Pic Of The Day #2117

Heading to Compo Beach (Photo/Katherine Bruan)

Roundup: Lyman Aid; Food, Drink …

Nearly every day, life-saving supplies are delivered to Lyman.

The latest shipment to our sister city in Ukraine: room furnaces.

Room heater in Lyman. (Photo/LIz Olegov)

They are sorely needed. Much of the town is without heat, following 5 months of Russian occupation.

“They heat rooms so quickly, they are run only a couple of hours a day,” reports Liz Olegov, of Westport’s on-the-ground partners Ukraine Aid International and Alex 21.

That’s great news. Electricity is still spotty in Lyman.

The heaters are part of the $252,000 Westport raised for our new sister city.

Officials there have plenty to do. When the Russians fled, they left chaos and carnage behind.

But leaders took time out to thank Westport, and our leaders.

This proclamation to 1st Selectwoman Jen Tooker is on its way to Town Hall:

The next phase of our sister city partnership will involve students. Groups at Staples High School, and Bedford and Coleytown Middle Schools, are preparing projects involving Lyman students.

Other opportunities for Westporters will be announced soon.

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After sold-out performances in January, Play With Your Food returns February 14-16.

Audiences will be treated to star power. Theater, film and TV actors Patricia Kalember and Daniel Gerroll take on Tom Stoppard as they perform a scene from his Tony Award-winning masterpiece, “The Real Thing.”

Also on the menu: Tony Award winner John Patrick Shanley’s “The Red Coat” and Craig Pospisil’s “Dissonance.” In honor of Valentine’s Week, the 3 plays tackle the complexities of love new, old and somewhere in the middle.

Tickets are nearly sold out for the February 14 performance at MoCA Westport, but are available for February 15 (Pequot Library, Southport) and 16 (Greenwich Art Council). All begin at noon, and are followed by a talkback with the cast and director. Audiences can stay for fresh boxed lunches.

Tickets are $60 each. For more information and tickets, click here or call 203-293-8729.

Daniel Gerroll and Patricia Kalember.

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Westport Police arrested and detained 4 people, between January 25 and February 1.

One was charged with conspiracy to commit larceny, identity theft and forgery.

One was charged with conspiracy to commit larceny, and interfering with an officer/resisting.

One was charged with third degree larceny.

One was charged with failure to appear.

Police also issued these citations:

  • Failure to obey control signal: 4
  • Operating an unregistered motor vehicle: 2
  • Speeding: 2
  • Traveling unreasonably fast: 2
  • Cell phone, first offense: 1
  • Operating a motor vehicle under suspension: 1
  • Operating a motor vehicle without a license: 1
  • Misuse of plates: 1

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The Westport Weston Family YMCA is seeking candidates for 2 junior board of director positions.

Junior board directors enjoy full voting rights and participate actively in the governance process. They have the chance to share ideas, learn from older directors who provide insight and perspective into non-profit management, and become aligned with the Y’s mission to strengthen community.

Candidates must be rising high school juniors with a minimum 3.5 GPA (unweighted), active Westport Y members, able to attend monthly board meetings, and commit to a 2-year term, starting this June.

Current junior board members Ava DeDomenico and Riley Twiss will graduate this year from Staples High School.  Ava has been involved with the gymnastics program, while Riley is a competitive swimmer on the WRAT team.

Click here for the application. The deadline is February 27.

Riley Twiss and Eva DeDomenico.

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The Denver Broncos are not in the Super Bowl.

But because Walrus Alley does not have a cocktail named for a Chief or Eagle, they’re offering this recipe for one their most-loved drinks: The White Bronco.

Owners Joseph and Angela Farrell suggest it for your Super Bowl party (which they could also cater). The recipe below creates 20 drinks.

  • 1 L  your favorite silver tequila
  • 375mL Chinola passionfruit liquor
  • 500mL fresh lime juice
  • 250mL  rresh orange juice
  • 100mL agave
  • 50mL Bittermens Hellfire Habanero Shrub

Combine all ingredients.  Shake and serve 4 ounces onto rocks, garnishing with a lime wheel.

