Category Archives: Children

Roundup: Memorial Day Parade, Yankee Doodle Fair, Waterspout …

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In one more sign of approaching normalcy, the town is moving forward with plans for an actual Memorial Day parade.

This year’s theme for the float contest is “Honoring Women Veterans.” Certificates will be awarded for Best Development of Theme, Best Youth Organization Float, Most Creative, Best Community Organization, Most Colorful, and the Best Overall Float.

If past form holds true, the Y’s Men will win the Overall award. They’ve won it nearly every year for the past 20 or so.

And the only reason the Y’s Men did not win in 2020, 2017 or 2016 was because there were no parades. (COVID last year; rain those other 2.)

Weather and COVID permitting, this year’s event begins at 9 a.m. on May 31, at Saugatuck Elementary School. Veterans — and thousands of others — will march north on Riverside Avenue, trn right on Post Road East, then continue to Myrtle Avenue.

 

The Y’s Men’s float won, as usual, in 2012. This one honored Korean War veterans — complete with freezing mist.

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The Memorial Day parade is not the only tradition that’s returning.

The Westport Woman’s Club’s Yankee Doodle Fair returns this year — but not in its century-old mid-June, end-of-school, welcome-summer slot.

Yesterday, the Board of Selectmen approved the event for September 23 through the 26th.

So it will be a start-of-school, welcome-fall fair.

But it’s still at the Woman’s Club site on Imperial Avenue.

Even after 100 years, little changes.

The 2017 Yankee Doodle Fair (Drone photo/Ryan Collins)

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Yesterday was spring-like — warm and mostly sunny. Guy Sherman wanted to  photograph a few interesting clouds over Saugatuck Shores.

He got a bonus: this rare and remarkable waterspout:

(Photo/Guy Sherman)

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A month ago, the old wood-shingled house at 19 Soundview Drive bore a demolition sign.

Then it was gone.

Now the home — one of the oldest, as-yet-unrenovated along the Compo exit road– has been painted and spiffed up. It looks eager to greet renters and beachgoers.

And ready to last another 100 years.

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The Learning Community Day School celebrates its 50th anniversary on April 28th.

The institution — housed for many years on Hillspoint Road — is not just patting themselves on the back. They’re raising money for kindergarten scholarships, with their first-ever golf outing.

It’s set for Monday, April 26 at Longshore. Check-in and breakfast are 9 a.m.; tee times start at 10 a.m. You can play 9 or 18 holes.

The cost is $250 per player, $900 for a foursome. You can form your own twosome or foursome, or be paired up.

Popup Bagels and Manny’s Ultimate Bloody Mary Mix are sponsoring food and drinks. Of course, there are prizes and giveaways.

For more information, email learning_community@yahoo.com or call 203-227-8394.

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Longtime Westport resident Judith Portner Sappern died peacefully on Saturday. She was 88 years old.

The Rumson, New Jersey native was an adventurer who, after serving as managing editor of her high school newspaper, took the unusual step at the time to go out of state for college. A

t the University of Connecticut she served as president of Alpha Epsilon Phi sorority, made lifelong friends and fell in love with Donald Sappern. Married shortly after graduation, they started a telephone answering service in Norwalk.  As Don’s career progressed and he became a successful insurance executive, Judy managed office operations and bookkeeping.

Judy Sappern

As the couple’s children grew, Judy helped with their studies and supported every interest, from the choir room and pool to the baseball diamond and the rock band that practiced in the basement. She fed generations of Staples High School students who used their nearby house on Wedgewood Lane as a home base throughout the day.

Judy pursued a master’s degree in social work, and volunteered at Norwalk Hospital. She loved helping others work through tough times, and passed that empathy on to her children. When not at the hospital or office, Judy worked on needlepoint, and played golf or bridge with friends. She also became a personal computer enthusiast and fanatical supporter of UConn basketball.

She was preceded in death by her husband of 63 years, Donald, and her older sister Joyce Cooper. Judy is survived by her children, Laurie Sappern Gaugler  (Dean), and Matthew (Rianne), both of Fairfield, and Adam (Margot)of Bethel, Vermont. Judy enjoyed frequent visits and calls with her 7 grandchildren: Billy, Chloe, Brian, Geoffrey, Rachel, Carly and Tobey. She is also survived by her beloved sister-in-law, Pietrina Sappern of Milford.

A memorial service will be held when travel and gathering is less limited. Memorial contributions in Judy’s memory can be made to the IGA Nephropathy Foundation, PO Box 1322, Wall, New Jersey 07727.

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And finally … sure, the IRS has extended this year’s filing deadline to May 17. But April 15 will always be, um, special.

