A Taste Of Saugatuck

The other day, alert — and hungry — “06880” reader JP Vellotti was walking home from the train station.

Smells from the many area restaurants were alluring. He got even hungrier.

Then he saw these cherry tomatoes growing outside  Fleishers Craft Butchery.

(Photo/JP Vellotti)

(Photo/JP Vellotti)

JP says, “If they don’t put a ‘please do not pick’ sign up soon, there might be a new meaning to ‘community garden.’

But he resisted temptation. And got his tomato fix at Julian’s instead.

Saugatuck Rowers Represent

International rowing is no day at the beach.

As soon as Staples High School ended in June, 3 Saugatuck Rowing Club racers left for junior national team training camps.

After intense workouts, they were selected to represent the US at the World Junior Rowing Championships in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.

The next competition began immediately: for seats in the boat. That continued almost until the starting gun, for what was billed as the largest world rowing championship ever.

Their hard work paid off. Harrison Burke and Kelsey McGinley took bronzes in the men’s and women’s junior 4+ and 4-, respectively. Grace McGinley placed 5th in the grand final of the women’s 8+ event. All are Staples students.

Kelsey McGinley (center) hugs her teammates after earning the women's junior 4+ bronze medal.

Kelsey McGinley (center) hugs her teammates after earning the women’s junior 4- bronze medal.

Then the fun began.

As soon as they secured their boats, rowers from the many competing countries converged in a “mosh pit” near the finish line grandstand, to trade gear.

The Westporters returned home with uniforms and more from Holland, Britain, Germany, Chile, South Africa and more.

Rowers who had just battled head to head — at the highest level — smiled at each other, happily negotiating trades. Fortunately for our kids, US gear was hot.

Harrison Burke (left) snapped selfies with other national rowing teams.

Harrison Burke (left) snapped selfies with other national rowing teams.

Saugatuck rowers rise before dawn and train on the icy river — then go back to hit the gym after school — for many reasons.

Earning a place on the national team is one.

Becoming friends with competitors from all over the world — earning respect, and sharing their uniforms — is another.

Congratulations, Harrison, Kelsey and Grace. You’ve done us — and yourselves — proud!

Food Allergies: “Fluffy” Name Masks Real Danger

Lisa Hofmeister’s family had no history of food allergies. She was vaguely aware of concerns about kids and nuts, but never gave a thought to things like birthday party food.

A couple of years ago, Blake — then 3 1/2 — ate a peanut butter M&M. Two hours later, he was covered from head to toe in hives.

His Landmark Preschool teachers reacted calmly, quickly and professionally. EMTs used an EpiPen to control the reaction.

Since then, Lisa worries constantly about brownies and cupcakes. She reads the labels of every food item she buys.

FARE logo

Blake — who is allergic to peanuts, pistachios and cashews — is handling things well. On Halloween, the 5-year-old asks everyone handing out candy if it contains any of those nuts.

Landmark is 100% nut-free. Kings Highway Elementary — Blake’s new school — has a nut-free cafeteria table.

Lisa is realistic. “Parents worry that their kid will get hit crossing the street,” she says. “This is just one more worry.”

She also knows that actions speak louder than words. So she’s gotten involved in Food Allergy Research & Education, an educational, research and advocacy organization.

On Saturday, September 24 (1 to 4 p.m.), FARE sponsors a fundraising, awareness and community-building program at Sherwood Island State Park. Besides a half-mile walk, there will be face painting, relay races, carnival games, arts and crafts, a magician and live reggae music.

Participants run at FARE's 2015 walk.

Participants run at FARE’s 2015 walk.

This is FARE’s only Connecticut event. Because it’s in our back yard — and free — Lisa hopes many Westporters will participate.

As a woman who never cared about food allergies until they struck home, Lisa knows that raising awareness is key.

It’s also hard.

“It’s scary that doctors don’t know what causes this, or why it’s increasing so rapidly,” Lisa says.

“It’s also too bad that this doesn’t have a scarier name. ‘Food allergy’ is fluffy. Maybe if it was called something different, more people would be more aware.”

(For more information — or to register for the September 24 event, or volunteer — click here.)

 


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Parking Job Demands A Close Look

From one angle, this looks like a very bad (and aggressive) parking job by the Jaguar. After all, why would the Nissan come so close — particularly on the driver’s side — to a car that was already there?