White Bronco

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Yesterday’s snow dusting left this stark “Westport … Naturally” scene at Sherwood Island State Park.

(Photo/Claudia Sherwood Servidio)

It’s a good thing photographer Claudia Sherwood Servidio got there when she did.

The snow did not last long.

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And finally … Happy Groundhog Day!

(It’s an “06880” tradition: Readers celebrate Groundhog Day by clicking here to support this blog. Well, if it’s not, it should be a tradtion!)

 

COVID Claims Another Victim: State Cleaners

State Cleaners opened in 1954. It’s older than Mitchells or Gold’s — 2 of Westport’s most famous family-owned businesses.*

But COVID dealt a ferocious blow to dry cleaners everywhere. Yesterday — buffeted by declining business, and under pressure from his landlord — owner Arnold Raclyn closed State Cleaners as a brick-and-mortar store. He’ll concentrate now entirely on pickup and delivery.

It’s the end of an era.

Raclyn’s grandfather, Abraham Zavidow, opened State Cleaners on the corner of Imperial Avenue and the Post Road (then called State Street — thus the name) during Dwight Eisenhower’s first full year as president.

He already owned 30 dry cleaners in Manhattan, all served from a plant in Yonkers. When the industry developed smaller machines, so cleaning could be done right inside stores, Zavidow branched out.

He, his son and son-in-law opened dry cleaners in Westchester, Long Island and Connecticut. Westport was beginning its post-war boom; the location near downtown (at the site of a former grocery store) was perfect.

State Cleaners in 2019. (Photo/Dave Matlow for WestportNow)

Zavidow’s father ran the Westport store. He died at 48 in 1967, of a heart attack on his way home from work. His brother Herb — Raclyn’s uncle — took over, and ran it for 20 years.

State Cleaners flourished. Mitchells was next door, in Colonial Green. Herb and Ed Mitchell became friends. The cleaners’ tailor took care of the men’s store overflow work.

Arnold Raclyn was at the University of Cincinnati when his father died. He went into menswear sales, but wanted his own business. In 1992 he bought the Westport store.

Business was good for many years. But the 2009 recession was difficult; so was competition for new dry cleaners.

In the fall of 2019, a rent increase forced Raclyn to move. He found a smaller space a block away, in the back of 180 Post Road East (next to De Tapas).

Lacking an in-store plant, Raclyn partnered with a friend in White Plains to handle the actual cleaning.

A few months after the move, COVID struck. Immediately, business plummeted by 85%.

“Most of my customers were commuters — business executives, financial people, lawyers. They dressed up all the time,” Raclyn says.

“Now they were working at home. If they had to wash something, they did it there.”

In addition, Westporters also stopped going out for entertainment.

Slowly, people are now going back to the office — part time. Often though, they don’t wear traditional “office clothes.”

And though they go out more, they’re not dressing up as much for that either.

For the past year or so, business has been just half what it was pre-pandemic. Across the nation, many dry cleaners have gone out of business, or downsized.

When COVID hit, Raclyn’s landlord gave him a break. That — plus PPP money, and a Small Business Administration loan — allowed him to pay his employees, and cover the reduced rent.

This fall, the landlord asked for full rent. Raclyn requested an extension of the verbal agreement through February, to see if business picked up.

The landlord said no. Raclyn had to leave by January 31 — and take everything with him.

Raclyn says the electric conveyor and rail system is attached to the floor, ceiling and walls. A specialized technician is needed to remove it. The earliest he could come, with his crew of 4, was the weekend of February 11-12.

The landlord then demanded full rent through February — plus back rent. Raclyn scraped together money to cover October through January. That wiped him out he says.

On Tuesday — January 31 — Raclyn removed everything except the conveyor system. He left State Cleaners broom clean, and locked the door.

State Cleaners, yesterday.

