Category Archives: Downtown

Darlene Love Headlines Next Levitt Benefit

You may not know Darlene Love’s name (though you should).

You sure know her music. Under Phil Spector, she sang lead on the Crystals’ “He’s a Rebel.” She worked with everyone from Sam Cooke, Dionne Warwick and the Beach Boys to Elvis Presley, Tom Jones and Sonny & Cher. She performed on Broadway (“Hairspray,” “Grease,” and as herself in the first jukebox musical ever, “Leader of the Pack”), then won a Grammy for her featured role in the Oscar-winning “20 Feet From Stardom,” about backup singers.

Darlene Love

The New York Times said: “Darlene Love’s thunderbolt voice is as embedded in the history of rock and roll as Eric Clapton’s guitar or Bob Dylan’s lyrics.”

Oh, yeah. She’s ranked among Rolling Stone’s 100 Greatest Singers. And in 2011, she was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

On July 16, Darlene Love comes to the Levitt Pavilion. It’s a benefit performance that helps support dozens of nights of free programs. Tickets go on sale today (Monday, June 21) at 2 p.m. Click here for details, and to purchase.

So what free programs will Darlene Love’s show support?

Here’s the rest of June:

  • June 22: Treehouse Comedy
  • June 24: Aztec Two-Step 2.0, featuring Westport’s own Dodie Pettit and Rex Fowler
  • June 25: PJ Pacifico (full band show)
  • June 26: Nicole Henry
  • June 27: Bunky Griptite Orchestra
  • June 29: Suzanne Sheridan Band
  • June 30: Grammy winner Joanie Leeds —  Children’s Series launch.

For free tickets to those June shows, more details, and a calendar for July and August, click here.

Pics Of The Day #1522

One person said, “I feel like I’m in Key West.”

Another likened it to Burlington, Vermont. A third said “Italy.”

But all were on Church Lane tonight.

Perfect temperatures and a light breeze brought a big crowd to the blocked-off street.

Restaurants were packed. Music played. Franny’s Farmacy celebrated its 1-year anniversary. Kids played cornhole by Savannah Bee.

It felt like summer in Westport — just better, more appreciated, and more welcoming than ever.

Young kids posed as Staples High School graduate and recording artist Drew Angus played by Spotted Horse … (Photo/Dan Woog)

… and then danced in the street (Photo/Jordan Schur)

 

Franny’s Farmacy family and friends gathered for the hemp wellness store’s 1 year anniversary celebration. It continues tomorrow, with events from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. (Photo/Dan Woog)

 

Roundup: Senior Center, Morningside South, Joey’s Delivery …

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It’s the news seniors have been waiting for.

Starting July 1, the Senior Center will reopen. It’s limited, sure — but it will be wonderful for the thousands of Westporters who rely on our great center.

The phased reopening will include in-house, outdoor, hybrid, televised and Zoom classes all summer long.

Director Sue Pfister and her staff have meticulously established safety protocols. They includes enhanced air-handlers, sanitizers, and other CDC-guided precautions.

There’s also a canopy over part of the back patio, to extend outdoor space.

The congregate luncheon program will remain closed until September. In addition, summer plans will not include drop-in visits or congregating during the initial reopening phase. Water fountains will not be available, so participants are encouraged to bring a water bottle from home.

Senior Center participants must pre-register with the new registration system MyActiveCenter (https://myactivecenter.com/) to sign up for activities, classes, and programs.  For instructions and a list of upcoming courses, please visit www.westportct.gov/seniorcenter or call 203-341-5099.

Back in action soon!

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For months, Westporters have wondered about the fate of the Kowalsky property. The large tract of land on Morningside Drive South and Clapboard Hill Road is some of the last privately owned open space in town.

Part of it is now on the market. The real estate listing says:

Perc tests and a Conceptual Plan are now available outlining a proposed 8 Bedroom home, Infinity Edge Swimming Pool and Septic. Build your dream home on this prestigious 2.0 Acre property in a well established Greens Farms neighborhood.

