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Category Archives: Downtown
You can debate the quantity (how much is enough?) and quality (wreaths? stars? lights on poles or overhead?) of Main Street holiday decorations all you want.
But what you can’t debate is what the backside of downtown’s main drag — Parker Harding Plaza — looks like.
This is not the face we want to show shoppers.
A grossed-out Westporter took these photos on Sunday. She sent them to “06880,” along with these thoughts:
I know the Chamber of Commerce sponsors events to celebrate the season — carolers, carriage rides, tree lightings and a holiday mixer.
These events are fine. But they don’t contribute to a festive feeling unless you’re actually in attendance.
What matters more to most of us is what we experience day-to-day, while shopping and making our holiday preparations downtown.
Small shops that decorate storefronts are great. But with so many chains, it’s the Downtown Merchants Association and Chamber that ideally would pick up the slack.
Most of the chains are very festive inside. It’s the streetscapes that need attention.
The situation in Parker Harding is a holiday horror. It doesn’t seem to be an isolated incident. Every year there’s something similar, it seems.
If the DMA and Chamber members aren’t sure how to set the stage for holiday cheer, they could ask those of us who run around from Thanksgiving to New Year’s what we would like to keep our spirits and energy high.
Personally, I’d love to see some beautiful greenery and a few twinkling string lights. Plus trash that is well managed, open sidewalks and open parking spaces – – not torn up and blocked off with tape.
Kids selling hot cider for a good cause would be icing on the cake.
Please stop the madness that is these photographs — dumpsters, port-a-potties, closed sidewalks and blocked off parking spaces! This is no way to welcome holidaymakers!
Everyone driving past Town Hall enjoys the Christmas tree on its sloping lawn. An ordinary evergreen all year long, it’s lit every night during the holiday season.
But there’s a second one worth seeing. It’s inside Town Hall, just outside the auditorium.
It’s called a Heritage Tree. And for good reason: Every December, for over 35 years, new ornaments are added. Each is designed by a Westport artist. Taken together, the nearly 150 designs represent our artistic heritage in a unique, beautiful way.
Among the many artists represented: Bernie Burroughs, Mel Casson, Stevan Dohanos, Naiad and Walter Einsel, Leonard Everett Fisher, Neil Hardy, Robert Lambdin, Gordon Mellor, Howard Munce, Jim Sharpe, Dolli Tingle, Barbara Wilk and Al Willmott.
This year, 5 new ornaments were added:
- A whimsical glass ornament (“100% Santa approved”) by Nina Bentley.
- A diamond-shaped acrylic lenticular featuring the William F. Cribari Bridge — with and without Christmas lights, by Miggs Burroughs.
- A large, multi-faceted 20-view polygon featuring historical Westport photos, by Elizabeth Devoll.
- A delicate pine cone, subtly embellished with text and color by Katherine Ross.
- A glass-domed “Carrot: Building a Snowman in Westport” by Tammy Winser.
The new ornaments were hung — front and center on the tree — by Eve Potts and Marion Morra. They carry on the Heritage Tree tradition started by their sister, the late Mollie Donovan, nearly 40 years ago. The tree is sponsored by the Westport Historical Society.
So don’t just drive by the Christmas tree outside Town Hall. Drive up, walk inside, and admire the Heritage Tree too.
Drew Friedman was a pillar of downtown Westport. A major landowner, a founder of the Westport Downtown Merchants Association and landlord of restaurants like Onion Alley, Bobby Q’s and Acqua, he influenced much of Main Street.
His holdings once included the original Westport Public Library building on the Post Road between Main Street and Parker Harding Plaza (now Starbucks and Freshii). He also owned Post Road property beyond downtown. And was a presence in Weston too, as the owner of Cobb’s Mill Inn.
He died in February 2016, at 86.
Now Friedman is back in the news.
In his will, he left $500,000 to set up a “Drew Friedman Community Arts Center.”
But it’s not a place.
It’s a foundation.
Friedman’s former business partner Nick Visconti asked artist/photographer Miggs Burroughs — whose “Tunnel Vision” project is installed next to and across from some of Friedman’s former properties — and Visconti’s sister Louise Fusco to join him on the foundation board.
Their mission is to give $50,000 a year to one or more worthy artists and/or arts organizations and activities in Westport or Weston.
So far, money has gone to Homes With Hope, CLASP Homes, the Westport Arts Center and Westport Historical Society. It will help fund art classes and activities for under-served students and young adults. This spring, an art exhibit will showcase all their work.
In addition, the foundation will award 2 scholarships, of $7,500 each, so high school students with need can attend an arts college, or art classes at a community college.
A special gala at the Westport Woman’s Club on May 17 will celebrate the arts program — and artists’ — great accomplishments.
Though not an artist himself, Friedman married one. His wife Bobbie created memorable works of art on canvas, and in clay and bronze, in a beautiful studio he built at their Westport home.
Now Bobby Q’s, Acqua and Cobb’s Mill are all gone.
So are Drew and Bobbie Friedman.
But thanks to his generosity and foresight, the arts — and artists — in Westport and Weston will live on for years.
(Candidates for Drew Friedman Community Arts Center scholarships should click here for more information.)
New lights on the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge are not enough for at least one “06880” reader.
“After living several years in Westport, I am still amazed at how bland, boring and non-Christmas-supporting its lack of decorations are,” he writes.
“I know they spent some cash on new lights and festive snowflakes. But there is almost no spirit in shopping here.”
He’s heard blame placed on several culprits: “90-plus-year-olds running the town. Corporate store locations not supporting Xmas decorations downtown. I’ve even heard it said that it’s a Jewish town, and therefore not celebrating.”
All of those reasons, he says, “sound like nonsense. I’m from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. I’m used to people singing on street corners, and the festive spirit being alive. I don’t understand Westport’s total lack of caring.”
The reader asks about the history behind this. “I’ve heard our wonderful downtown used to be awash with lights and Christmas spirit in the past. A place people would want to celebrate and shop. Seems like it would be a good story, if you feel anyone would care.”
Wow! That’s a lot to mull on (over hot cider).
A few thoughts come to mind:
- Who are these “90-plus-year-olds” running Westport?
- Is this really a “Jewish town”?
- Why wouldn’t a place called Bethlehem be awash in Christmas spirit?
And of course:
- Is it true?
- Did this used to be a place filled with lights and Christmas spirit?
- Is there really a “total lack of caring” for the holidays?
I have my own ideas. But I want to hear yours. Click “Comments” below.
Westporters love the American flags lining the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge downtown. Every jUNe Day (and UN Day), the bridge flies flags from all over the globe.
And every Christmas, the well-traveled bridge over the Post Road is … not lit. A golden opportunity — decorating downtown with holiday lights — is lost.
Colleen Angione-Wiedmann — community and communications director for the Westport Downtown Merchants Association — just returned from the New Haven state Department of Transportation office. She’s holding a permit to light the bridge this year.
And … she hopes it will be done to coincide with tomorrow’s tree lighting at Town Hall (5 p.m.).
She’s just waiting for ace electrician Jim Izzo to confirm that he’s finished — and for the town to approve the installation of 4 outlets on the lampposts on both sides of the bridge (so there are no unappealing extension cords).
With those outlets — and the DMA’s purchase of lights — the bridge will offer a wonderful, warm welcome this year.
And every year to come.
PS: Kudos to Tracy May in the DOT office. She came here recently to meet with the WDMA and the electrician, to expedite the process.