Still, he says, the landlord wants February rent — and all other back rent, from all those COVID months. The matter is now being handled by attorneys.

The few customers who heard the news of the closing are glad Raclyn will still be there for them, via pickup and delivery. He’ll start next week.

It’s a new chapter, after 31 years for Raclyn in Westport — and nearly 70 for the cleaners.

“I’m sorry this happened,” he says. “I grew up as a kid in that store, and I’ve been there so long.

“I love the people here. My biggest regret is losing that personal contact. That hurts more than anything.

“But I’ll do some of the van driving, so I hope I can still see some of them.”

State Cleaners’ prices for pickup and delivery will be the same as in-store. All work is still guaranteed.

To arrange for dry cleaning, call 203-227-7765. For many customers, that’s a familiar number.

For Raclyn, it means even more. It’s the same phone number (though “227” was originally “CApital 7”) that State Cleaners has had since it opened, on State Street East — back when Eisenhower was president, the Dodgers were in Brooklyn, and in-store dry cleaning was a hot new thing.

PS: What’s going in at the former State Cleaners, at 180 Post Road East? You guessed it: a nail salon.

*Gault — dating back to 1863 — is in a stratosphere of its own.  And Gilbertie’s Herbs & Garden Center was founded in 1922.

(“06880” is your source for business news. We cover new stores, old ones, and the intersection of both. Please click here to help support our work. Thank you!)

Pic Of The Day #2016

Schlaet’s Point (Photo/Karen Como)

Unsung Hero #273

Among his many activities, Ken Bernhard is a member of Westport’s Downtown Plan Implementation Committee. He’s a great volunteer himself. But this week he nominates a fellow member as Unsung Hero.

Ken writes:

On behalf of the entire Downtown Plan Implementation Committee, I propose Randy Herbertson as the newest member of Westport’s cadre of Unsung Heroes.

The committee, consisting of department heads, merchants, property owners and local citizens, oversees the implementation of Westport’s master plan to improve the downtown area.

Working behind the scenes, Randy brings his marketing and branding skills to bear on creating consensus and producing results. He is always exceptionally prepared and knowledgeable.

All of us on the Committee concur that Randy is an effective, strong, and engaged chair, spending countless hours volunteering his professional services.

Randy Herbertson

The results of his work over the past few years are evident and momentous. The appearance of our downtown is demonstrably improved, the Baldwin parking is a model of good planning, and we are taking major steps for the complete overall of Parking Harding.

Next will be Jesup Green and then the Imperial Avenue parking lot. His yet-to-be fully and publicly appreciated efforts are altering and improving our town in numerous ways.

“Randy gives so much to this town and asks for nothing in return, making him a true unsung hero,” says Westport Downtown Association president Maxx Crowley — a position Randy previously held.

“He has done an incredible job mixing his creative background and passion for Westport, which will ultimately lead to a new and beautiful downtown,” said local businessman Maxwell Crowley.

Mary Young, Westport’s Planning and Zoning director, adds, “Randy is a visionary who unleashes the untapped potential of Westport’s downtown. He has the patience of a saint, and is willing to wade through the bureaucracy of securing local and state approvals. His energy is infectious. Randy Herbertson is a jewel and should be treasured.”

“Randy is most definitely an unsung hero, helping Westport become an even more wonderful and beautiful place in which to live. He is doing a great job leading the committee. My hat is off to him. He has earned our gratitude,” says Tony Riggio, past president of Westport Rotary and team leader with Builders Beyond Borders.

(Do you know an Unsung Hero? Email 06880blog@gmail.com)

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Roundup: Tyre Nichols, Ruegg Grants, Michael Franti …

The Tyre Nichols story is national news.

Despite Hearst Connecticut Media’s story yesterday, there is not a Westport connection.

A Connecticut Post story headlined “Advocates call for policing reforms, as Lamont questions whether Tyre Nichols incident could happen in CT” quoted Scot Esdaile, president of Connecticut’s NAACP chapter, as saying, “It’s not only happening in Memphis, we’ve seen it in New Haven, we’ve seen it in Westport, we’ve seen it in Hartford, we’ve seen it in Bridgeport.”