This property is truly majestic with part ownership of a man made pond, and several character outbuildings. This sought after location is less than a mile to Metro North/Greens Farms train station and Burying Hill Beach. Two homes on Morningside Drive South (# 90 and # 88) have SOLD within the year, both currently in stages of being torn down for over a million dollars an acre. There is value here on this special piece of land.

This is a Land listing. The home on the property is ‘As Is’. As with any Land listing, buyers to perform their own due diligence.

117 Morningside Drive South.

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Plenty of people like Hook’d on the Sound, the new Compo Beach concessionaire.

Plenty do not like the fact that it closes at 6 p.m.

The previous snack bar tenant — Joey’s by the Shore — stayed open till dark. Two years ago, he relocated to the former Elvira’s, around the corner across from Old Mill Beach.

Now Joey’s has introduced a delivery service to Compo. It’s available Friday, Saturday and Sunday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Monday through Thursday 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.

You can order online. Enter “2 Soundview Drive” as the delivery address. Your food will be delivered — in a thermal bag, with no extra charge — at the pickup/ dropoff location next to the Compo volleyball courts.

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The undefeated, nationally ranked Staples High School rugby team kicked off its national tournament quest in Kansas City yesterday with a 26-22 win against St. Thomas Aquinas. The Wreckers are ranked #5; Aquinas was #4. The temperature at the start was 100.

Little Barn The Little Barn in Westport is the local site for viewing. The next match is tonight (6 p.m.), against #1 Herriman from Utah.

Watching yesterday’s game at Little Barn. (Photo/Terry Brannigan)

Previewing the tournament, a rugby publication described Staples as “the best-kept secret of the tournament. (They have) compiled one heck of a season up in Connecticut. Winners over big dogs Xavier, Greenwich, and Fairfield, these boys are battle-tested and battle-accomplished. Jot them down as your dark horse now.”

For more information on the national rugby tournament, click here.

Staples rugby in action, earlier this year.

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Wakeman Town Farm kicks off its farm stand season tomorrow (Saturday, June 19, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.).

Every Saturday, the Cross Highway stand features farm-grown veggies, baked goods, honeys, Shearwater coffee, Wave Hill breads, Kneads pastries, Pam’s Jams, Guardians farm goat soap & lotion, plus logowear.

Tomorrow’s fresh produce offerings include collard greens, lettuce, kale, peas, radishes, garlic scapes, Chinese green onions, strawberries (limited quantities!), and herbs.

This year, WTF expands its offerings with a rotating list of local guest vendors. This week they welcome Lorenza Arnal, creator of Alma de Mexico’s homemade salsas, and Sk*p, a sustainably packaged hair & body care line with local roots.

PS: Visitors can also say hi to the WTF animals.

Teagan Smith, at the WTF farm stand.

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Tomorrow is also the day for Westport Paddle Club’s great Saugatuck River cleanup. Everyone is welcome to jump in a kayak, then pick up debris.

It starts around 5 p.m. — an hour or so before high tide — so you can paddle up with the tide, then drift back with it too.

Everyone will be back before 8. It will still be light — and time to party. Jr’s Deli & Grille provides the grub. (Click here for details.)

To get in the mood, check out last night’s report on News12. Even if you can’t make it tomorrow, you’ll learn a lot about the river. And the drone views are outstanding!

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Looking for action, entertainment and laughs?

The Remarkable Theater’s upcoming shows include:

  • “Black Panther” (Monday, June 21)
  • “The Birdcage” (Wednesday, June 23)
  • “The Breakfast Club” (Monday, June 28)

All shows begin at 8:45 p.m. Gates open at the Imperial Avenue parking lot at 7:45, for tailgating. Click here for tickets.

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Westport’s own Dale Najarian is one of 5 features artists at George Billis Gallery‘s new pop-up exhibit, “Summer Escape.”

It opens today (Friday, June 18), with an open reception from 4 to 7 p.m. The exhibit runs through July 25.

“Summer Escape” includes oceans, beaches, pool scenes, waterscapes, and paintings inspired by travel in the US and Europe.