Brooks Corner parking - Sandy Rothenberg

But take a look at this 2nd photo:

Brooks Corner parking 2 - Sandy Rothenberg

(Photos/Sandy Rothenberg)

Maybe the Nissan driver pulled in after the Jaguar — and tried to send a message about parking in a crosswalk space.

If you’re the driver of either vehicle, click “Comments” to explain.

Though I won’t hold my breath.

“We Love Our Dogs In Westport”

Westport Animal Shelter Advocates posted this on Facebook:

Last week at about 6:15 p.m., when the air was still very muggy with the temperature in the high 80’s, a group of diners (and Westport residents)  at Sherwood Diner became aware of a large SUV in the parking lot with a small dog inside — and New York plates. The windows were completely shut.

It was determined that the car had been there at least 45 minutes. A call was made to Westport Police, as Westport’s animal control officer was off duty.

Officer Wong Won and another officer (whose name we don’t know) responded quickly. The owner of the car was identified (mid-meal). She became belligerent and defensive, and stated, “this wouldn’t be an issue in Westchester.”

Officer Won responded, “Ma’am, this is Westport. We love our dogs in Westport.”

The dog owner was ticketed, and warned about leaving her dog in a hot car.

Westport Animal Shelter AdvocatesWASA would like to thank Officer Won and his fellow Westport officer for coming to this dog’s rescue, and handling the situation so beautifully. Tails are wagging all over Westport in appreciation.

Our thanks too to the Westport residents who were advocates for the little dog.

Yes, Officer Won, this is Westport. And we do love our dogs!

(Hat tip: Kendall Gardiner)

Cross At Your Own Risk

As construction on the North Compo/Main Street culvert continues, drivers are forced to use alternate routes.

A short stretch of Cross Highway has long been closed at Main Street. But that doesn’t stop impatient folks from using it.

Alert “06880” reader Susan Isenman was startled to see a car speed past her — and roar onto Main Street without stopping.

A while later she spotted a “friendly policeman” on Main, writing a ticket to a similar offender. He told Isenman he’d written 4 the previous day.

Cops hear all kinds of excuses. But — as the photo below shows — “I didn’t see the signs” won’t fly here.

(Photo/Susan Isenman)

(Photo/Susan Isenman)

Custodians’ Kudos

Thousands of Westport students return to school this week. They’ll be greeted by hundreds of administrators, teachers and paraprofessionals who work hard to help our youngsters grow into wise, empathetic and confident adults.

Those students and staff work every day in buildings that are maintained with skill and care by men and women we always see, but seldom acknowledge. Often, we look right past — or through — our custodians.

David Johnson did not. A retired administrator from upstate Connecticut, he has spent the past 7 summers traveling to Westport to run a certification coach for area middle and high school coaches.

The other day, he wrote to Staples principal James D’Amico:

I have come to enjoy my journey to Westport. I am also enriched by being able to share important knowledge and information with those working with our student-athletes. What I have come to look forward to the most, however, is my interaction with your custodial staff directed by Horace Lewis.

Staples' popular head custodian Horace Lewis leads a great staff.

Staples’ popular head custodian Horace Lewis leads a great staff.

I travel to numerous high school facilities to teach these classes throughout the year. Nowhere is there a custodial staff as professional and welcoming as the one at Staples. I am always greeted with a smile, which makes me feel like I am visiting family.

Horace is there to meet my needs, making sure I have whatever is necessary. Then he asks what more he can do. He and/or one of his staff check and make sure we are ready to go. He checks with us during the class, and also at the end.

It is not easy to go into someone else’s facility and use unfamiliar equipment. But I never have a concern at Staples. I always know I have the support of Horace, Tom Cataudo and their staff.

Shift supervisor Tom Cataudo and maintenance head Horace Lewis greet the staff and students during the 2015 graduation processional.

Shift supervisor Tom Cataudo and maintenance head Horace Lewis greet staff and students during the 2015 graduation processional.

We have no problem complaining when something is not right or does not go well. Therefore I feel we have an obligation to recognize work that goes “above and beyond” the  call of duty. After 35 years in public education, I know that these individuals (especially a custodial staff like yours) are the lifeblood of the school community. You are most fortunate.

