Category Archives: Downtown

Jim Marpe: 1st Selectman Looks Back — And Ahead

In 2005, Jim Marpe found himself on the Board of Education.

He’d spent 28 years with Accenture, retiring 3 years earlier as a senior partner. His career had taken him to Chicago, Copenhagen, then New York. That final move in 1989 brought Marpe, his wife Mary Ellen and daughter Samantha to Westport. They came — as so many do — for the schools and amenities.

In retirement Marpe played golf, enjoyed his boat and traveled. But growing up in modest circumstances in Canton, Ohio, his parents had always emphasized giving back to the community. And Accenture had always emphasized lifelong learning, he says.

So when Republican Town Committee chair Pete Wolgast asked if he’d be interested in a suddenly vacant seat on the Board of Ed, he was intrigued.

First Selectman Jim Marpe

Marpe put his management and financial talents to use, in an area that accounts for 2/3 of Westport’s total budget. He was elected to 2 subsequent terms, and served as vice chair.

In 2013, 1st Selectman Gordon Joseloff announced he would not run for a 3rd term. Marpe realized this was a chance to apply his organizational and management skills in another meaningful way. He also hoped to repair what had become a difficult relationship between the Board of Education and Town Hall.

He and running mate Avi Kaner won. Instead of 8 schools, Marpe now oversaw 16 direct reports. Each ran a “different business. Even the Fire Department is very different from the Police Department,” he notes.

His job was to “keep people out of their silos.” Monthly staff meetings brought all department heads into the same room. He met regularly with each head and deputy. His goal was to create a team that served the town in a coordinated way.

He inherited “high-quality people, who understand Westport.” His job was to coach them, and help them reach their potential.

Marpe has decided not to run for a 3rd term. Now 74, heading toward his 2nd retirement, he looks back on nearly 8 years of accomplishments. He and his administration have made their mark in areas like the Downtown Plan and Implementation Committee, Baron’s South, Senior Center, Longshore Inn and golf course, First Responder Civilian Review Panel, pension reform, sustainability, the new combined Public Safety Dispatch Center, Greens Farms railroad station, even the town website.

He has kept the mill rate remarkably stable, despite economic volatility at the state and federal levels.

At the January 2020 “State of the Town” meeting, 1st Selectman Jim Marpe described another year with no property tax increase.

But nothing could have prepared the town’s chief executive for a year like 2020.

Responding to COVID — a global pandemic that quickly became very local, with Westport the site of one of the nation’s first super-spreader events — demanded every tool in Marpe’s box.

He gathered and analyzed hard data. He made tough decisions, like closing beaches and the Senior Center. He communicated complex ideas to jittery residents, with empathy and understanding.

1st Selectman Jim Marpe’s first COVID news conference at Town Hall — before mask wearing became well publicized.

In the midst of all that came protests over racial injustice. A month later, Hurricane Isaias knocked out power for many Westporters, for up to a week.

Marpe is proud of his team’s responses to those events. But he also cites less-noticed accomplishments.

Working with Jim Ross and the Commission on People with Disabilities opened his eyes, and expanded his thinking. That propelled his push for greater accessibility at Compo Beach.

A new walkway and bathrooms were controversial. But, Marpe says, “when I see someone who’s physically impaired enjoying a picnic or sunset there now, I get emotional.”

The new South Beach boardwalk increases accessibility and adds safety.

His strong relationship with Police Chief Foti Koskinas, TEAM Westport chair Harold Bailey and Connecticut Anti-Defamation League director Steve Ginsburg  (a Westport resident) helped the town navigate the Black Lives Matter and subsequent Asian-American protests.

When he came into office, Marpe admits, “I didn’t expect to encounter things like that. But they’re a part of the job, just like cutting the ribbon at a new business opening, and seeing how excited people are to open up here.”

1st Selectman Jim Marpe brings oversized scissors to ribbon cuttings for new stores, restaurants, even (as shown here) law firms.

Not everyone is happy with how everything works in Westport, he knows. “But if someone contacts me with a reasonable request, and I can help solve their problem, and along the way make the community better, that’s my job.”

He feels grateful for the opportunity to get to know a broad swath of Westport — people he might not have met, businesses and organizations outside of his own interests.

