Levitt Pavilion, Saugatuck River and friends (Photo/Johanna Keyser Rossi)
Levitt Pavilion, Saugatuck River and friends (Photo/Johanna Keyser Rossi)
Posted in Entertainment, Pic of the Day
Tagged Levitt Pavilion, Saugatuck River
Valerie Seiling Jacobs is an attorney and long-time resident of Westport. A former co-chair of Save Westport Now, she currently teaches writing at Columbia University. She recently helped lead the campaign to regulate gas-powered leaf blowers in Westport.
In the past week, ozone and fine particulate levels in Westport have repeatedly exceeded the maximum thresholds set by the EPA — in some cases by more than 3 times the recommended level.
This recent bout of pollution is the result of fires in Canada. But it doesn’t change the fact that Westport — indeed, all of Fairfield County — already had a serious air quality problem.
According to a 2022 report issued by the American Lung Association, Fairfield County is one of the most polluted counties in the nation.
Smoke from Canadian wildfires blanketed Westport yesterday. (Drone photo/Charlie Scott)
The entire state has a problem. In 2021, there were 21 days where the ozone levels in the state exceeded the healthy level. In 2022, the number jumped to 23.
You might dismiss those numbers as not relevant to our town. But on many of those days, Westport either had the highest levels in the state or tied for first place.
At the rate we’re going, we are almost certain to beat last year’s record.
Both ozone and particle pollution are extremely hazardous to our health. The Lung Association in Connecticut says both “can cause premature death and other serious health effects such as asthma attacks, cardiovascular damage, and developmental and reproductive harm. Particle pollution can also cause lung cancer.”
Officials warn people — especially the elderly, children, pregnant women and those with asthma — to restrict outdoor activities on days when the air quality is bad.
Children are among those warned to restrict activities when the air quality is poor. (Photo/Dave Briggs)
Yesterday, the town finally issued its own warning. But the town doesn’t tell people that the DEEP and other environmental organizations have a long list of other recommendations for such days, including driving less, postponing running energy-demanding appliances, delaying refueling your car, avoiding aerosols, turning up the air conditioner thermostat, avoiding the use of gas-powered gardening equipment, and more.
It’s time for the town to up its game when it comes to the environment.
First, the town needs to help to educate residents about the steps they can take to improve air quality. While it’s true that we cannot avoid the fallout from massive fires or from power plants, we as individuals can take small incremental steps that can have a big collective impact.
Second, the town needs to phase out its own use of gas-powered gardening equipment. At the very least, the town and its vendors should refrain from using gas-powered gardening equipment on days when our ozone or PM2.5 levels exceed, or are projected to exceed, the EPA thresholds.
Other towns have stepped in to protect their citizens. It’s time for Westport to do the same.
(“06880” is your hyper-local blog — and a non-profit. Please click here to help support our work. Thank you!)
Posted in Environment, Local politics
Human beings are creatures of rhythm. The rising and setting sun; the 4 seasons; the ebb and flow of tides — all are intrinsic, eternal parts of life.
Our sense of rhythm begins even before birth. In the womb, we sense one thing: the beating of a mother’s heart.
Hartbeeps is a rhythm and sound-oriented provider of multi-sensory, interactive classes to babies, toddlers and pre-schoolers. Using props, puppets, lighting effects, and a mixture of repetition and variation in sounds — it engages little kids, and sparks their imaginations.
Their parents and caregivers have a great time meeting others and bonding too.
There are Hartbeeps classes all over the UK. There is just one in the US.
And — after a few years of scavenging for space in yoga studios and churches across Fairfield County — now Hartbeeps has its own, dedicated facility.
Right here in Westport.
Hartbeeps is the passion of Ewelina Raus. She met her husband — a Stamford native — when he was playing soccer in her Polish hometown.
They relocated to England, when he played there. The next stop was Connecticut, to be near his family. Ewelina wanted a good school for her daughter, so they chose Westport.
Moving to suburbia was a difficult transition. She had worked in the dental field. But Ewelina says that Hartbeeps — which she first encountered in the UK — was her “calling.”
She was attracted by its colorful, tactile “wonderlands”; its combination of original music, sound effects, songs and lighting.
In 2016 she opened the first American franchise.
It was not an easy sell. “People working in finance didn’t want to wear funny hats” as they participated with their toddlers, she says.
Funny hats can be fun.
