It’s been a dozen years since Martha Stewart sold her Turkey Hill home, and moved to Westchester. Both she and we moved on.
But Westport and Martha remain an item in the minds and hearts of the many followers who still revere the lifestyle guru.
And this weekend, diehard fans from as far as Wisconsin and Canada will make a pilgrimage here, for her.
On Saturday, June 3, Positive Directions — the Westport-based awareness and treatment program for adolescents, adults and families affected by addiction — sponsors a private afternoon tour of Martha’s old farmhouse and gardens.
Locals will be there. Joining them is a flock of others, for whom the chance to meet their idol — at the actual spot where her empire began — is worth a trip from anywhere.
Joey Jelnicki calls himself “the biggest Martha Stewart fan,” and he may well be. He lives in Philadelphia, but he calls his gardens “Turkey Hill.” His email address is “WestportJoe81.”
He’s had it ever since he got his first computer as a kid 20 years ago. Westport is “a place I can only dream about calling home,” he says. “It’s country living and beaches — the best of both worlds.”
“I adore Martha,” Joey says. “She adds a touch of class and good things to what can be a hard life to live.”
He has goosebumps thinking of walking through Turkey Hill — which he calls “my Graceland.”
It will be Joey’s first time meeting Martha in person (they talked once on her radio show for 7 minutes). But it won’t be his first visit to Westport.
Several years ago he stayed at the Westport Inn (which he’ll do again). He walked up and down the Post Road, swam at Sherwood Island, shopped locally, and talked with everyone he could about the town.
“Hearing how people grew up in Westport was great,” Joey says.
Dennis Landon’s email pays even more direct homage: “MarthaFan.” The Madison, Wisconsin resident has loved her ever since 1993, when a co-worker gave him her magazine. He got great ideas about changing a room’s shape with paint.
He’s kept copies of every magazine since, and videotaped nearly all the “Martha Stewart Living” TV shows. He’s converting them all to DVD.
“My life in the kitchen and garden has been totally been influenced by Martha,” Dennis says. “Her guidance over all these years is timeless.”
The chance to take a tour — led by Martha herself — “really hasn’t sunk in yet,” he admits. “It doesn’t seem possible.”
Dennis flies in 3 days early. He hopes to visit some of the Westport places she’s referenced over the years.
Nathan Schmidt will drive here from Pittsburgh. He’s been a fan since 1992, when he was not yet 15 and his parents bought him a Christmas gift: the book “Martha Stewart’s New Old House.” He devoured it, and has re-read it many times since.
His friends encouraged him to come here, for “the chance of a lifetime.” A ticket to the tour was expensive, but Nathan says it supports a good cause.
He has been to Westport a number times — he even had a job interview here once. He’s driven past Turkey Hill — and the Adams house on Long Lots, the subject of his holiday gift book — but this will be his first chance meeting his idol, and touring her property.
Rox-Anne Henderson will be coming with her mother from Kitchener, Ontario, making this an international event.
In fact, she says, besides her parents only Martha has influenced her life more. Rox-Anne was introduced to the magazine in 1990, at age 9; got her own subscription at 16, and learned to bake, craft and can her own food, all by reading and watching.
A few years ago Rox-Anne started her own lifestyle blog: Celebrating This Life. When creating content, she always asks, “What would Martha do?” That silent guiding voice has taught Rox-Anne that women can be both homemakers and business people.
The chance to speak to — and perhaps pose for a photo with — Martha makes Rox-Anne dizzy. She’s never been to Westport, but follows a few local bloggers.
“I’m excited to explore the city for myself!” she says.
Martha has been gone a while. But Turkey Hill remains a storied destination for many of her fans.
We look forward to welcoming Martha Stewart back this weekend.
And if you see Joey, Dennis, Nelson or Rox-Anne — or any other Martha devotees — give them a big “06880” hello!
(A few tickets remain for Saturday’s event. Click here for details.)