“It’s fascinating what makes up Westport,” Marpe says. “Not a lot of communities our size have that tapestry. My appreciation for this town grows every day.”

Marpe served on the Homes with Hope board since the 1990s (along with many others, like the Westport Weston Family YMCA, Westport Rotary Club and Greens Farms Congregational Church). He is awed by the work these organizations — and so many others — do to make life better for overlooked or marginalized people.

First Selectman Jim Marpe is a Rotary Club member. When volunteers were needed for the LobsterFest, he and his wife Mary Ellen pitched in.

At the same time, he appreciates the town’s long commitment to the arts. (His wife Mary Ellen is the former owner and director of the Westport Academy of Dance.) As 1st selectman, he created the new positions of townwide arts curator and poet laureate.

For the past 7 years, Marpe has been on call 24/7. While on the golf course — even on rare vacations — his phone rings. The recent birth of his grandson made the decision to not run again a bit easier.

His successor will face many challenges. A bureaucratic morass at the state and federal levels has prevented Marpe from moving forward on Saugatuck River dredging.

“We have to do it,” he says firmly. “If we don’t it will silt up, with real consequences for what makes Westport unique, even among shoreline towns.”

He worked across the aisle with Lieutenant Governor Bysewiez and state legislators Will Haskell and Jonathan Steinberg to address traffic issues at the Post Road/Wilton Road/Riverside Avenue intersection downtown, and Main Street/Weston Road/Easton Road near Merritt Parkway Exit 42. “Unfortunately, that’s still the way I found it,” he says.

Plans for Baron’s South will be revealed in 2 or 3 months. But finding the best use for the Golden Shadows building on the property remains a challenge.

And of course, debate continues on the fate of the William F. Cribari Bridge.

The next first selectman will face controversy over the future of the William F. Cribari Bridge (Photo/Chuck Greenlee)

But Marpe is excited for the future of Westport. “Downtown feels good again. It’s still the heartbeat of our community — along with Saugatuck, our other ‘downtown.'”

When he hands his swipe card to his successor 7 months from now, what advice can he give?

“Getting into this office involves political activity,” Marpe says. “But once you’re in, it’s about management, like metrics and budgets, and leadership — people skills. It’s the same as any business.

“But what’s different from running a business is that this is a democracy. Boards and commissions have a lot of say. You have to work with those leaders and members. They’re part of the process.”

He’s pleased to have a strong relationship with the superintendent of schools, Thomas Scarice — a goal when he first ran for 1st selectman, in 2013.

Back then, Jim Marpe had never heard the word “coronavirus.” He did not know the name “Isaias.”

Seven years later, they are now 2 parts of his long, and very impressive, legacy.

Jim Marpe walks his daughter Samantha down the aisle. He looks forward to spending time with his new grandson,

Pic Of The Day #1462

Deadman Brook, near Sconset Square (Photo/Mary Sikorski)

Roundup: Outdoor Dining, GG & Joe, “In Death” …

==================================================

Starting today, outdoor dining returns to Church Lane.

Now through late fall, restaurants like Spotted Horse, Manna Toast, Pink Sumo and Amis are serving underneath the stars.

The Westport Downtown Association plans live mellow dinner music on weekends, starting soon.

Dining al fresco, last year.

======================================================

Around the corner, GG & Joe is closed — but only temporarily.

A sign on the door notes that due to a COVID exposure, they’ve shut their doors for a few days. They reopen Thursday, April 22.

Better safe than sorry. And kudos to the acai bowl-and-coffee-and-more spot in Parker Harding Plaza — which opened last spring, as the pandemic raged — for their concern for all customers.

(Photo/Amy Schneider)

=======================================================

In Death, The Gift of Life — the powerful anthology of 10 Westporters who embraced death on their own terms — has won two 1st place awards in the Connecticut Press Club’s annual communications contest.

The honors were for editing (Dan Levinson and Alison McBain) and design (McBain and Miggs Burroughs). The book now moves on to national competition.

A community-wide book launch will be held at the Westport Library this fall.

=======================================================

In the early days of the pandemic, Stan Witkow started an online bingo game. Winners — Westporters, former residents and friends across the country — donate their pots to a non-profit of their choice.