Thank you again for not only sharing your facility with us, but also for sharing such professional staff as well. Best wishes for a great school opening, and an even better school year.


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Remembering Jim Soroka

It’s been a long time since Jim Soroka left Westport.

But the death of the 1965 Staples High School graduate earlier this month — in a cycling accident in the White Mountain National Forest, while on a 100-mile training ride for his next Ironman — hit his adopted and beloved community of North Conway, New Hampshire hard. He was 69.

Jim Soroka, competing in one of his many races.

Jim Soroka, competing in one of his many events.

Soroka moved north 35 years ago. A graduate of the University of Miami and president of his own construction firm, he built over 30 custom homes, and many more additions and remodeling projects, around the Mount Washington Valley. He also built surfboards, for sale and to use on his own trips throughout the Caribbean and Central America.

But he was best known as a sports enthusiast. A noted baseball player, surfer and nationally ranked Masters swimmer, Soroka became a passionate triathlete at age 58. In 2012 he competed in the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii.

He also helped develop the White Mountain Aquatic and Fitness Foundation. The organization is planning a complex with 2 swimming pools, a weight room, childcare room, fireplace, lounge, basketball court, walking track, and rooms for yoga, exercise, Pilates and spinning.

Soroka donated time and money for many Conway-area projects, including playgrounds and baseball dugouts. He coached baseball, basketball and football.

A column in the Conway Daily Sun said:

Jim Soroka

Jim Soroka at a triathlon.

“Jim embodied everything great in sports and life, and he amazingly intertwined both into his world. When you spent a minute with Jim it was a quality minute….

“[He was] humble, always upbeat and loved life. He loved his fellow competitors as much as he loved to compete.”

Friend Paul Kirsch thought Soroka would “live forever. He seemed to be getting stronger with age, his muscles bigger, his drive a little stronger.”

Soroka is survived by his wife of 39 years, Margie; his daughter Jessi and son David. His brother Stuart, a well-known Boston meteorologist, predeceased him.

Donations may be made to the White Mountain Aquatic and Fitness Foundation, PO Box 767, North Conway, NH 03860. For more information or to leave an online condolence message, click here.

Beatles’ Final Tour Remains In Westport’s Memory

Today marks the final concert of the 50th anniversary of the Beatles’ last US tour.

Also, the Remains’.

For local musicologists — and fans of the regionally famous band that included 2 Westporters, and lives on in the hearts and souls of anyone who heard them — that 2nd fact is as least as important as the 1st.

Fred Cantor — the band’s Boswell, who makes sure his fellow Staples High grads Barry Tashian and Bill Briggs (plus Vern Miller and Chip Damiani) “remain” alive, with an off-Broadway musical (“All Good Things”) and documentary film (“America’s Lost Band“) — sent along a reminder of the legendary summer of ’66 tour.

By then the Remains had already appeared on “Ed Sullivan” and “Hullabaloo.” They’d relocated from Boston to New York, and had a contract with Epic Records. But they had not yet broken into the big time, when they got the offer to tour with the Beatles (along with the Ronettes, the Cyrkle and Bobby Hebb).

Untitled

Tashian — the front man, just 3 years out of Staples — remembers not being able to get out of their car, on the way to their 1st concert in Chicago. Screaming fans thought they were the Beatles. He found it funny — and scary.

They could not use their own amps there — and did not even have a chance to try out the ones they were given. To musicians, that’s like walking on a tightrope without a net.

Indoor arenas — like Detroit, where the band could see the crowd — were excellent. “They were digging us,” Tashian told Cantor. “We were saying, ‘This is great. This is elevated to another place.”

But in large stadiums like Cleveland, the audience was too far away to make the connections the Remains thrived on. After that show, they met with their road manager. They second-guessed everything they did wrong — and right.

Barry Tashian (left) and Vern Miller, on stage. Drummer ND Smart (who replaced Chip Damiani on the tour) is hidden. Keyboardist Bill Briggs is not in the shot.

Barry Tashian (left) and Vern Miller, on stage. Drummer ND Smart (who replaced Chip Damiani on the tour) is hidden. Keyboardist Bill Briggs is not in the shot. (Photo/Ed Freeman)

Their interactions with the Beatles were limited, but memorable. Tashian says they had tons of energy, and great senses of humor. They did not take things too seriously.