 

Roundup: Remarkable Movies, Levitt Grass, Bald Eagle …

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It’s April break for the Westport schools. And “official” opening week for the Remarkable Theater.

The Imperial Avenue parking lot lineup is a great one.

Today (Tuesday, April 13, 7:30 p.m.): “Minari.” Nominated for 6 Oscars this year, including Best Picture. A Korean-American family moves to an Arkansas farm in search of its own American dream.

Prior to the movie, a documentary short featuring Westport’s Asian-American rally organizers will be shown. It’s produced by 4th Row Films, in association with the Remarkable Theater.

In it, local residents share their experiences growing up, their journey to Westport. and how they’re raising awareness of rising Asian hate by forming a group (they’re on Instagram: @AAPIWestport or email: AAPIWestport@gmail.com).

Official opening night is Friday, April 16 (7:30 p.m.): “The Goonies.” In this 1985 adventure comedy, a bunch of kids trying to save their homes from foreclosure embark on a treasure hunt adventure.

Saturday, April 17 (7:45 p.m.): “Mamma Mia!” ABBA stars in the best sing-along movie ever made.

Wednesday, April 21: “Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid.” One-time local residents Paul Newman and Robert Redford star in this 1969 classic.

The night includes 4 short non-fiction documentary films before the feature:

  • Gatsby in Westport“: Deej Webb helps convince you that Westport is the town that inspired F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “Great Gatsby.”
  • “Paul Shows Bob the New Playhouse”: A scene from the upcoming documentary about the Westport Country Playhouse.
  • “A Townie Breakfast Sandwich”: A tour of Westport’s breakfast sandwiches, including Calise’s, Village Bagels and Coffee An’.
  • “Westport This Used to Be”: featuring Jill Gault and Antonio Antonelli.

Click here for tickets. Not all shows may be available yet. The Imperial Avenue lot opens an hour before showtime, for tailgating.

A couple of local guys starred in “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.”

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The Levitt Pavilion is planning for a summer season — and for at least one bit of housekeeping.

The Conservation Department has approved a request for turf installation near the stage, to replace existing grass (which sometimes turns to mud).

They’ll also install a drainage system to manage runoff in the lower area of amphitheater.

One of the great things about a Levitt performance is dancing in front of the stage. Now we won’t have to worry about “dirty dancing.”

Get on up and dance to the music!

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Last March, Bank of America closed its 3 Westport branches.

Today, customers received letters saying that the one at 980 Post Road East — next to the drive-thru Starbucks — will be closed permanent.

The letter said that the downtown branch — next to Design Within Reach — is “still here for you.”

Great! Except that, a few days ago, it was still closed.

No word either on the fate of the branch near the Southport line.

The Bank of America branch at 980 Post Road East is permanently closed.

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Starting May 2, children younger than 2 years old are welcome back to the Westport Library. A press release says, “We gladly welcome them to borrow books, audiobooks, CDs, and magazines.” I’m guessing most of that borrowing will be done for them, by somewhat older people.

The Westport Library welcomes children under 2 soon. (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

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Andrew Colabella snapped a great photo of a Sherwood Mill Pond bald eagle yesterday.

And he provides the back story: It took a position in this tree from 3 egrets. He had just swooped down on one, which had a fish in its talons.

(Photo/Andrew Colabella)

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And finally … in honor of “Butch Cassidy” at the Remarkable Theater:

 

Roundup: Vaccine, Beach, Tennis …

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Over 100 pharmacies will soon be administering COVID vaccines — and one of them is in Westport.

That’s Achorn Pharmacy, in the Playhouse Square shopping center.

Governor Ned Lamont’s office said the sites will open over “the next several days.”

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Lifeguards won’t be back at Compo Beach until Memorial Day. But right before Easter Weekend, crews were hard at work getting Compo Beach ready for the season.

(Photo/Patricia McMahon)

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For over 20 years, Joseph Oyebog has taught tennis all over Westport.

The former Cameroon Davis Cup player retains strong ties to his homeland. In 1999 he founded the Oyebog Tennis Academy. Westporters have been strong supporters of the project, which provides Cameroonian children with coaching, education and life values.

John McEnroe is a supporter too. He called his friend Yannick Noah. After the French star visited OTA in February, a video went viral.

But money is tight. The annual fundraiser at Intensity was canceled by COVID — for the second straight year.

Board members — many of whom live in Westport — are searching for a corporate sponsor, as well as donations of any amount. Click here to help.

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Up on Weston’s Kellogg Hill, Jolantha looks forward to Easter.