The most recent recipient is Westport Volunteer Emergency Medical Service. Jennifer Pressman donated her $250 to the organization. Her son is a former WVEMS volunteer. Bingo!

=======================================================

Abilis is hiring. The non-profit, which serves more than 800 people with special needs and their families — holds a job fair on Saturday, May 1 (9 a.m. to 5 .m., 50 Glenville Street, Greenwich).

Full- and part-time positions include management and assistant management roles, day program and residential roles. Click here to see open positions. Prospective employees should bring resumes. For more information,  call 203-531-1880.

May 1 is also the date of Abilis’ 70th anniversary gala (6:30 p.m., virtual). There’s family entertainment, with comedians, actors, musicians and dancers.

To learn more, register for the show link, see “Giving Garden” needs, check out the online auction or by art by Abilis clients, click here.

======================================================

An “06880” reader sits for a 4-hour infusion once a month at Norwalk Hospital. It is often cool in the room, so patients are given a hospital blanket.

The other day, she received a real blanket,  made by a group at Staples High school called Lovee’s Charity. They’re usually given to pediatric patients, but sometimes they’re handed out in the infusion room.

“It was so nice, soft and comforting,” the reader says. She emailed faculty advisor Natalie Odierna, letting her know how much joy the blanket brought.

Now thousands of other “06880” readers know about the joy Lovee’s Charity brings too.

A Lovee’s Charity blanket.

==============================================

Major League Soccer has kicked off its 26th season. And for the 5th straight year, Elliot Gerard was commissioned to create the opening day graphic.

The Westport resident Gerard is a founder and creative director with Heartlent Group, a social strategy and creative content agency.

This year’s concept is “Where’s Waldo?” Gerard worked with eMLS to hide Easter eggs in the artwork (below). The campaign is interactive, giving fans the chance to make their own versions on Instagram stories. A customizable background is available. Click for Twitter and Instagram links.

=======================================================

And finally … I got my 2nd COVID vaccine today. Just sayin’ …

Roundup: Hazardous Waste, Health & Wellness, Kings Highway Bridge …

====================================================

The Westport Weston Family YMCA gets a nice shoutout in yesterday’s Washington Post.

Joanne Kaufman — who with her husband has “perched temporarily” in Fairfield County since fleeing Manhattan during COVID — writes about her return to swimming, at our Y.

The piece is called “Dear Locker Room, You Have No Idea How Much I’ve Missed You.” I thought it would be about the joys of the pool, even in a pandemic — my daily swims at the Y have kept me both physically and mentally fit since it reopened last June — but it is mostly about the camaraderie of the locker room.

Click here to read. (Hat tip: Scott Smith)

=======================================================

Don’t waste a moment!

Westport’s annual Household Hazardous Waste Day is Saturday, April 24 (9 a.m. to 2 p.m.,) at a new site: the Greens Farm train station.

The free program is open to residents of Westport, Wilton, Norwalk, New Canaan, Darien, Stamford and Greenwich.

These are some of the items that may be hanging around your home:

Garage: Paints, gasoline, kerosene, mineral spirits, spray paint, paint strippers, paint thinners, solvents, stains, turpentine, varnishes, wood preservatives, degreasers, etc.

Garden shed: Fertilizers, fungicides, herbicides, insecticides, pesticides, etc.

General household:  Bleach, charcoal lighter, cleaning chemicals, drain cleaners, flammable liquids, mercury thermometers, moth balls, pet flea shampoos, photo chemicals, rug shampoos, spot removers, art supplies and paints, etc.

The following items are NOT acceptable: Propane tanks, ammunition, flares, explosives, commercial hazardous waste.

Before bringing hazardous household items to the collection site:

  • Make sure items are clearly labeled. Never mix chemicals!
  • Keep products in their original labeled container.
  • Place leaky containers in clear plastic bags.
  • Tighten lids of all containers, and pack items in sturdy cardboard boxes lined with newspaper.
  • Put boxes in the trunk or in back of the vehicle, away from passengers.
  • Leave pets and children home.
  • Keep your windows open. Drive directly to the collection site.
  • Do not smoke or eat while handling hazardous materials.
  • Antifreeze, motor oil, batteries of any type, fluorescent bulbs, compact fluorescent bulbs and electronics can also be recycled at the transfer station on the Sherwood Island Connector, weekdays from 7 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., Saturdays from 7 a.m. to noon.