However, the link associated with “Westport” referred to a case from 2011 — in Westport, Massachusetts.

A statement from the Westport (Connecticut) Police Department says: “Understandably, (we) were disappointed by this article because we feel we have worked hard to build relationships and have never had any incident that resembles what we saw in Memphis.”

Hearst Media deleted the Westport link.

Esdaile apologized to Chief Foti Koskinas, the Westport Police Department and the town of Westport. He said that he meant to reference West Haven.

Esdaile added, “I have had a conversation with the chief along with Harold Bailey, the chairman of the Westport Civilian Review Panel, and we had a wonderful and energetic conversation. I apologized during the call several times, and we are looking forward to working together in the future.”

Koskinas called his conversation with Esdaile “productive, and brought about a positive resolution.”

 

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If you’re a local non-profit organization, the Westport Woman’s Club wants to give you money.

Ruegg Grants provide up to $10,000 for a 2023 project. Proposals should be “high-profile initiatives that make a meaningful difference in the Westport community.

The grants — established in 1995 by an endowment from former WWC member Lea Ruegg — go to projects that enhance social services, health, safety, the arts or education. Recent beneficiaries include the Westport Astronomical Society, Project Return, Earthplace and Wakeman Town Farm.

Click here for the grant application. The deadline is February 28.

The Westport Woman’s Club opens its doors to grant applications.

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The first big ticketed event of the Levitt Pavilion has been announced.

Michael Franti & Spearhead‘s “Big Big Love Tour” kicks off the Stars on Tour Series on Saturday, June 24 (7 p.m.). Phillip Phillips is the opening act.

Franti is a globally recognized musician, activist, hotel owner (Soulshine Bali) and award-winning filmmaker revered for his high-energy live shows, inspiring music, devotion to health and wellness, worldwide philanthropic efforts and the power of optimism.

His hits include “Sound of Sunshine,” “Say Hey (I Love You)” and “I Got You.” Spearhead’s 12th studio album, “Follow Your Heart,” debuted last June at #2, behind Harry Styles.

Levitt Pavilion members can purchase tickets now. The public ticket sale begins Friday (February 3, 10 a.m.). Click here for details.

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Here in Westport, we take garbage trucks for granted.

In Lyman, Ukraine they are game-changers.

A small part of the $252,000 donated by Westporters recently went to the purchase of 1 large and 1 small used trash trucks.

They’re vital to the reconstruction of our new sister city. When the Russians fled last fall, after 5 months of occupation and carnage, they took or destroyed all the vehicles. Refuse from the occupation — including bombed-out buildings and schools — has piled up ever since.

Katya Wauchope created this video, with footage supplied by Westport’s on-the-ground partners, Ukraine Aid International and Alex 21:

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Last August, “06880” highlighted Aiden Schachter. The rising Staples High School junior started a business — creating and selling LED light clouds — that has taken off nationally.

That’s impressive — and time-consuming. But it’s not all Aiden does. He is also a varsity wrestler.

And a pilot: He soloed on his 16th birthday. Next month, he hopes to get his full license.

Westport is justifiably proud of Aiden. Now the whole state can be.

The Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference (CIAC) just posted a video starring Aiden. Check it out (below): The story of this athlete/cloud-making entrepreneur/pilot is truly uplifting.

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After several years, the Greens Farms train station waiting room has reopened.

That’s good news for commuters during this winter — even if they have not yet needed to take refuge from bitter cold.

It’s open from 5:30 to 10 a.m. No coffee vendor yet — but that is on the front burner.

The Greens Farms train station waiting room is open again.

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Getting into and out of the Westport Book Shop just got easier.

A handrail — often requested by patrons — was just installed on the steps to the Jesup Road used book store.

Now there’s one more reason — besides helping fund the Westport Library, and keep people with disabilities employed — to stop in and browse.

