Jose Feliciano, Mimi Levitt Launch New Pavilion

Saying “I look forward to returning for years to come,” 93-year-old Mimi Levitt shined with excitement as she welcomed Westport’s newest jewel: the refurbished Levitt pavilion.

The $9 million public/private project — propelled by a $4.5 million grant from the Levitt Foundation — represents a complete overhaul of an already intriguing downtown attraction.

With a soaring, sail-inspired, state-of-the-art stage; a killer sound system; amenities like dressing rooms, food concessions, ramps and restrooms — plus a completely renovated riverwalk that now extends all the way to the point behind the pavilion — this Levitt marks the 2nd transformation of a former landfill.

Parks and Rec, politicians, architects and construction folks all took their bows.

Then Jose Feliciano took over. His kick-butt show is just the start of a summer filled with entertainment.

And there was not a mosquito in sight.

A small portion of the large crowd, and the new Levitt stage.

A small portion of the large crowd, and the new Levitt stage.

The one and only Jose Feliciano. The Weston resident donated his fee to the Levitt building fund.

The one and only Jose Feliciano. The Weston resident donated his fee to the Levitt building fund.

The lawn was full -- but there was plenty of room to relax.

The lawn is full — but there’s still plenty of room to relax.

Mimi Levitt -- 93 years young -- and her daughter Liz Levitt Hirsch.

Mimi Levitt — 93 years young — and her daughter Liz Levitt Hirsch.

Dancing in the aisle, to Jose Feliciano.

Dancing on the grass, to Jose Feliciano.

Freda and Carleigh Welsh: 2 of the driving forces behind the Levitt Pavilion's success.

Freda and Carleigh Welsh: 2 of the driving forces behind the Levitt Pavilion’s success.

The new Levitt has real restrooms. And they are already in use.

The new Levitt has real restrooms. And they are already in use.

The landscaping extends beyond the stage, out to the point where the Levitt juts into the Saugatuck River. A newly enhanced riverwalk adds to the beauty.

The landscaping extends beyond the stage, out to the point where the Levitt juts into the Saugatuck River. A newly enhanced riverwalk adds to the beauty.

10 responses to “Jose Feliciano, Mimi Levitt Launch New Pavilion

  1. Carl Downing

    Light my fire

  2. Sharon Paulsen

    Wow, awesome! So glad you shared this evening’s moments with pics on your post Dan! (By the way, you are a terrific photographer – let alone a superb “journalist”).
    Last time I was at the Levitt was for the Willie Nelson concert, years ago, when Keith Richards basically photo-bombed the event – way cool, that was! Does that man get blood transfusions, or what???
    Until now, I never knew who the Levitt family was (I feel rather stupid right now, since I was born and raised in this town), so this was super enjoyable to read about.
    Thanks!

    • Thanks, Sharon — much appreciated!

      Here’s the 1st paragraph of the NY Times obituary of Mortimer Levitt, from 2005: “Mortimer Levitt, an irrepressible and outspoken patron of the arts who made a fortune selling custom-made shirts to celebrities, business executives, political figures and others who didn’t have to ask the price, died on Tuesday at his home in Green’s Farms, Conn. He was 98.”

      The rest of the obit is here — including details of a rough patch between the Levitt board and himself, in the 1990s: http://www.nytimes.com/2005/07/14/nyregion/14levitt.html?_r=0

      The Levitt Foundation has now endowed several other pavilions throughout the country. It is a gift that keeps on giving.

      BTW, I was at that concert, when Keith Richards wandered onstage. He said something like, “I’ve always wanted to play with Willie Nelson!” You can’t make this stuff up.

      • Sharon Paulsen

        Thanks for this info! Yep, to be sure, you cannot make this stuff up! Makes me love our hometown even more. Sometimes the best things are left to chance!

  3. Great photos, Dan, especially the rest room shots! Too bad I missed the event!

  4. Ruth Kalla Ungerer

    The opening was awe inspiring and terrific! Unfortunately, our experience was somewhat marred by two separate factors, which I hope can be prevented in the future. We were able to get seats on the edge of the grass next to the exit on the river walk side. Because there weren’t any defined aisles, people were struggling to get through the crowd, most going going to the upper reaches of the pavillion went through the limited opening between my seat and the individual seated about a foot away from me. This was, in my view, a dangerous and unnecessary situation. Watching this transpire and seeing individuals coming into the venue in wheel chairs to enjoy the show, with virtually no ease of access made me extermely nervous. Should someone have needed emergency care or a incident happen requiring emergency personnel, there was no way services could have been provided quickly. For the safety and enjoyment of this wonderful and fantastic community asset, I suggest aisles be delineated during all future events.

    The second disturbing element was the drone flying very low over our heads. I do not know the rules regarding this new and, in my view, intrusive device but they should be banned from flying over all public events and venues, It was scary to consider the consequences should the battery fail and the instrument drop into the crowd or worse that it interfered with a small plane in the overhead flight path. The noise was distracting and the feeling of needing to watch where it was in relation to planes overhead very unnerving.

    Sorry to be negative about what was an extraordinary occasion for our community and celebration of Ms. Levitt’s generosity and vision but safety of our residents must always be uppermost in our minds.

    • Do you know about what time the drone incident happened?

      • UngererKalla@aol.com

        I saw the drone shortly after we arrived around 6:15, and it was also in the air over the concert during the time Feliciano was performing. It was rather a persistent annoyance to say the least.

  5. Byron Miller

    I think it’s terrific and we’ll have a lot of fun there.
    However a question-Will this whole thing take off and get blown majestically down river when the next really big hurricane blows through?

  6. Cindy Habighorst

    We lived in Westport from 1985 to last July 2013. Over the years, we have attended many Levitt shows( no bathrooms).I was very excited when I knew the renovations were happening, and sad we were moving to Florida. So many wonderful changes to Westport! I really loved all the photos you sent Dan. I really enjoy your blog, keeping up with my ole beloved Westport. Luckily, my kids and grand kids are still in Ct. and we will visit often!