But she persisted, in makeshift spaces.
When COVID hit, her daughter was in Christ & Holy Trinity Episcopal Church preschool. Ewelina rented space in the grass area, so everyone could be socially distanced.
A couple of people complained about the music. But, she says, many more people — participants and passersby — liked what they saw, and smiled.
For every session, Ewelina hauled 7 or 8 huge bags of equipment. She began looking for permanent space.
She found space online, at 180 Post Road East (the office building across the Post Road from Casa Me, Finalmente and Jeera Thai). Franco Fellah helped negotiate a lease.
Hartbeeps opened there a month ago.
“Before, I felt like I was renting an apartment,” Ewelina says. “I couldn’t do anything to it.”
She has added her own décor. She created a sensory room, with calming art and natural colors, for a child having a meltdown.
The space encourages adults to stay, talk — and make connections. They are a mix of parents, nannies, au pairs, grandparents, aunts and uncles.
Ewelina helps. She enjoys introducing people who she thinks will become good friends.
Hartbeep parents, caregivers and kids. Ewelina is in front.
Hartbeeps has helped her too, she notes. Many of her best friends are people who have brought their young children to her classes.
She urges Westporters with babies and toddlers to check it out.
They’ll like it in a heartbeat.
(For more information on Hartbeeps, click here.)
(“06880” serves all Westporters — of all ages. If we’ve been of service to you, please consider a contribution. Just click here. Thank you!)
Posted in Children, Local business
Tagged Ewelina Raus, Hartbeeps
As smoke from Canadian wildfires drifted south, much of the East Coast was enveloped in an acrid haze.
After-school activities, sports games and practices, even the Democratic Town Committee’s al fresco get-together at Walrus Alley were canceled.
Most Westporters stayed indoors. Some ventured out, to take photos for “06880.” Here are a few:
No swimming at Compo Beach … (Photo/Charlie Scott)
… or playing on the cannons … (Photo/Larry Silver)
Canal Road, on Saugatuck Shores (Photo/Gene Borio)
A different-looking sun (Photo/Gene Borio)
From a Post Road West office (Photo/Mikayla Doyle)
Saugatuck River (Photo/Amy Schneider)
Staples High School’s Jinny Parker Field (Photo/Dave Briggs)
Greenwood Lane, off Sturges Commons (Photo/Mary-Lou Weisman)
Hazy sun, over Home Goods … (Photo/Andrew Colabella)
… and through the trees … (Photo/Becky Keeler)
… and the sun’s close-up (Photo/Meredith Holod)
View from one drone … (Photo/Sam Saperstein)
… and at Ned Dimes Marina, another. (Charlie Scott)
Posted in Beach, Pic of the Day, Staples HS, Weather
In just a month, Westporters will enjoy one of our biggest bashes ever.
On Sunday, July 9 (1 p.m. to dusk), we’ll celebrate our sister city of Lyman, Ukraine. The site is the Ukrainian-American Club on the Post Road in Southport, at Exit 19.
Sure, it’s a few yards over the town line. But it’s a chance to thank all who donated to help Lyman last winter, and to introduce the still-under-siege town to those who don’t know it.
And though the cause is serious, the (free!) family-friendly day will be filled with food, fun and music.
The event is called Lyman AID (pronounced LEE-mon-aid, almost like the drink).
There is no admission. You don’t have to pay anything for snacks, drinks and entertainment.
But there will be plenty of opportunities to help Lyman too — including raffles, treasure sale, Yankee auction, coffee table book pull, plant sale, “LymanADE” stand and more.
There are two tiers of VIP tickets, too. $350 include reserved seating, a commemorative gift, open bar, homemade Ukrainian-inspired meal and more.
VIP Plus tickets ($1,000) receive all those benefits , plus signage with your family name or company logo, a message for the Ukrainian people, and a Ukraine flag signed by Mayor Alexander Zhuravlov.
Sponsorship opportunities are also available. For information, email email@example.com.
To RSVP, purchase VIP tickets and for more information, click here. To make a direction directly now, click here; under “”Designation,” click on “Westport-Lyman Sister City” in the dropdown menu.
NOTE: The entire event has been privately underwritten. No Ukrainian Aid International funds will be used. All money raised will go directly to Westport’s sister city.
PS: Want to help promote Lyman AID with a yard sign? Text 203-216-1608 with an address; one will magically appear.