Surrounding the Westport Book Shop handrail (from left): Evan Payne, cc-manager Katherine Caro, Lia Walker, Lori Wenke. (Photo/Tom Lowrie)

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Coming up at Earthplace:

Family Campfire (February 11, 1:30 to 3 p.m.; $30 member families, $40 non-member families): Learn about animal tracks while roasting marshmallows next to a crackling fire; meet an “animal ambassador,” and participate in a guided activity. Click here to register.

February Break Camp (February 20-24, 27; 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., $100/day; 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., $150/day; ages 3-12): Spend winter school break outside with nature; animal encounters, and self-chosen activities. Themes change daily. Click here to register.

Maple Sugaring Magic (March 5, $20 per family; 1:30-2:30 and 3-4 p.m.): Take part in a New England tradition. Learn how to identify maple trees on a trail walk, tap a tree and collect sap, and make maple syrup at home. Finish with tasting fresh maple sap, syrups and other maple goodies around the campfire. Click here to register.

Books & Beverages (March 15, 7 to 8 p.m.; free):  Participate in a casual discussion about “A Sand Country Almanac,” with naturalist Becky Newman. BYOB and snacks. Weather permitting, it’s outside. Click here to register.

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Today’s “Westport … Naturally” photo shows what — even in mid-winter — is always one of our town’s most beautiful spots.

(Photo/Michelle Harmon)

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And finally … Barrett Strong, Barrett Strong, whose 1959 hit “Money (That’s What I Want),” helped launch Motown Records, and who later co-wrote “I Heard It Through the Grapevine,” “Ball of Confusion” and “War,” died on Sunday. He was 81. Click here for a full obituary.

(It would be tempting to follow up the item above with a crass plea for donations to “06880,” but I won’t do that. I’ll just say: Please click here to support your hyper-local blog. Thank you!)

Traffic Task Force Cites Green, Yellow, Red Bucket Items

Westport traffic sucks.

It did not take 9 public meetings last spring for town officials to realize that.

But the sessions — one for each RTM district — were informative. 1st Selectwoman Jen Tooker, and officials from the Police, Fire, Public Works and Planning & Zoning Departments listened to complaint after complaint.

Some were general: Speeders! Red light abusers! Unsafe crosswalks!

Others were specific: The South Compo/Greens Farms/Bridge Street light needs work. Prohibiting left turns from the Sherwood Island connector to Greens Farms Road would cut down on Waze drivers. Build sidewalks on North Compo.

A “left-turn only” arrow from South Compo to Bridge Street would make traffic flow as easily as it appears in this image from Google Maps.

All were heard, and noted.

Yesterday — following an extensive review of all 370-plus comments — the Traffic & Pedestrian Safety Task Force issued their report.

“Intersections” drew the most concern (21 percent of comments). Then came sidewalks (16 percent), followed by heavy traffic (13), speeding (12), crosswalks (7), enforcement (4), parking and signage (3 percent each).

The data has been sorted into 3 “buckets,” in terms of priorities. The green (“go!”) bucket is for ongoing projects, those related to scheduled maintenance, and those that would take only a modicum of planning and effort to accomplish.

The second bucket — yellow (“caution!”) — is for projects with longer time frames (a year, to several years). They require more research, planning and permitting.

The third bucket is red (“stop!”). Those projects are outside the town’s jurisdiction, or are too cost-prohibitive or difficult to implement.

The report also notes that since the first meeting last spring, Westport police made 2,319 traffic stops targeting areas of concern. They wrote 729 citations, and made 17 arrests for driving under the influence, plus 16 misdemeanor arrests for traffic-related offenses.

Another result of the meetings was the formation of a Traffic Safety Unit. Based on the 9 RTM meetings, Police Chief Foti Koskinas and his department identified 55 Westport sites where targeted enforcement could help. Some might be where drivers routinely plow through lights or stop signs; others might attract particularly aggressive or fast (even for Westport) drivers.