Put all household hazardous waste in the trunk or rear of vehicles. Only fuel containers will be returned to residents.

Questions> Call the Public Works Department (203-341-1793), or click here.

===================================================

It seems like the only miserable thing that’s dragged on longer than COVID is the replacement project for the Kings Highway North bridge, by Canal Street.

Public works director Pete Ratkiewich reported yesterday:

“The contractor has just finished setting the first 3 of 6 bridge sections today in the pouring rain. The last 3 will be set Friday.

“The schedule has not changed, with completion expected by the end of June. Once the precast sections are in, they will be working on putting the bridge back together and finishing the project as quickly as possible.”

From his lips to …

Once upon a time, traffic flowed easily on Kings Highway North.

=======================================================

Speaking of a long 13 months: Westporters are ready to get back to the fitness routine.

So the timing is great for the Westport Downtown Merchants Association’s Fitness & Health Day. It’s set for Saturday, May 1 (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.).

The event takes place all along Main Street, but many more businesses and organizations are involved.

Fleet Feet in Sconset Square kicks things off, hosting a 5K run throughout downtown. Click here to register (spots are limited).

Westport’s leading studios and clubs — including JoyRide, Pure Barre, Row House, Elliptica, Intensity, Physique57, Club Pilates, Saugatuck Rowing Club, The Dance Collective, Stretch Lab, Kaia Yoga and the Westport Weston Family YMCA — will organize fun (and challenging) classes on main Street.

Walk-ups are not permitted for classes. To register, contact each studio directly. Observers are welcome, of course!

Other health and wellness folks will have a presence too: Franny’s Farmacy, RESTORE Cryo, Cparkly Soul, Wisdom and Youth MedSpa, Embrace Orthodontics, New England Hemp Farm, TAP Strength Lab and Organic Krush.

Other sponsors include Andersen Renewal. Wildflower Land Management, Manna Toast and David Adam Realty.

Working out at last year’s Fitness & Health Day.

=======================================================

On Tuesday, “06880” reported that Bank of America’s Post Road East branch next to Starbucks — across from Carvel — is now closed permanently.

A mailing with the news directed customers to the downtown branch, next to Design Within Reach. There was no work about the fate of BOA’s 3rd Westport office, on the Southport line.

Now there is. A second mailing yesterday notified customers that that branch — at 1815 Post Road East — has also closed for good.

Banks are supposed to be prudent with their money. I have no idea how much it cost to send 2 separate mailings to all Westport customers.

But perhaps that kind of decision is part of the reason Bank of America just reduced its presence here by two-thirds. (Hat tip: John Karrel)

=======================================================

Why did the gull cross the Old Mill parking lot?

To get to the other side? Or some other reason?

Who knows? But whatever the reason, it makes for a cool photo.

(Photo/Teri Klein)

======================================================

And finally … Today in 1943, Albert Hofmann accidentally discovered the hallucinogenic effects of the research drug LSD.

Pic Of The Day #1457

Levitt Pavilion sunrise (Photo/Tom Cook)

Friday Flashback #239

As Westport’s downtown renaissance continues, Seth Schachter sends some fascinating postcards from a far different era.

All 3 show “Fountain Square.” The Post Road (then called State Street)/Main Street intersection was as heavily trafficked — for its time — as it is today.

One of the main attractions was a fountain — actually, a horse trough. (“Trough Square” does not have quite the same ring.)

This 1906 view shows the view looking north on Main Street. The first few buildings on the left look similar to today. The Westporter Hotel (right) was replaced in 1923 by the YMCA.

The view below — also from 1906 — looks west on State Street, toward the Saugatuck River and Norwalk. The building in the center of the photo would soon be demolished for — as the postcard says — “the new Jesup Library.” It would be expanded in the 1950s toward the west.

In 1986 the Westport Public Library moved to its present site near Jesup Green; it was replaced by, among other tenants, Starbucks, Freshii and the recently closed Pop’TArt gallery.

