good!)

For anyone living in Westport in the early 1970s — or a music coffeehouse fan in New England and nearby — Carlson and Gailmor were close to gods.

Rob Carlson and Jon Gailmor were classmates (and fellow Orphenians) in Staples High School’s Class of 1966. After college (Brown and Penn, respectively), they formed a folk duo.

Their Polydor debut album — “Peaceable Kingdom” — is remains a classic for who heard it.

But before hitting the big time, the singers went their separate ways.

Carlson headed to the Caribbean, played local spots like Grassroots and the Tin Whistle, ran an independent production company, produced song satires and jingles, formed the Modern Man trio, and reconstituted his old Providence band, Benefit Street.

Gailmor moved to Vermont. Running music-writing workshops in schools, and (of course) performing, he’s became an icon. He was actually named an official “state treasure.”

Seven years ago — at their Staples 45th reunion — they sang together for the first time in decades.

They were on stage again last month, at the Weston Historical Society’s “Life in the ’60s” coffeehouse.

Jon Gailmor (left) and Rob Carlson, last month at the Weston Grange.

The audience loved them. Apparently, they loved it too.

The next day, Gailmor dropped by Carlson’s Fairfield studio. Backed by Paul Payton (keyboard), they laid down vocals on a ’70s song Carlson always thought they’d do well: King Harvest’s “Dancin’ in the Moonlight.”

Carlson later added Westporter Jeff Southworth’s guitar, and his own son Sam’s drums, and did the final mix.

It’s an upbeat, joyful tune — perfect for Carlson and Gailmor’s first studio collaboration in 45 years.

Let’s hope there are many more ahead.

Of course you can hear it! Just click here.

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Fairfield County Hunt Club. Their prestigious June Horse Show ends Saturday. There’s competition all day (and great food), with the Grand Prix starting at 1:30 p.m. Admission is free. (Photo/Greenshotz Photography)