Tooker says: “As I acknowledged during the course of the meetings, the issues and concerns will not go away overnight. But these meetings and the recognition from all the residents who participated are an important first step.”

Meanwhile, the Traffic & Pedestrian Safety Task Force will continue to meet twice a year.

They’ll have plenty to talk about.

(Click here for the full Traffic & Pedestrian Safety Task Force report. The appendixes include the green, yellow and red bucket items.)

(Stuck in traffic? Consider a donation to “06880.” Please click here — and thank you!)

Pic Of The Day #2115

Compo Beach dog fence (Photo/Laurie Sorensen)

Roundup: FOIA, Blue Coupe, Dog Poop …

A WordPress issue prevented some subscribers from receiving “06880” from Friday afternoon through last night.

If you’re one of those who missed your more-than-daily dose of Westport life, my apologies (on behalf of my content management system).

To access everything you missed, go to http://www.06880.org, then scroll down. Enjoy — and thanks for your patience.

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In today’s “What’s Next in Weston” podcast, 1st Selectwoman Sam Nestor addresses a serious situation involving the substantial abuse of FOIA by a Weston couple who have made numerous allegedly frivolous claims and requests from the Freedom of Information Commission regarding Weston Town government and the Board of Education.

The requests have been honored — at great taxpayer expense — but have shown no misdeed or mismanagement, Nestor says. The situation costs the town both volunteer time, and taxpayers’ money.

Nestor offers her view, and explains the town’s response. “What’s Next in Weston” is produced by the Y’s Men of Westport and Weston.

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Music fans can hardly wait for VersoFest ’23.

Now they’ve got 3 weeks less to wait.

Blue Coupe — the supergroup formed by Alice Cooper bassist Dennis Dunaway, and Blue Öyster Cult founders Joe and Albert Bouchard — headlines a Westport Library show on Friday, March 10 (7 p.m.).

Proceeds from the show benefit VersoFest. The music/multimedia and more event runs March 30 to April 2. It features live performances by Sunflower Bean, Amilia K Spicer and the Smithereens, plus programs and workshops featuring music luminaries, and people behind the scenes. Producer Steve Lillywhite (U2, Rolling Stones, Talking Heads) offers the keynote address on April 1.

Sisters Tish and Snooky Bellomo of Manic Panic join Blue Coupe for the show. DJ B The T Sr. starts the night spinning the rock, R&B and blues music that influenced Alice Cooper and Blue Öyster Cult.

Dunaway — a Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee — co-wrote Alice Cooper hits like “I’m 18” and “School’s Out.” Multi-instrumentalist Joe Bouchard — a VersoFest 2022 alum — and drummer Albert Bouchard co-wrote and arranged many of Blue Öyster Cult’s biggest songs, including “Cities on Flame with Rock and Roll,” “Hot Rails to Hell” and “Astronomy.”

Blue Coupe has released 3 albums. They have performed at major music festivals, and been livestreamed from the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

Tickets to see Blue Coupe live in the Trefz Forum are available on Eventbrite.

Blue Coupe

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Speaking of the Library:

Along the Riverwalk yesterday, an “06880” reader was taking photos of the birds and swans.

Then she spotted a gorgeous purple flower.

She was inspired, but realized: despite the warm temperatures, it’s way too early for spring.

She zoomed in — and realized it was a discarded dog poop bag.

Ugh.

She suggests a trash can by the bridge.

That’s one solution. I’ll add another: If you pick up dog doo, hold onto it until you find a trash can. Your inconvenience should not be everyone else’s problem.

Although it is a very lovely color for a poop bag.

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This week’s Jazz at the Post is special.

Thursday’s sets (February 2, 7:30 and 8:45 p.m., VFW Joseph J. Clinton Post 399) salutes Howard Silver. The legendary singer/composer/arranger graduated from Norwalk High School in 1947.

Grammy-nominated Michael Mossman trumpeter knows Silver’s music well: They played 1ogther from 1989-91. Bassist Phil Bowler was also a member of that band.