In the scene below, similar to the first photo above — probably from the 1920s — the YMCA had already been built (right). A small park outside the library can be seen at the left. The Main Street streetscape is very recognizable.

A horse drinks contentedly from the trough.

And the street is just as rutted as it is now, a century later.

Maxx Crowley: Downtown’s Revival, And The Rest Of Town Too

As 2020 began, downtown Westport looked bleak. Boarded-up storefronts, empty parking spots, questions about its very future — Main Street and environs were grim.

When COVID struck, downtown looked even bleaker. More stores closed. Fewer people strolled. The cancellation of big events like the Fine Arts Festival seemed like one final cruel blow.

Yet to the surprise of many, life sprouted amid all the real and metaphorical death.

GG & Joe opened in an out-of-the-way Parker Harding corner. Their acai bowls and pastries were instant hits.

Plywood and butcher block paper came down. New stores opened.

Two restaurants — Capuli and Basso — opened to rave reviews. Two bookstores — one new, one used — opened too, within days of each other. Two gelato shops announced their arrival. A highly regarded bakery will soon move in on Church Lane.

Capuli is one of several new restaurants opening downtown.

Counterintuitively, downtown has come back.

And no one is happier than Maxx Crowley.

He’s an unlikely champion for Main Street. He’s young (a 2010 graduate of Fairfield Prep). He worked in New York City, in advertising and real estate. He’s single. You wouldn’t figure him for a suburban guy.

But he comes from a storied family. His father Steve is the “S” in SCA Crowley, a residential and commercial real estate services firm. Since starting work in September with them, Maxx has jumped head first into the downtown renaissance. He’s already a co-vice president of the Westport Downtown Merchants Association.

Maxx Crowley (right) with (from left) his brother Bob Crowley and father Steve Crowley.

Despite his youth, Maxx remembers “exciting stores,” Onion Alley with its rooftop music, and mom-and-pop shops like Liquor Locker.

He recalls took when chain stores — even big names like Nike and Banana Republic — swooped in. “They took some of the character” of Main Street away, he admits.

COVID was “a weird perfect storm” for Westport, Maxx says.

“There was a lot of loss. People died. Businesses closed. Restaurants struggled.”

But the virus drove people out of New York. Westport welcomed a surge of newcomers. And people who already lived here — but spent 12 hours a day, 5 days a week working elsewhere — suddenly had time to focus on their town.

They walked. They biked. They picked up coffee and lunch, clothes and furniture in places they had never known about.

Landlords struggled. Rents — quite a bit north of $100 a square foot — took a significant hit. But some of those same landlords also realized this was a time for a re-set. They lowered rates, and looked for new tenants. And those were not always the same-old, same-old national brands that could be anywhere.

Some landlords lowered their rents, or accepted late payments. Some offered a few free months, or help with certain expenses.

It was not easy. COVID or not, landlords still have their own fixed costs: taxes, insurance, maintenance and more.

Downtown depends on foot traffic. (Photo/Lynn Untermeyer Miller)

Commercial real estate is “a relationship business,” Maxx says. Relationships often extend far. When one landlord sees another succeeding, they want to be part of the action.

Downtown has many things going for it, Maxx says. One key element is walkability.

“I can park my car. I get my coffee at GG & Joe. I cross the street to Savvy + Grace. My kid” — he doesn’t have one, but you get the point — “goes next door to Brandy Melville.”

That’s not the case in other parts of town. Anyone wanting to cross from Stop & Shop to the cute Peggy’s Cottage Irish store across the street takes his life in his hands.

But the right business in the right spot can succeed anywhere. Maxx points to Terrain: “a beautiful, redeveloped place. No one minds driving there.”

Terrain attracts customers with intriguing displays.

He’s bullish on both Compo Shopping Center too. “Torrey (Brooks, the landlord) is phenomenal,” Maxx says. “He builds relationships with all his tenants.”

There are vacancies there right now. Maxx is hopeful that a “memorable store” comes into the spaces previously occupied by Olympia Sports and Compo Barber Shop.

He also thinks the shopping plaza at the foot of the Sherwood Island Connector — with Restore Cryotherapy, among others — has great visibility.