If you see these jars around town, toss in some change. It’s one more way to help Westport’s sister city of Lyman.
Posted in Politics, Westport life
Tagged Lyman Ukraine, LymanAID
Graduating students are called many things.
Most are boilerplate: “Talented.” “Hard-working.” “The future.”
They are seldom called “heroes.”
There are several ways to define that term. One is “a person who, in the face of danger, combats adversity through feats of ingenuity, courage, or strength.”
When they receive their diplomas next week, the nearly 500 young men and women in Staples High School’s Class of 2023 will know that they have faced — and overcome — adversity.
In the spring of freshman year — as they rounded the corner toward a time when finally they feel fully comfortable in their new school, and really begin enjoying their time there — their world abruptly changed.
For 3 months, COVID forced them to learn at home. They struggled with isolation, depression, and teachers who struggled too.
Despite uncertainty and fear, many 9th graders reached out to friends, neighbors, strangers (and their teachers) to see how they could help.
In the spring of 2020, James Dobin-Smith quickly created the OneWestport.com website. It provided up-to-date information on what’s open and closed, all around town. It’s still live.
Some of those students — though certainly not all — returned to campus for the fall of sophomore year. They spent the year wearing masks, following 1-way arrows in the hall, separated from friends by Plexiglass at cafeteria tables.
Sports schedules were truncated. The drama program was curtailed. The Candlelight Concert went virtual.
And in the classroom, students and teachers still struggled with “hybrid learning.”
It may not have been a lost year. But it came close.
in the 2020-21 school year, athletes competed in masks. (Photo/Dylan Goodman)
Junior year was a bit more normal. This year has been even more so. But the scars — the fears, the solitude, the years of high school shattered — still linger.
The soon-to-graduate seniors faced adversity even before the pandemic. They were in Coleytown Middle School when it was closed by mold. They were crammed into Bedford and Staples — fun, but a further disruption of their education.
“I’m not gonna lie,” to use a popular teenage expression. Our Staples seniors were hardly the only ones to face adversity. Students in most school districts across the country — not to mention billions of other people around the globe — faced far worse.
But obstacles are not a contest. We should not try to discount anyone’s experiences, for any reasons.
So today’s Unsung Heroes are each and every member of Staples High School’s Class of 2023.
Congratulations on getting through high school (as every graduating class is told). And, for you in particular, for doing it with ingenuity, courage and strength.
Our “06880” hats — and mortarboards — are off to you.
(Do you know an Unsung Hero? Email firstname.lastname@example.org)
(“Unsung Heroes” runs every Wednesday on “06880.” If you enjoy it — and everything else we do — please consider a contribution. Just click here — and thank you!)
Posted in Staples HS, Unsung Heroes
The Downtown Plan Implementation Committee’s idea for Parker Harding Plaza — eliminating the cut-through from Main Street to the Post Road, in favor of 2-way traffic closer to the back entrances of stores in the lot, along with the loss of 44 parking spots — has run into heavy traffic.
A petition on Change.org has garnered over 500 signatures. It says:
“We, the undersigned, respectfully OPPOSE the Westport Downtown Plan Implementation Committee’s proposed plan to eliminate the Parker Harding Access Road and 44 parking spaces as part of a larger proposal to re-conceptualize and redesign Parker Harding Plaza. If approved, this proposed plan will result in a dramatic increase in traffic throughout Westport and make finding Downtown parking more difficult.
“The Westport Downtown Plan Implementation Committee is an appointed committee responsible for initiating and carrying out the implementation of the Downtown Master Plan. We encourage the Westport Downtown Plan Implementation Committee to propose a viable alternative that does not impose further burdens on the residents of Westport, visitors, and downtown business owners/employees.”
The proposed plan eliminates the cut-through, and reconfigures spaces. Click on or hover over to enlarge.
Meanwhile, a minute or two from downtown, Winslow Park just got a bit safer.
Mark Mathias writes: “It’s great to see an AED (automated external defibrillator) back at Winslow Park. It was missing for at least a couple of years.
“I also like that despite the ‘Call 911 for code’ label, there’s no lock on the hasp. When seconds matter, having to call for a code seems wrong.
“I hope the AED stays in the locker in case someone needs it. I also hope that the other AEDs around town have been deployed.”
AED at Winslow Park. It’s located near the Westport Country Playhouse parking lot. (Photo/Mark Mathias)
Monday’s fire on Old Hill Road destroyed the home — and all personal possessions — of a Westport family.
