Daffodil Mile In Bloom

It’s been a long, hard winter. Sometimes this feels not like April 21, but January 111th.

Don’t tell that to the daffodils. Willowbrook’s famed “Daffodil Mile” is now in full bloom.

That’s great news for the thousands of drivers who pass the Main Street cemetery every day — and the many more bikers, joggers and walkers who wait patiently for the display.

Over the past 10 years, families and friends of Willowbrook’s “residents” (aka dead people) have donated 35,000 bulbs. Each year the line of yellow flowers grows.

Next year, 10,000 more bulbs will be planted.

And in the coming months, cemetery trustees will release details on a new cherry blossom mall.

PS: The cool weather is good for one thing. This year, the daffodils will bloom longer than usual.

(For more information, click here for the Willowbrook Cemetery website.)

If You Make It, They Will Come

The 7th annual Westport Maker Faire is underway.

Over 12,000 people will wander all around downtown, from now through 4 p.m.

From Jesup Green to Toquet, Branson and Town Halls — plus the Baldwin parking lot and Seabury Center — they’ll watch (and participate) in hundreds of activities.

Robots, Vorpal the Hexapod, Myrmidon Dagorhir the medieval re-enactors, TecKnow smart homes, nerf guns, food trucks, gubernatorial candidates — they and much, much, much, much more are there for the gawking.

Get in touch with your inner geek. Go!

Action figure meets EMTs, as a mannequin on a gurney hangs out.

Making art at the Maker Faire. (Photo/Larry Untermeyer)

I went to the Maker Faire, and all I got was this photo with some medieval jousters. (Photo/Terry Brannigan)

Shadow puppets intrigue these youngsters. (Photo/Larry Untermeyer)

The band Verbatim — with Eamonn Brannigan, TJ Brannigan and Claire Halman — play at Bedford Square.

First Selectman Jim Marpe visits an exhibit. (Photo/Larry Untermeyer)

What’s a fair without a clown?

Michael Connors Finds A Career

Michael Connors has had several careers.

Michael Connors

The Staples High School football player did not go to college. Instead, after graduating in 1999 he traded commodities, helped run Juba’s coffee shop, and got involved in skincare. Eleven years ago, he started an excavation constructing firm.

He began selling his own equipment online. Then he sold lamps, and a dining room table. 

The process attracted him. Last May, 2 Westport women offered him a partnership with their consignment shop.

It did not work out. But he loved the space.

Six months later, with construction work slow, his phone rang. The consignment space — on Taylor Place, across from Tiffany — was available.

Which is how Connors became the new owner of a consignment boutique, known simply as Taylor Place.

He enjoys helping people who have no idea what to do with items they own (or have inherited). He loves the challenge of “seeing pieces with character and craftsmanship find new homes.”

And he appreciates the chance to meet interesting people: artists, designers, anyone who wanders in the door. “This is never boring,” Connors says.

His shop is small. So he’s selective about the pieces he chooses — furniture, home decor, lighting, art and accessories — and how he displays them. He uses his walls to display the works of one artist at a time.

As a merchant on Taylor Place, Connors can apply for a permit to use Jesup Green for events. He anticipates a show with a bounce house, antique cars — the sort of stuff that makes Westport fun.

And that can’t fit inside 24 Taylor Place, the newest venture for a man who has finally found his true calling.

 

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Spring comes — slowly but surely — to Town Hall (Photo/Dan Woog)

“2, 4, 6, 8! We Just Want To Graduate!”

It was a day of activism, for hundreds of Staples High School students.

From 10 a.m. until the end of school, the courtyard was packed. Speeches, poetry, music and more drew attention to the very real issue of gun violence.

One girl said she was told there were consequences for leaving class. “I can’t get a detention if I’m dead!” she replied.

Signs say it all. (Photo/Ali Natalia)

Walkout leaders in the Staples High School courtyard. (Photo/Audrey Bernstein for Inklings)

At 3 p.m., a smaller group of students — bolstered by other Westporters, of all ages — gathered on Veterans Green across from Town Hall.

Politicians of both parties were in attendance. But the students — noting the non-partisan importance of legislation — took charge.

It was their day.

After all, it’s their future.

Staples students look ahead to turning 18 — and turning out to vote.

First Selectman Jim Marpe (far left) and 3rd Selectman Melissa Kane flank Staples students.

Registrars of both parties were on hand to enroll new voters.

“Arms are for hugging,” says the sign.

Former Staples High School assistant principal Lee Littrell (left) and chemistry teacher Bruce McFadden came to Westport to support the activism of current students.

Among the chants from this group of Staples High School students: “No more silence! End gun violence!”

Friday Flashback #87

A local news site reported recently that the Post Road strip mall by North Maple Avenue — the one with Dunkin’ Donuts, a cleaners, tanning salon and much-loved Layla’s Falafel — would be torn down.

Not true. The demolition permit is for the hideous Quonset hut that has hulked behind it for decades.

A paint job in 2010 made it look at least a little more presentable.

So the strip mall will remain. It’s one of our many mini-shopping plazas.

The longest tenant — before sailing away in 2014 — was the Boat Locker. But back in the 1960s, that space was occupied by one of Westport’s first fast-food franchises:

(Photo courtesy of Paul Ehrismann)

KFC — or “Kentucky Fried Chicken,” as it was known then — was not the only quick poultry place in town.

Downtown, in Brooks Corner, Westporters enjoyed Chicken-a-Go-Go.

And yes, as the name indicated, they delivered.

Jack And Neal: They Got (Every) Game

It’s not easy being a high school athlete. Or fan.