George Billis Gallery is at 166 Main Street. It’s open every day except Monday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., and by appointment.

“Compo Beach,” oil on canvas (Dale Najarian)

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Staples High School’s Class of 1976 is planning their 45th reunion. And — in the spirit of ’76 — they’re doing more than their share.

The July 30-31 weekend includes parties at the Black Duck and Compo Beach. They’ve added a “Great Gatsby” town tour.

And — because several classmates volunteer with CLASP Homes, the supportive housing organization for people with developmental disabilities (and Tracy Flood works there), the reunion-goers will do yard projects at the site. (They might not even know that CLASP was founded in 1976!)

Class of ’76 members seeking more information can email staples76reunion@gmail.com.

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“Westport … Naturally” finds us today at Burying Hill Beach:

(Photo/Wendy Levy)

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And finally … in honor of Staples High School’s 450-plus graduates yesterday, here is Edward Elgar’s “Pomp and Circumstance.”

The whole thing. But if you want just the traditional processional march, it starts at 1:57.

 

La Fenice Rises Downtown

The weather’s getting hot. School is (almost) out. Time for gelato!

La Fenice opened this morning, at 49 Main Street.

Like its sister locations in Greenwich and Rye, this La Fenice — “the phoenix” — sells a great assortment of gelati. All fruit is sourced locally.

The gelato bar …

The menu includes pastries, cookies, coffee and paninis.

… and the pastry case.

All 3 La Fenices are owned by Salvatore Scuro and his wife Simona Silvestri. They came to the US in 2010, from Italy.

Now — like a phoenix — their newest gelateria is rising from what was formerly Lucky Brand.

Lucky for all of us.

Seating in the front, by Main Street …

… and the rear, near Parker Harding Plaza.

Roundup: Remarkable Films, Stop The Bleed, Marine Police …

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Doug Tirola — one of the founders of the Remarkable Theater — is a native Westporter, and father of a Staples High School student. He know we’ve got some remarkable members of the senior class — and that they had a remarkable year.

Tomorrow Doug — whose day job is filmmaking — wants to hear about their experiences. He’s making a short feature starring Staples seniors. It will play before (naturally) the drive-in screening of “The Breakfast Club” later this month.

High school seniors are invited to a quick interview tomorrow (Wednesday, June 16, 3 p.m.) at Staples’ front entrance.

NOTE: Seniors who are not yet 18 should email kate@4throwfilms.com for a release form, to be signed by a parent prior to film.

“The Breakfast Club”: Quite possibly the best high school movie ever made.

 

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The vibe at Westport Paddle Club is chill.

But the young staff — overseeing kayaks, paddleboards and the increasingly crowded Saugatuck River — has major responsibilities.

Yesterday, owners Taryn and Robbie Guimond brought Westport Volunteer Emergency Medical Services staff onto the Riverside Avenue site. EMTs ran everyone through every imaginable safety scenario and protocol.

The entire Westport Paddle Club staff is now certified in CPR, first aid and “stop the blood.” They’re ready for anything — and for you.

Safety first at Westport Paddle Club.

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Speaking of safety … Sandra Lefkowitz writes:

“With so much negativity about police in our country, we feel lucky we have a Police Department that responds quickly and professionally  to our needs, on many levels.

“On Sunday around 2:30 p.m., my husband Larry and I, 2 Westport friends and our puppy were stranded on our small boat in the Sound. It just stopped, and refused to start again no matter what we were tried.

“To our much appreciated rescue came 2 police officers: a man and a woman. With efficiency, respect and utmost professionalism, we were towed to our marina on Saugatuck shores.

“We are privileged to live in a town with such an incredible Police Department. Thank you!”

The Lefkowitzes’ boat, after being towed to safety.

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For weeks, Pequot Trail neighbors have been upset about the clear-cutting done in preparation for a teardown and new home.

Yesterday, News12 reported on the issue.