Tashian learned a lot. “The world was a different place when you were with John Lennon,” he says.

The Westport guitarist also listened to Ravi Shankar with George Harrison. Indian music was a revelation. So was a new invention Harrison had gotten hold of: tape cassettes.

Six days before the end of the tour, the Remains and Beatles played Shea Stadium. Tashian calls it “an emotional moment.” The lights were the brightest of any place they played. With a rare break the night before, he felt rested, “a little more balanced and grounded.”

The Remains, back in the day.

The Remains, back in the day.

In California, near the end of the tour, Harrison sent a car to pick up Tashian. Meeting the Beach Boys, Mama Cass Elliot, Roger McGuinn and others, he was “speechless.”

Briggs — the Remains’ keyboardist — recalls the final concert, at San Francisco’s Candlestick Park:

“It just seemed like you were playing on a mountaintop and there was nobody there. They shut off the lights, all in the stadium proper and they just left a row of the lights on the top. It was like we were playing there by ourselves.

“I really enjoyed it. That was probably the most relaxed I was on the whole tour.”

What came next was tough. “It was like being dumped from a dump truck down over a ledge into a quarry or something, just left down there in the dust,” Tashian says.

He realizes now that his band had been breaking up — for various reasons — even before the tour began.

The Beatles kept recording, until they too broke apart. Today, of course, they’re still big — perhaps bigger than ever.

The Remains are just a footnote in rock ‘n’ roll history.

But to anyone who heard them play — particularly at small clubs, not the big arenas and stadiums of that 1966 tour — what a footnote they are.


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9/11 Memorial: Friends Of Sherwood Island Respond

The other day, “06880” reader Ellen Bowen complained about the unkempt, goose-drop-filled state of the 9/11 Living Memorial at Sherwood Island State Park.

Yesterday, Friends of Sherwood Island State Park co-president Liz-Ann Koos said:

First, it is  very important that you understand  some facts about birds nests. If house sparrows are making nests in the indoor memorial, they can be removed, even while they are building their nests. They are one of the few bird species not protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

A volunteer Friends member (and dedicated birder) will check and remove whatever  nests are in the 9/11 Memorial area now. However, if a protected bird such as a swallow built a nest, nothing can be done until after the birds leave the nests. Most migratory birds have left their nests by now.

Second, please understand that controlling the Canadian geese is impossible. No one, including the Town of Westport, can remove every goose dropping..

The 9/11 Living Memorial at Sherwood Island State Park. (Photos/Ellen Bowen)

The 9/11 Living Memorial at Sherwood Island State Park. (Photos/Ellen Bowen)

Third, the Sherwood Island supervisor and his staff work  hard to keep the Park looking its best, in spite of the many visitors leaving garbage all over the grounds and not using dumpsters. You are correct that the  responsibility for the maintenance and upkeep of the 9/11 Memorial  is indeed part of the staff’s responsibilities. Rest assured it will be in order for the September 8 (5:30 p.m.) service.

However, I am sure that you have been reading about the huge budget cuts impacting the size of the staff and other matters relevant to your concerns, which brings me to my last point.

One of the reasons for the founding of Friends of Sherwood Island State Park was to supply assistance to the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection in the form of advocacy, volunteers, and funds (through memberships, donations, fundraising projects and events). We need concerned people like yourself to join our ranks to produce positive changes and support for our beautiful Sherwood Island  State Park, where state budget dollars fall short.

Friends of Sherwood Island logoPlease consider buying a ticket or two for our upcoming ShoreFest in the Pavilion (strikingly reconstructed including solar-heated year-round restrooms, with your tax dollars) on Friday September 9 (6 to 9 p.m.). Proceeds from the silent auction will be specifically targeted for our 100 Trees for 100 Years Project, aimed at replacing and maintaining trees and shrubs that were devastated in major storms.

Please go to our website (www.friendsofsherwoodisland.org) to learn about joining Friends, or purchasing tickets for ShoreFest (where you will have an opportunity to discuss your concerns with the park supervisor, State legislators who have adopted the park, and our board and other Friends).

Please contact me directly at  lizannlwv@gmail.com if you would like to know more.