(Photo/Hans Wilhelm)

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And finally … on this day in 1964, Beatlemania had taken over America. The lads from Liverpool had the top 5 — five! — songs on Billboard’s Top 100. From #1 on down: “Can’t Buy Me Love,” “Twist and Shout,” “She Loves You,” “I Want to Hold Your Hand” and “Please Please Me.”

But that’s not all. The Beatles had 7 — seven! — other songs on the list: “I Saw Her Standing There” (#31), “From Me to You” (#41), “Do You Want to Know a Secret” (#46), “All My Loving” (#58), “You Can’t Do That” (#65), “Roll Over Beethoven” (#68) and “Thank You Girl” (#79).

Take that, Harry Styles!

Westport Makes A Wish Come True

Hundreds of Westporters of all ages headed to the Westport Weston Family YMCA this afternoon.

Wearing masks, holding cards and signs, they made a very ill 6-year-old boy’s wish come true.

He had asked the Make-a-Wish Foundation if he could swim with his family, have a pizza party, and pet a bearded dragon.

The Y went one step further. They encouraged a crowd to come cheer the youngster on.

It quickly became a community event. Retirees, families with their own little kids, the Fire and Police Departments — all welcomed him with applause.

And showered him with love.

(Photo/Marshall Kiev)

(Photo/Marshall Kiev)

Bearded dragon sign.

(Photo/Jonathan Rosenoer)

(Screen shot/Hannah Goldstein Spencer)

(Photo/Jonathan Rosenoer)

 

Roundup: Make A Wish, Mixed Messages …

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The Make-A-Wish Foundation has asked the Westport Weston Family YMCA to help with an emergency request this afternoon.

And the Y has asked everyone to help.

The wish — from a 6-year-old boy — is to swim with his family at the Y, have a pizza party, and pet a bearded dragon.

The Y hopes that members of the community will join staff and members to line the Y driveway entrance, to welcome the youngster at 3:10 p.m. today (Sunday, march 28. Let’s make it an unforgettable day for him and the family.

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Meanwhile, Stop & Shop seems to be sending some mixed messages:

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And finally … for all who celebrate Palm Sunday today:

Anti-Asian Prejudice: Another Westporter’s View

An “06880” reader writes:

The recent “06880” posts about racism against Asians in Westport prompt me to write about an incident involving my son and another middle schooler. This incident was awful for our family, and I had been determined to keep it private.

Today however, I’m hoping it will become something that informs and furthers a dialogue about racial intolerance.

Last year, beginning in the fall, my son was bullied on his bus by a boy 2 years older. The bullying included racial slurs like “I’m going to tear off your head and dumplings will fall out,” and playing loud, screeching music with Asian-sounding lyrics while telling my son it was the music of “his people.”

Prejudice against Asians in Westport is not as overt as this. But it is absolutely here.

I reached out to this boy’s mother. She made him write a letter of apology to my son. She also  insisted they come to our home to apologize in person. They came to our home, he apologized, and we were happy the matter was settled.

Months later I learned the bullying had not stopped.

In early March, the public schools announced they would close for 2 weeks due to COVID. The kids got onto the buses for what would become their last ride that year.

The same boy came up to my son and asked, “Do you know how COVID is transmitted?” Then he spit on my son. The kids who witnessed the spitting laughed.

To this day, no one from the school system has reached out to offer my son closure.

Again, I have no interest in escalating emotions, pointing fingers or organizing a witch hunt. I only write this to stress the importance of education in schools about racial intolerance. And, perhaps, bullying.

Starting Hard Conversations About Asian-American Lives

In the wake of last week’s murder of Asian-Americans in Atlanta, many of Sarin Cheung’s friends wanted to reach out to her.

But most had no idea what to say. Or how even to begin.

Some wrote texts, then waited a day or two before hitting “send.” Others called, and talked about a whole range of topics until they eventually said, “I don’t know how to ask this. But how are you?”

Sarin was grateful for the outreach. It was as difficult for her to talk about violence against Asian-Americans as it was for her friends to ask. But the conversations were necessary and important. Finally, the women talked.

Cheung is Thai and Chinese. She attended an American school in Taiwan, then headed to Boston University. After graduation, and some time back in Thailand, she spent a decade traveling the world with GE’s corporate audit group.

After working for GE in Stamford, then American Express in New York, in 2009 she and her husband — he’s with a hedge fund – moved to Westport. The child of Chinese immigrants, he grew up in the US.

Sarin Cheung and her family. The flags behind them on the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge are flown on jUNe Day.