As noted in the report, owners can do whatever they want with their property. But, Tree Board chair Monica Buesser notes, trees play many roles beyond beauty — including noise abatement and reduced flood risk.

Click here for the News12 story.

Aerial view of clear cutting on Pequot Trail. (Screenshot courtesy of News 12

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Marketplace at Franny’s of Westport celebrates its first year as a local pop-up partner this Saturday (June 19, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.).

The Bedford Square shop will be filled with live music, free samples and giveaways. Tracey Medeiros will sign copies of “The Art of Cooking with Cannabis,” and Franny Tacy — founder of Franny’s Farmacy — will be on hand too, to say, um, “hi.”

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The world is opening up. But plenty of neighbors are still in dire straits.

To help fill Person 2 Person’s Norwalk food pantry, Westport Sunrise Rotary members will collect food donations in the rear of Saugatuck Congregational Church (Saturday, June 26, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.).

They urge folks to include these items on upcoming shopping trips: hearty soups, snack and granola bars, pasta and sauce, 1-pound rice boxes, peanut butter and jelly, mac and cheese, canned tuna and chicken, canned fruits and vegetables, dried and canned beans, pancake mix, cold cereal, oatmeal and shelf-stable milk.

Among the most needed household and personal items: laundry detergent, shampoo and conditioner, dryer sheets, toothbrushes and toothpaste, disinfectant wipes, hand and body soap, kitchen sponges, deodorant, liquid dish detergent, diapers and wipes (especially sizes 5 and 6), tissues and Kleenex.

From left: Greg Dobbs (Person2Person food pantry site manger) with Westport Sunrise Rotarians Rob Hauck and president George Masumian.

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What would “Westport … Naturally” be without a very cool deer photo?

Well, a lot leafier, for one thing …

(Photo/Katherine Bruan)

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And finally … today is the birthday of Waylon Jennings. Born in 1937, he died in 2002. Along the way, he gave us classics like:

[UPDATE] Jonathan Steinberg, Candice Savin Enter Race For Selectmen

Democratic State Representative Jonathan Steinberg has entered the race for 1st Selectman.

His running mate is Board of Education chair Candice Savin.

Steinberg — a native Westporter, and 1974 Staples High School graduate — is in his 6th term as state representative. As co-chair of the Public Health Committee, he worked closely with the Department of Public Health and governor’s office on COVID response.

A long-term member of both the Transportation and Energy & Technology Committees, he has addressed issues like electric vehicles, solar power and infrastructure. In Hartford, where he is a leader of the House Democratic Moderates Caucus, Steinberg has also been at the forefront of budget issues.

Jonathan Steinberg

Before joining the legislature, Steinberg spent 7 years on Westport’s RTM. He was elected unanimously 3 times as deputy moderator. He represented the RTM on the Town Plan Implementation Committee. He also co-founded the Westport Cinema Initiative, to bring a movie theater downtown.

Steinberg’s political career follows nearly 2 decades in healthcare marketing, with Fortune 100 companies. A graduate of Yale College and NYU’s Stern School of Business (MBA), his hobbies include softball, golf and antiquing. He and his wife Nancy have 3 children — all Staples graduates — and are members of Temple Israel, which his grandfather helped found.

Steinberg cites “friends on both sides of the political aisle, combining compromise with the need to move forward,” and more than 20 years’ experience in strategic analysis and decision-making in the business world, as reasons to run for 1st selectman.

“I have a vision for Westport,” he says. “No one will work harder than me.” Referring to the hours he puts in, he jokes he is one of the state’s “best minimum-wage workers.”

Jonathan Steinberg, in Hartford.

Steinberg’s vision includes reinstating “brown bag lunches,” implementing many of the Downtown Plan ideas (such as dredging the river, and embracing it for multi-use), encouraging economic vitality, and initiating conversations on topics like what to do with Baron’s South.

“The flip side of the pandemic is so much pent-up energy,” he says. “New families are here, looking to do things in new ways. I love the spirit of volunteerism here. Everyone wants to get involved, however, they can.”