Further east on the Post Road, Maxx has mixed feelings about Amazon Go, the automated grocery store that’s the rumored replacement for Barnes & Noble.

“People will always want to talk to the butcher and the deli guy. But it’s exciting to see a brand like Amazon come to Westport. There aren’t many Amazon Gos on the East Coast.”

And at the Southport border, Maxx notes that the Home Goods shopping center always has solid occupancy.

The one piece missing from downtown Westport, he says is “experiential” places. He cites the lack of restaurants on Main Street (though a new one will at some point replace Tavern on Main). “In a perfect world,” Maxx adds, “the ice rink would move from Longshore. And music always brings people together. We might not have bars with bands anymore, but they played on Church Lane last summer. That was great. And what about a stage downtown?”

Westport’s Fine Arts Festival is an “experiential” event. It has moved back to Main Street, from Parker Harding Plaza.

He’d also like to see downtown connected, somehow, to Saugatuck. “So many great stores across the river don’t get the attention they deserve,” he says.

“Europe has pedestrian bridges. It’s a beautiful walk along the river. This isn’t Amsterdam. But a bridge or two couldn’t hurt. Can you imagine having dinner at Bartaco, then walking across a bridge — without traffic whizzing by — to have a gelato on Main Street. Then you window shop, and run into friends. That’s a real downtown.”

Meanwhile, Saugatuck itself is filled with “wonderful, local restaurants and markets and shops. Viva and the Duck are anchors. It’s very walkable. There will always be activity there.”

The “ultimate connection” to downtown, he believes, is Longshore and Compo. A restaurant at the beach — and a shuttle between there and downtown — would be “amazing.”

Though not yet 30, Maxx says he has “always” been excited about downtown. Now he sees newcomers getting excited too.

All over town.

Roundup: Sandwiches, Easter Service, Voter Protection …

==================================================

And now — after more than 1,000 votes, for 21 competitors in 9 categories — the winners of the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce’s Great Sandwich Contest have been announced. The are:

  • Best Chicken Sandwich: Stiles Market
  • Best Steak Sandwich: JR’s Deli & Grille
  • Best Vegetarian Sandwich: Manna Toast
  • Best Combo Sandwich: Stiles Market
  • Best Club Sandwich: Joe’s Pizza
  • Best Wrap: Layla’s Falafel
  • Best Breakfast Sandwich: JR’s Deli & Grille
  • Best Pressed Sandwich: Mystic Market
  • Best Fish/Seafood Sandwich: Rizzuto’s

Honorable mention (coming within 5 votes of the winners): A&S Fine Foods, Calise’s Market and Fortuna’s

Winners receive plaques. Each winner will also offer a free winning sandwich to 9 lucky voters, who won the lottery in the category they voted in. For photos of the winners, click here.

=======================================================

Saugatuck Church’s 1st-ever Easter drive-in worship service was — well, if not a miracle, then still pretty cool.

The back parking lot was filled with 45 cars (that’s around 13o people). The FM radio broadcast worked flawlessly, thanks to Mark Mathias. The service was punctuated with plenty of cheerful horn honks.

Dozens more watched the livestream on Facebook and YouTube. But that photo isn’t as interesting as the one below:

(Drone photo/Alexey Syomichev)

=======================================================

You’ve probably heard there are zoning bills working their way through the General Assembly. You’ve heard that they may affect Westport.

But how?

Tomorrow (Tuesday, April 6, 6:30 p.m. Zoom), Westport Planning & Zoning Commission chair Danielle Dobin hosts an in-depth discussion, The focus is on what they mean for our town.

She will be joined by Westport’s 4 legislators: State Senators Will Haskell and Tony Hwang, and Representatives Jonathan Steinberg and Stephanie Thomas.

I’ll be the moderator. Click here to register.

One bill being considered would affect housing plans for the area around any town’s primary train station.

======================================================

Westport Book Shop Artist of the Month is Katherine Ross. Her watercolors will be on display throughout April at the Drew Friedman Art Place, in Westport’s popular used book store on Jesup Road.