About 15 years ago, Sarin became an American citizen. It seemed a natural next step. She’d gone to an American school, come here for college, and had permanent resident status.

For many years, she did not think much about being an Asian-American. In Taiwan, she did not have much exposure to issues of race. Coming to the US at 18, she says, “I was probably super-naive. I probably couldn’t recognize any racism that was happening around me.”

Sarin and her husband moved to Westport for the schools. She did not think much about Asian in a predominantly white community.

But after the Atlanta murders, she reflected in her life in America. She recalled an incident at a restaurant: The hostess looked right past her and her husband, while seating other people.

“We just left,” she says. “That’s the way Asian-Americans dealt with that type of treatment.”

Yet as she talked with others recently, she realized the pain of situations like that. Racism in Westport can be subtle, she says. “It’s not violent shoving or vandalism. It’s the looks you get.”

As the pandemic began, she seldom left home. When she ventured into a grocery store, she was aware of stares. Was it because she wore a mask — when not everyone else did — or because she is Asian? She’s not sure.

Most prejudice against Asians in Westport is not overt.

The texts and calls from friends — when they eventually came — made an impact on Sarin. The conversations were meaningful. The questions — “What do you need? How can I help? Is there going to be a march?” — made her feel valued. Hearing “I’ll be there for you” was gratifying.

In return, Sarin called other friends who had not yet reached out. They were glad to hear from her.

It was a surprisingly public activity for Sarin, who says, “I’ve never done anything like this before.” A 2-year PTA president at Saugatuck Elementary, she is well-known in her school community. But she’d never spoken out about an issue like racism.

Sarin has asked her children — a 5th grader and 3rd grader — if they have experienced any prejudice. They said no. “But they’re young,” Sarin notes. “Would they be able to recognize it? I’m not sure.”

Sarin says, “Asian-American culture doesn’t verbalize feelings a lot. I don’t want to change that. But we have to be honest, and educate others.”

She and other Asian-Americans are waiting to hear a statement from town officials. 

She knows there are initiatives at Staples High School. At the elementary level, she says, “We need teachers to be empowered to talk about this.” [NOTE: Superintendent of Schools and 1st Selectman Jim Marpe released statements fabout the violence yesterday.]

The Asian population in Westport — estimated at 5 to 7%, Sarin says — is mostly affluent. But, she notes, many new immigrants live nearby. Not all are “model citizens.”

“I don’t feel, personally, that my life is in danger. I know who to call for safety,” Sarin says. “But we need to highlight and protect those new immigrants, and our friends’ elderly parents.

“It’s easy to be nice in Westport to Asian-American neighbors. But people of all sorts of demographics are here too. I think about them a lot.”

Roundup: Medicine, March Madness …

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Amy Crane posted on a local Facebook group:

“I am the mother of a seventh grader at Coleytown Middle School. Unfortunately I have developed a secondary cancer as a result of my original treatment, and will need a bone marrow transplant. If you are willing and able please register as a donor (click here). Most of the time it’s just like donating blood and not painful at all. Bonus if you are 18-44!”

The more matches, the more chances someone like Amy can be helped. (Hat tip: Frank Rosen)

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Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

You can celebrate with Charlie Heath. The Staples High School Class of 1987 graduate  was in the 1994 horror classic “Leprechaun 2.” It runs all day — with the other “Leprechaun” films — on the Syfy network. (Hat tip: Rich Stein)

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March Madness begins soon. And what better way to dive in than with FastBreak.

The digital show — which covers the NCAA basketball tournament in a variety of platforms, with wall-to-wall, fast-paced coverage — is hosted by Westporter Dave Briggs.

It’s a perfect role for the former NBC Sports, Fox News and CNN star.

He’s joined by Kentucky basketball legends Rex Chapman and Tony Delk for every game in the first 2 rounds this Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday.

You can watch on the NCAA website, or the March Madness Live app.

Dave Briggs (left) and friends.

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Registration for Westport Parks & Recreation spring and summer programs begins online on March 22 (9 a.m.). Click here for all offerings, including sports, Camp Compo and RECing Crew. Click here to register.

The Parks & Rec office remains closed to the public. Staff is available via email (recreation@westportct.gov), phone (203-341-5152 weekdays, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.) and mail (260 Compo Road South, Westport, CT 06880).

For registration, check your online account tnow. Log in, then click “Manage Family Members” on the bottom right. To view more details, click the name of a specific family member. Make any changes, then hit “save.” For address changes, email recreation@westportct.gov.

If you cannot log into your online account, do not create another profile. Email recreation@westportct.gov, or call 203-341-5152.