Steinberg applauds Westport’s environmental awareness, but sees opportunities to do even more, in areas from expanded composting to additional solar panels. He’s interested too in expanding diversity among town employees, and encouraging mass transit.

All his ideas, he says, “relate to our values as a community.”

Steinberg says that “over many years, our selectmen have served our community well. We are proud of their managerial competence.” However, he would ask, “How can we do things differently? Do we need a director of economic development? What about charter revision?

“I think we can do a better job of interfacing with the community. I really want dialogue with residents, commissions and boards. I’d hit the ground running. I don’t have too many preconceptions. But I’m prepared to lead.”

Steinberg is pleased to run with Savin. “She’s demonstrated true leadership,” he says of her work with the Board of Education.

“Her ability to take on different tasks is what I want in a partner. We’d work together like (former selectmen) Gordon Joseloff and Shelly Kassen did.”

Candice Savin

Savin — a graduate of Johns Hopkins University and Duke University School of Law — began her career as a New York City prosecutor. After moving to Westport in 2002 with her husband and 2 small children, she built a thriving real estate law practice.

As Board of Ed chair she faced a series of challenges: a controversial superintendent of schools, mold at Coleytown Middle School, and COVID.

She is motivated by “a strong focus on kids, and the importance of consistency and excellence in our schools.” She is proud to have led the board during the past few difficult years. “Our schools are in a really good place now,” Savin says. “We have strong leadership and vision, and greatly improved maintenance.”

Savin — whose community involvement includes co-chairing the Westport Library’s “Booked for the Evening”; leading The Conservative Synagogue’s rabbi search, and serving as the Democratic Town Committee’s finance chair — says a major factor in her decision to run is “the chance to work with Jonathan. He’s decisive, he gets things done, he works super-hard for Westport, and he knows the issues better than anyone.

“We’re a great team. We know everyone, from young people to seniors. We have a broad connection to the community. And we both know how to build consensus, make tough decisions, be inclusive as possible, and lead in the right direction. We’ll be true to Westport’s values: the arts, environment, inclusion, and taking care of our neediest citizens.”

(Click here for the Steinberg/Savin website.)

 

The Cohort: Downtown Pop-Up Offers Hope, Resilience And Curated Goods

Last week on “06880,” Fred Cantor suggested that landlords offer short-term leases to help revitalize important areas like Main Street. He wondered why, for example, such a visible, viable location like the Remarkable Book Shop has remained vacant for so long.

Robbyn Footlick thought the same thing.

Robbyn Footlick

A high-powered pro who’d spent her career creating content — as a newspaper reporter, then supervising storytelling for ESPN shows and executive editor of ESPN The Magazine, most recently at a content strategy agency she helped found — Footlick used the COVID slowdown to explore a different concept: retail.

Curating and showcasing physical goods, she realized, was not much different from choosing stories to tell — and selecting the best place to tell them.

Sitting at GG & Joe, drinking matcha latte, gazing at the river (and inspired by the owners’ courage in opening in the midst of a global health crisis), she honed her concept.

The goal was to curate commonly themed art and goods — “none available on Amazon!” — in one space. Footlick had a COVID-influenced but all-encompassing name (The Cohort) and a first theme (“Friends and Family Edition,” inspired by what we held dear and what we missed during the pandemic).

A few months ago, she inquired about short-term leases on vacant downtown storefronts. Having never opened a retail business, she was not ready for long-term.

Most landlords said no. She was surprised. Who wouldn’t want a paying tenant, of any kind?

But — knowing nothing about commercial real estate — she assumed they had their reasons.

Eventually, she tried again at her favorite location. She noted her willingness to allow brokers to show the space to potential long-term tenants.

The landlord was flexible. Which is why this evening, The Cohort opens (reception, 5 to 7 p.m.). It’s right next to GG & Joe, at the Parker Harding Plaza entrance. It runs through August 15.

The Cohort. TD Bank is on the other side of the entrance to Parker Harding Plaza.