Grace Firth — a single mother, whose family lives abroad — along with her daughter Bria (a Coleytown Middle School 7th grader) and an aunt, Sylvia, who is with them — escaped with only the pajamas they were sleeping in.
They have lived in Westport for several years. Friends have created a GoFundMe campaign, to help.
All money raised will pay for clothing, household items, and new housing — the most urgent need. Click here to help.
A Facebook “Westport Front Porch” post by Julie Einziger Sternberg lists sizes:
Shoes (Grace 6, Sylvia 9 or 9.5, Brie junior 4); clothes (Grace medium/large size 10, Sylvia xl tops/large bottom, Brie large kids/sweats and hoodie — she loves those).
A meal train has been set up too. Click here to sign up.
Grace and Bria Frith.
“Work, Live, Ride” — a bill increasing housing density near train stations, including Saugatuck and Greens Farms — will probably not be enacted during this Connecticut General Assembly session.
Click here for the full Connecticut Mirror story.
The “Work, Live, Ride” bill could have increased housing around the Saugatuck and Greens Farms railroad stations.
Firefighters from across the region gathered yesterday evening at Assumption Church. A solemn ceremony sponsored by the Bridgeport Area Retired Firefighters honored all those who lost their lives in the line of duty.
A reception followed at the VFW.
At 6:30 a.m., 79 years ago yesterday, Allied forces began the largest sea invasion in American history. Over 350,000 soldiers and naval personnel landed on the Normandy beaches. Thousands of paratroopers assisted.
Five days later, the beaches were secured. Nearly 2,500 mile of coastline was taken. “Operation Overlord” turned the tide of World War II.
Over 5,000 Allied forces — including 2,001 Americans — were killed on D-Day. Many more perished, and were injured, during the ensuing Battle of Normandy.
Robert Loomis — a 19-year-old infantryman at Utah Beach — was fortunate. He returned home.
He was honorably discharged later, as a sergeant first class. His decorations include the Silver Star, Bronze Star, Combat Infantry Badge, Presidential Citation, Army Meritorious Citation, French and Belgian Fourrageres and the French Legion of Honor.
He and his family moved to Westport in 1958. He commuted to New York as an art director.
He was also very involved here, as a volunteer. He spent 25 years as an EMT with the Norwalk Hospital Emergency Department and Westport Emergency Medical Service. He also helped his wife with Meals on Wheels.
In 1985, Bob Loomis designed the logo for Westport’s 150th anniversary celebration.
In 1994 Loomis returned to France, for the 50th anniversary celebration of D-Day. He and fellow Westporter Clayton Chalfant visited Marigny, Westport’s sister city in Normandy.
Loomis died on June 8, 2016 — in the midst of the 72nd anniversary of Operation Overlord. He was 91. Click here for his full, fascinating, obituary.
Last night’s Representative Town Meeting session included a moment of silence for Sgt. Loomis, and all who served on D-Day. (Hat tip: Andrew Colabella)
Bob Loomis proudly displays some of his medals. The next day, he added the Croix de Guerre.
Also last night at the RTM: member Jessica Bram paid tribute to former moderator (and later, 1st Selectman), on what recently would have been his 78th birthday. Joseloff died in 2020.
Bram said: “Gordon contributed so much to Westport. He was a volunteer EMT, Westport firefighter, and what he may have been proudest of, publisher of WestportNow.com which was a groundbreaking hyper-local blog that connected us all as a community in real time.
“Gordon was so modest you might not know he had lifelong career at CBS News, the only journalist who got into the Gdańsk Shipyards — for anyone who remembers that—was an Emmy winner, served as both Moscow and Tokyo bureau chief, and sat just off camera alongside Walter Cronkite during CBS evening news broadcasts.
“I take note especially of how much he contributed to this RTM, where he was proud to serve as Mmderator for 10 years. He told me that he always wore a jacket and tie at RTM meetings to show his respect for his role as moderator….
“We have much to be grateful to Gordon for, for how much he contributed to Westport. But perhaps here especially, where he served 10 years as moderator of this RTM.”
Gordon Joseloff (Photo/Lynn Untermeyer Miller)
On July 13, “Booked for the Evening” honoree Laura Linney will entertain and enlighten an already sold-out Trefz Forum audience.