Ross is a well-known artist and art teacher. She conceived the children’s mosaic wall at the Longshore pool, with work from over 1,000 middle schoolers. She has served on the Arts Advisory Committee and Westport Cultural Arts Committee, and co-chaired the Westport public schools’ Art Smarts program.  

The exhibit is open during the Book Shop’s business hours: Tuesdays through Fridays (11 a.m. to 6 p.m.), Saturdays (10 a.m. to 6 p.m.) and Sundays (noon to 5 p.m.

Katherine Ross, with her springtime watercolors.

======================================================

Tonight (Monday, April 5, 7:30 p.m., Zoom), the Democratic Women of Westport and Staples Young Democrats host a virtual session called “The Anti-Racist Policy Agenda: Connecticut Voter Protection.”

State Representative Stephanie Thomas — who represents part of Westport, and serves as vice chair of the General Assembly’s Government Administration and Elections Committee — will discuss the 2020 election in the state, possible expansion of access for voting, and building support for voter protection laws.

To get the link for the talk, or more information, email dww06880@gmail.com.

=======================================================

And finally … speaking of “protection”: On this day in 1922, the American Birth Control League — predecessor of Planned Parenthood — was incorporated.

It’s Remarkable: Theater Plans Return Engagement

A remarkable thing happened last year.

In the midst of a grim pandemic, a group of Westporters had a cool (and crazy) idea: a drive-in theater.

They got permission. They got the screen. They got going.

The original permit was for 4 shows. The project was a smash. The Remarkable Theater ended the season with 51 screenings.

Beyond movies, the Imperial Avenue parking lot was the site for nearly 2 dozen special events: fundraisers for non-profits, Supper & Soul concerts, and the showing of a Staples High School boys soccer game.

The Remarkable Theater was a pop-up hit last summer.

This Thursday (April 8), the Remarkable Theater returns for its 2nd year.

That’s not really remarkable. In just a few months, the drive-in became a cherished Westport tradition.

Thursday’s movie is “Vacation.” It’s followed on Friday (April 9) by “Ratatouille,” and Saturday by “When Harry Met Sally.”

Tuesday (April 13) brings “Minari,” a new release about a Korean-American family that moves to Arkansas in search of the American dream. It’s preceded by a 5-minute video, produced by Remarkable, in which Westport Asian-Americans discuss recent hate crimes.

Those 4 films are just sneak previews –“like spring training in baseball, or a restaurant soft opening,” says Remarkable artistic director Doug Tirola.

Official opening night (Thursday, April 15) kicks off with “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” featuring beloved Westporter Paul Newman. Upcoming films will be announced April 14.

The big screen returns soon. (Drone photo/John Videler for Videler Photography)

The 2021 season runs through Halloween. It will be remarkable in many ways. Low-key — but very important — is the theater’s mission of hiring people with disabilities. In fact, they’re the only paid employees. It’s a win-win-win: for them, the theater, and Westport. (For information on employent, email jenny@remarkabletheater.org.)

Movies begin at 7:30 p.m. The lot opens for tailgating at 6:30. There is no concession stand, so Tirola suggests picking up food from local restaurants or markets.

Tickets are $50 per car. Click here to purchase (they go fast!).

Don’t forget lawn chairs, so you can sit — socially distanced and masked — at this remarkable Westport venue.

BONUS REEL 1: The Remarkable Theater needs volunteers to help with check-in and parking. Families, friend groups, organizations, sports teams — all are welcome. You can watch the movie for free — and your name is on the screen. To help, email info@remarkabletheater.org. 

BONUS REEL 2: The Remarkable Theater is always looking for interns. This year they’ll help produce the short content that’s shown before every movie. Interested? email remarkable@4throwfilms.com.

BONUS REEL 3: The non-profit theater relies on ticket sales and donations. More funding is needed to make this year a reality. If you give $5,000 or more, your name will appear on the screen before every movie. To contribute, click here. Or donate via Venmo: @BeRemarkable.

BONUS REEL 4Click below, for an actual “reel”: the trailer for the Remarkable Theater’s 2021 season. It’s a minute of pure fun!

Pic Of The Day #1445

Deadman’s Brook and the Riverwalk, from the Imperial Avenue/library bridge (Photo/Amy Schneider)