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And finally … “06880” (or should I say 0’6880) wishes all readers — Irish or (unfortunately) not — a happy St. Patrick’s Day.

Benjamin’s Gift Eases Grief

Despite the new COVID world, spring and early summer of 2020 were exciting times for Emily Clare and Jon Cafasso.

The Westport couple were expecting their first child.

Emily Clare Cafasso, last spring.

Emily Clare had an uneventful pregnancy. They worked at home, in sweatpants. She’s in wealth management; he’s in finance for a global supply chain firm.

She was fit. At Staples High School (Class of 2000), Emily Fenn had been an All-American swimmer and Olympic trial qualifier. She went on to the University of Michigan, where she was a 2-time Division I All-American, and held 2 school records.

The baby’s heartbeat was good. There was plenty of movement.

But on July 1, Benjamin was stillborn.

Emily Clare and Jon tell their tale in gut-wrenching detail: The moment when she no longer felt a heartbeat. The drive to the hospital. Praying that the ultrasound will show life. Induced labor. Holding. then saying goodbye to their precious son. The knowledge that their lives had changed forever.

Talking about the loss of a child is one of society’s last taboos. Few people know what to say. Medical professionals don’t prepare parents for that possibility — even though, as Emily Clare notes, “8 million things” can go wrong from conception to delivery.

Jon and Emily Clare Cafasso hold Benjamin for the first — and last — time.

A devastating event like this can strain a marriage. It did that to the Cafassos, and tested their faith and strength.

But they had the support of “phenomenal” family and friends. That — and therapy, and virtual support groups — got them through those darkest days.

They mourned. They tried to moved forward.

And then one day, Emily Clare got the hospital bill.

“It was the height of my grief journey,” she recalls. “I had been fully prepared to pay for the delivery. But I hadn’t thought of this bill coming. It felt like a slap in the face — another reminder of everything that was supposed to be, and now wasn’t.”

A couple who lose a child lose every future milestone: first words, first toddling steps, first day of school. The hospital bill was one more devastating reminder of all the things the Cafassos would never experience.

Jon and Emily Clare will carry Benjamin’s name — tattooed on their arms — always.

Suddenly, Emily Clare wondered: What if we could take that moment away from another family in the future? It would not be a huge thing. But it would be important.

Her mother thought it was a great idea. When she told Jon, he embraced it too.

In the months since, Benjamin’s Gift has become a reality. The Cafassos earned 501 (c) 3 status as a non-profit public benefit corporation.

They created a comprehensive website, highlighting their story and information about stillbirth.

And they fundraised, starting with very generous friends and colleagues.

Now, Benjamin’s Gift will pay the hospital bill for stillbirths. It will still arrive. But parents can send it off to without even opening it. They’ll be spared one more reminder of their painful loss.

Three area hospitals — Stamford, Bridgeport and Yale New Haven — are including a letter from Emily Clare and Jon in the packet of materials they give to parents after losing a child. Emily Clare and Jon are contacting doctors and therapists too, to let them know of the service.

In a post-COVID world, they hope to organize an annual fundraiser. In the meantime, they spread the word however they can.

“There are a lot of great organizations out there,” Emily Clare notes. “This one is super-personal to us. And we think anyone with kids or grandchildren can relate to it.”

Nothing will ease her and Jon’s pain. But — one small step at a time — they are sparing others of one more reminder of how large a loss one tiny life can be.

(Click here for more information on Benjamin’s Gift. Click here for Emily Clare and Jon’s story about the day that changed their lives. For more information, email info@benjaminsgift.org, or follow on Instagram: @benjaminsgift. Checks can be sent to PO Box 368, Westport, CT 06881.)

Roundup: Long Lots Readers, Nature …

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Long Lots Elementary School students love to read. And they love sharing books with others.

The other day, as part of a “Reading Across America” project, students and staff brought in 1,200 new and gently used K-5 children’s books. Bridgeport’s Lighthouse Program will donate them throughout the city. Westport and Bridgeport Police officers, and Connecticut State Police, helped with collection and distribution.

Way to go, Long Lots Lions! (Hat tip: Ned Batlin)

(Photo/Trooper P. Muniz)

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Sure, you lost an hour of sleep last night. But look what this late winter day has given us:

Blooming crocuses on Riverside Avenue (Photo/Katherine Ross)

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Michael Catarevas writes:

“This is what happens when the neighbor on one side has a deer fence on their property, and the other side neighbor’s backyard is swampy. We have drainage pipes in the backyard, so the ground is nice and dry.”

(Photo/Michael Catarevas)

And finally … On this day in 1794, Connecticut’s own Eli Whitney received a patent for the cotton gin.