Footlick’s pop-up is a collection of people brought together by a longtime, close friend: Susan Eley. She owns a fine art gallery in Manhattan and Hudson, New York. Her parents — Richard and Carole Eisner — have a home in Weston, where Eley and Footlick spent memorable times growing up.

Many of the “Friends and Family” items were produced in Connecticut, including shibori napkins, dish towels from an indigo farm, and children’s prints and cards.

Margaret Fitzgerald’s work is on display at The Cohort.

Footlick loves being downtown. She draws energy from the crowds — particularly after a year of lockdowns. “We all appreciate the interaction that comes with walking into a shop or restaurant, engaging with other human beings,” she notes. “It’s heartening.”

The Cohort is all about “resilience, flexibility and hope,” she adds.

The same qualities that helped all of us make it through COVID — and gave her the confidence to keep looking for that short-term, let’s-open-a-pop-up- downtown lease.

(The Cohort is at 179 Main Street. It’s open Thursday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., and by appointment at 646-306-3274. For more information, email info@thecohortshop.com.)

Pic Of The Day #1518

Levitt Pavilion, from Grace Salmon Park (Photo/Patricia McMahon)

Tunnel Vision: Lighting Up Downtown

For 7 years, “Tunnel Vision” has been an intriguing — if overlooked and undervalued — part of Westport.

In 2014, artist/photographer/civic whirlwind Miggs Burroughs hung 16 lenticular images in the passageway between Main Street and Parker Harding Plaza.

Miggs Burroughs, in his “Tunnel Vision” creation.

Looked at one way, the photos — showing Westporters connecting with each other, each one changing depending on your viewing angle — turned what had been a damp, moldy Clockwork Orange-ish walkway into a tourist attraction.

Looked at another way, it reminded us that we are all connected.

Looked at a third way — today — it’s clear that the 16 hands, symbolizing love, friendship and community — need a bit of freshening up.

The lights have burned out the artworks’ colors. The photos need to be reprinted. The tunnel needs a new vision.

A restoration campaign is underway. Artist Mark Yurkiw says that Norwalk lighting designer Gary Novasel is helping procure the proper new lights. Duggal — an immigrant from India, who printed the original art — is ready to help again.

The cost is $12,000. Click here to donate, and for more information.

For special tour, click below:

BONUS MIGGS BURROUGHS NEWS:

The artist’s “Signs of Compassion” project from 5 years ago — another lenticular images project, this one combining Emily Dickson’s poem of that name with  Westporters using its words in American Sign Language — is headed to Montefiore Hospital.

The Bronx institution just acquired all 30 images. They embody the hospital’s mission of healing and compassion, and will be displayed permanently on site.

Roundup: June Snow, Safety Fence, Downtown Lights …

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That old saying about New England weather — if you don’t like it, wait a minute — is spot on. Still, it doesn’t usually snow in June.

If you’re Netflix, you make it happen. For a couple of weeks, a crew has filmed “The Noel Diary” in a residential neighborhood. It’s a Christmas (as in 2022) movie, so a bit of ingenuity is needed.

Here was one scene, yesterday. I’m sure it will look more realistic 18 months from now.

On screen, and in real life.

(Photo/Molly Alger)

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Meanwhile, summer is actually almost here. That means more folks walking, jogging, biking and driving past the former Positano restaurant on Hillspoint Road.

For over a year, permit violations have halted construction on what was to be a private residence. The building — half-finished, swathed in blue, surrounded by weeds — has become a neighborhood eyesore.

A security fence now encloses the property. That makes it safer.

But now it looks worse than ever.

(Photo/Dinkin Fotografix)

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The Westport Downtown Association’s GoFundMe campaign was a success.

The organization has installed more lights along Church Lane — including the Patagonia and Urban Outfitters buildings.

Next on the lights list: Main Street.

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Jim Hood lives on Compo Beach. Is that where his dog learned to swim? Or does it just paddle instinctively? Who cares? Here’s today’s “Westport … Naturally” photo.

(Photo/Jim Hood)

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And finally … today is Flag Day. Long may she wave, proudly and brave!