You’ve got the ups and downs of wins and losses (and injuries). There’s the pressure of school, extracurriculars, family and social life.

And — thanks to weather, facilities and a thousand other factors — the game schedule constantly changes.

Jack Sharkey and Neal Soni can’t do anything about Xs, Os, concussions, sprains, rain or snow.

They can, however, make following your favorite team a snap.

And they have. With an app.

Jack Sharkey (left) and Neal Soni show off their CT Sports app.

The Staples High School seniors spent 2 months creating CT Sports. An outgrowth of their Building Web Applications class with teacher Dave Scrofani, it’s simple, clear, and tremendously useful.

Users select any of Connecticut’s 183 high schools, and any of the 27 sports administered by the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference.

Fan of Staples sports? Here’s when and where all the spring teams play!

Instantly, you see the schedule, opponent, location, bus time and level (varsity, JV, freshman). The information is up-to-date: As soon as a change is made to the CIAC website, it appears on CT Sports.

You can add events to your personal calendar — along with reminders.

All information is pulled directly from the CIAC site. So why use this one?

“Our interface is much cleaner,” says Neal. “For theirs, you have to choose each parameter separately, each time. On ours you can save features. And it’s much easier to switch schools.”

Visually, it’s appealing too. Neal and Jack added each school’s colors to the site — tedious, but a welcome feature. (They considered using logos. But if they sell ads later, there may be copyright issues. These guys think ahead.)

The potential user base is enormous. But Jack and Neal had no sure way to reach them.

The CIAC helped. They emailed every athletic director in the state, encouraging them to send information about CT Sports to all students, parents, teachers and coaches.

Feedback was immediate — and very positive — Jack says.

A small Google ad at the bottom brings in a few dollars. But the app was not designed as a moneymaker. Neal and Jack hope to use it to build name recognition, for future endeavors.

They’ll create more apps, juggling all their other activities. Jack is president of both the Unified Sports Club and Kool To Be Kind, and is a Top Hat Tutor. Neal is president of Top Hat, and a national taekwando competitor.

Unfortunately, martial arts is not a CIAC sport. But if it becomes one, Neal and Jack will make sure you never miss a meet.

(To download the app, search for “CT Sports: HS Sports Schedules.” Right now, it is available only for iOS devices.)

Two more app functions: Choose one specific sport, or select from every high school in Connecticut.

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Sherwood Island (Photo/Brant Mozingo)

Students Rally Tomorrow At Staples; Townwide Event Set For Veterans Green

When students across America walk out of classes tomorrow — to commemorate the Columbine massacre exactly 19 years ago, and demand an end to gun violence — there will be a strong Staples High School presence.

A passionate group of students has planned a day of activities. From 10 a.m. — when the Colorado shooting began —  until 2:15 p.m., they’ll fill the large courtyard.

The rally will include student speakers, music, poetry, calls to senators and congressmen, a petition, poster-making, and voter registration.

Students who attend will be marked “unexcused” from class. But, leaders say, that’s a small price to pay for taking a stand on an important issue.

At 3 p.m., Staples students invite the entire town to a post-walkout rally on Veterans Green, across from Town Hall. State senator candidate (and Staples graduate) Will Haskell will speak. There will be student speeches too, along with music and poetry.

“We have a lot to say, and we want our voices heard,” say Brooke and Peri Kessler, 2 student leaders.

“We’re not partisan. But we do want everyone to be educated and informed. This is about our safety, and our future.”

The national walkout — an outgrowth of activism after the Parkland shootings in February — was organized just a few miles from Staples, by Ridgefield High School student Lane Murdock.

Westport Wins Another Award. It’s Not One We Like.

Valerie Seiling Jacobs and Ian Warburg — co-chairs of Save Westport Now — write:

In 2016, Westport beat out 26 towns in the tri-state area for the highest ozone values. Our levels exceeded the National Ambient Air Quality Standard of 75 parts per billion, by at least 10%.

The latest data indicates that things may be getting worse in Connecticut.

Of course, high ozone levels are bad for the environment and our health. They’re linked to asthma, cancer, heart attacks, pulmonary problems, hypertension, and childhood development issues.

Gas-powered gardening equipment — mowers, hedgers, trimmers and especially leaf blowers — now accounts for 5 to 10% of the total emissions in the US.

A town like Westport probably produces about 25,000 tons of carbon emissions per year — just from lawn care. That’s like adding 5,000 cars to our already congested roads. (On a per household basis, it’s like driving an extra 10,000 miles a year.)

One gasoline-powered leaf blower produces more emissions in half an hour than 40 cars idling.

These machines pose other significant hazards. The exhaust streams from leaf blowers, which often blow over 200 mph, stir up fine particulate matter that often contains pesticides, fertilizers, mold and rodent feces. The fumes can take days to settle down, which makes them especially dangerous for children and pets.

Then of course there’s the noise. Most of these machines exceed the safe decibel limits set by the WHO, EPA and OSHA. Some experts recommend creating “safe zones” around schools and parks to protect children from the noise and other pollution created by leaf blowers.

Save Westport Now believes that by capitalizing on new technology and adopting greener gardening practices, we can reduce the threat these machines pose — and still maintain our beautiful gardens.

This Friday (April 20, Town Hall, 12:30 p.m.), Dr. Jamie L. Banks — executive director of Quiet Communities — will lead a discussion on what Westport can do to protect families from the hazards of gas-powered gardening equipment. She and her colleagues have helped other towns around the country adopt best practices to address the problems caused by this equipment.

We’re sure she can help ours.

(For more information, email ContactSaveWestportNow@gmail.com)