It’s a major fundraiser for the Westport Library.
Now there’s a way to see the Golden Globe and Emmy Award-winning actress — in the comfort of your home. And you don’t even have to live in Westport.
The Library will livestream the ceremony, and Linney’s talk. The cost is just $20. Click here for details, and to purchase a virtual link.
Speaking of the Library:
Verso Records: Volume One — the debut album from Verso Studios, which was launched Sautrday night at the Trefz Forum — is now on sale.
It’s available at the Library Store, online via Bandcamp, through the Verso Records website, and soon at record stores around the area.
The bright yellow vinyl sells for $22, and includes a digital download. A $10 digital-only version is also available.
Speaking of music at the Library:
On Monday night, the Y’s Men of Westport and Weston welcomed the Staples High School Jazz Band Combo Blue. The Trefz Forum was packed for the sextet’s 40-minute set, with Y’s Men and jazz lovers (some were both).
Click below to enjoy:
This year, Neighbors & Newcomers of Westport celebrates its 60th anniversary.
The organization — far more than a “welcome wagon” — offers an array of activities for new Westporters (and those who are not so new). Lasting friendships are formed.
All residents — members or not — are invited to their 60th anniversary celebration this Friday (June 9, 6:30 p.m.) at the Compo Beach brick pavilion.
Food and water will be provided; BYOB. And — as old-timers know: No glass!
For more information on the group, click here.
Neighbors & Newcomers enjoy a hike.
Last night’s News 12 “Crime Files” segment on the Joan Wertkin murder included interviews with family members, police officers and others — and archival footage from the days immediately after the May 24, 1989 crime.
But — despite hints that the killer is known — no names were revealed.
According to the show, however, investigators are coming close to closing the long-open case.
A News 12 “Crime Files” screenshot shows an aerial view of the Main Street shopping plaza — the site of Coffee An’, among others — behind which Joan Wertkin’s body was found.
TAP Strength celebrates the summer solstice with a special drop-in class (yoga and sound bath).
The date is June 21 (of course); the time is 6 p.m. Call 203-292-9353 or email email@example.com to register.
Today’s “Westport … Naturally” photo comes from Tom Feeley.
He shot it at 6:05 a.m. yesterday, at PJ Romano Field. It’s not edited or altered in any way. “Courtesy of Canadian wildfires,” Tom says of the bright orange hue.
And finally … wildfires are deadly. This song, however, is beautiful:
(Every day, “06880” scours Westport — and the world — for interesting Roundup features. If you enjoy this feature, please help support our work. Just click here — and thank you.)
Posted in Downtown, Entertainment, History, Library
Tagged affordable housing, Bob Loomis, Downtown Plan Implementation Committee, Laura Linney, Neighbors & Newcomers, Parker Harding Plaza, Staples High School Jazz Ensemble, TAP Strength, Verso Studios record label, Y's Men of Westport and Weston
On Monday, “06880” ran a story on the future of the Westport Country Playhouse.
The board of directors says:
For the past several months, the board at the Westport Country Playhouse has been preparing for a leadership transition, and adapting to the new financial reality facing professional regional theaters.
We are in a difficult situation, yet singularly focused on our responsibility to ensure that the Playhouse not only survives but thrives.
To do so, we are re-envisioning a Playhouse that celebrates its proud heritage of producing first-rate theater, and presents a wide array of programming to engage audiences new and old.
Westport Country Playhouse. (Photo/Lynn Untermeyer Miller)
As part of a cohesive plan, in the coming months and years our Playhouse will welcome musical artists, concerts, speaker series, holiday and youth programs, writers’ festivals, film screenings, stand-up comedy acts, and touring musical productions.
We are currently evaluating proposed visions for our new artistic direction, and plan to announce new leadership soon. We are also exploring strategic partnerships with local organizations and national theater companies to expand programming at the Playhouse.
We are deeply grateful for the dedication and support we receive from people and communities from New York to New Haven, and we know we can’t do this alone. Your participation as audience members, volunteer leaders, donors, and advocates is fundamental to our success.
With your continued commitment, the Westport Country Playhouse will emerge stronger than ever as a proud symbol of our town, and a place where we all belong.
The next production at the Playhouse is “Dial M for Murder” (July 11-29). Click here for more information, and tickets.
Posted in Arts, Entertainment, Westport Country Playhouse
Tagged Westport Country Playhouse