They duo are joined by drummer Dennis Mackrel, pianist David Berkman and saxophonist Greg “The Jazz Rabbi” Wall.

There is a cover charge of $15. Dinner begins at 7 p.m. Reservations are strongly recommended: JazzatthePost@gmail.com.

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Who says the Westport Town Clerk’s office doesn’t have a heart?

Check out the door — all dolled up for Valentine’s Day.

(Photo/Bob Weingarten)

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More than a week ago, the “06880” Roundup included a picture of dozens of bagels, strewn around High Gate Road off Maple Avenue South.

They’re still there.

Now though, they’re a bit grottier.

(Photos/Chris Grimm)

Both photographer Chris Grimm and I wonder why wildlife and weather have not taken more of a toll on the food.

And why no one in the neighborhood has gathered them up for the garbage.

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Sunil Hirani captured today’s “Westport … Naturally” photo a few days ago, at Compo Beach.

The dramatic shot is unfiltered. And, he says, “given that it was cloudy and rainy all day, it’s pretty incredible this happened, 20 minutes before sunrise. I would not have believed it if I didn’t see it myself.”

(Photo/Sunil Hirani)

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And finally … Weston’s ongoing issue with the Freedom of Information Act (story above) leads of course right into …

Regarding freedom: What have you got to lose by supporting “06880”? Please click here to contribute. Thank you!)

Playhouse Scales Back ’23 Season

COVID impacted every aspect of American society. Live theater was among the hardest hit.

No stage was immune. Locally, Westport Country Playhouse — the historic summer theater where everyone from Peter Fonda to Paul Newman performed (and Stephen Sondheim interned — canceled its entire 2020 schedule.

The 2021 season was all virtual. The Playhouse finally returned last year, with 5 well-produced, powerful shows.

Clay Singer and Mia Dillon starred in last summer’s “4000 Miles.” (Photo/Carol Rosegg)

But the effects of the virus still linger.

Yesterday, officials announced that the 2023 season will be pared down to 3 productions, from the previously announced 5.

“The change reflects the impact that COVID has had, and continues to have, on the Playhouse and the performing arts community nationwide,” said the board and leaders.

Though the Playhouse safely navigated the challenges of COVID — not one performance of the 4 plays and 1 musical was canceled due to illness — “audiences are coming back slowly,” said Gretchen Wright, director of development and interim managing director.

“We have yet to reach pre-pandemic levels of participation.”

The 92-year-old Westport Country Playhouse.

The Playhouse “finished with low ticket revenue and a significant deficit – a fate similar to many other theaters in Connecticut,” Wright said.

Even in the best of times, ticket sales cover only 40% of a show’s cost. And — despite eagerness among some theater-goers to return — last year was hardly the best of times.

“The board of trustees have been very engaged in supporting the theater and all the changes, proactively leading the Playhouse to brighter future,” said Anna Czekaj-Farber, chair of the Playhouse board.

“We are an agile organization, and we are trying to adjust to ensure the longevity and health of this important institution that has been a part of our community for more than 90 years.

“We are confident that we are making the prudent decision that would allow us to prosper as we have many exciting plans for the future of this wonderful theater.”

The historic Westport Country Playhouse. (Photo/Robert Benson)

 The revised 2023 season will include 3 previously announced productions, each running 3 weeks: “Ain’t Misbehavin'” (April 11 through April 29); “Dial ‘M’ for Murder” (July 11-July 29), and “School Girls; or, The African Mean Girls Play” (October 24 through November 11).

 The goal is to “focus on broadly appealing and revenue-positive programming, and on building deeper community partnerships,” the Playhouse said.

Additional events will be announced soon. For several years, special programming has augmented the main musical and play offerings.

Current 2023 season ticket holders have been contacted by the box office on how to claim the value of the canceled tickets by gift certificate, refund or donation.

Click here for more information on the Playhouse, and the 2023 season.