Category Archives: Downtown

Levitt Announces June Slate

When Staples principal Stafford Thomas took the Levitt Pavilion stage at Saturday’s annual Pops Concert, he announced: “We’re baaaack!

He meant that his high school’s singers, orchestras and bands were back performing live, outdoors.

Saturday night at the Levitt Pavilion. (Photo/Dan Woog)

But it was a reopening of the famed summer entertainment center too. After sitting dark during the very dark pandemic year of 2020, the Levitt has announced its June calendar.

Get ready for:

Charles Turner & Uptown Swing (Sunday, June 20, 7 p.m.): Jazz vocals, vibrant swing, vrituosic bebop and vital blues.

Treehouse Comedy (Tuesday, June 22, 7 p.m.): Sit down in your lawn chair for great standup.

Aztec Two-Step 2.0: Rex Fowler, Dodie Pettit & Friends (Thursday, June 24 , 7:30 p.m.): The long-running, beloved band’s latest incarnation, based right here in Westport. 2- and 3-part harmonies, multi-instrumental arrangements and dazzling guitar work. Special guest: Chris Coogan on keyboards.

P.J. Facifico: Full Band Show (Friday, June 25, 7:30 p.m.): The band’s debut single, “Coming Up For Air,” premiered on “Grey’s Anatomy,” and shot to #1 on iTunes’ Singer/Songwriter chart.

Binky Griptite Orchestra (Sunday, June 27, 7 p.m.): Binky was a founding member of Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings. He’s played with Janet Jackson and Amy Winehouse, and hosts WFUV’s popular Saturday night Boogie Down dance party. Now Binky is heavy into 1940s rhythm ‘n’ blues.

Binky Griptite

The  Suzanne Sheridan Band (Tuesday, June 30, 7 p.m.): The singer-songwriter and guitarist channels Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, Carole King, Carly Simon, Gordon Lightfoot and more. She tours internationally, from her Westport base.

Joanie Leeds: Children’s Series Launch (Wednesday, June 30, 7 p.m.): The 2021 Grammy winner for Best Children’s Album returns with an all-new show. She’s inspired by Harriet Tubman, Amelia Earhart, Ruth Bade Ginsburg  and more.

All above shows are free. To reserve a ticket, click here; then click on the show you want to see, for a link to options for a 2-, 4- or 6-person pod.

Ticketed benefits include Bruce Hornsby & the Noisemakers (June 14, sold out), and The Lone Bellow (Friday, August 6; click here for details and tickets).

Click here for more information on the Levitt Pavilion’s June schedule. The July calendar will be announced soon.

The Levitt Pavilion June season opens soon. (Drone photo/Dave Curtis, HDFA Photography.com)

[OPINION] Main Street Musings

Fred Cantor moved to Westport when he was 10. After Yale University and law school, he and his wife bought a 2nd home here. Then they moved permanently. They spent COVID in California, but are back now.

Fred is an astute observer of all things Westport. Today — looking backward and toward the future too — he trains his eye on downtown.

On Friday, the New York Times wrote about efforts in England to help keep alive and/or revitalize the nation’s “high streets” — the British equivalent of our Main Street — in towns around the country.

Among the ideas is the notion of short-term leases in certain instances — even just 3 months.

That got me thinking about one of the great mysteries of life (which perhaps “06880” readers who work in commercial real estate can answer): How come middle school students in Westport have no memory of any business operating out of the prime location where the Remarkable Book Shop was so successful for so many years?

How and why has that building remained vacant for so long?

The Remarkable Book Shop, back in the day. 

And is the concept of a short-term lease for perhaps a seasonal summer-related business, or another entity that would run from the beginning of October through Christmas feasible at that location? Or any retail site on Main Street?

On a related note: The Remarkable used to have display cases outside its store.  Even if the current owner of the building can’t find a suitable tenant for the space, is it worth it for the owner to consider renting to a business that wanted to operate a kiosk on its property? Are there other Main Street locations where a kiosk might make sense?

I have happily patronized the Strand Bookstore kiosk on 5th Avenue near Central Park South. Perhaps kiosks would add some street appeal to downtown.

Shopping at the Remarkable Book kiosks. (Photo/Fred Cantor)

Turning from England and New York to California: When we stayed not far from Laguna Beach, we enjoyed seeing how the town closed off the bottom portion of its Main Street equivalent — Forest Avenue — and turned it into a pedestrian mall. “The Promenade on Forest” featured temporary retail and dining decks, along with art displays.

I love what has happened here with Church Lane. And I know that Main Street has been closed off for an entire weekend for the annual Arts Festival.

I hope to hear from store proprietors on the lower half of Main Street whether they think it might be worthwhile to experiment with closing that section, perhaps for an entire week, to see if it successfully attracts more business.

At the same time, I would love to hear from local officials and residents who live near downtown whether such an experiment might be worth pursuing to evaluate the impact on traffic congestion near downtown.

This was Main Street, during the 2014 Art About Town festival.

Speaking of Laguna Beach: The town permitted installation right by City Hall of a fabulous artwork that generated a lot of interest.

Could Westport do something similar with Veterans Green on a regular basis? By that I mean perhaps scheduling periodic events such as small acoustic concerts?  Would that type of “happening” help make Main Street more of a destination?

I don’t claim to have any definitive answers. But I would have no objection if Main Street became something close to Yogi Berra’s famous observation: “Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.

Lighting Up Main Street

Lights! Action!

One follows the other. And if one group has its way, there will soon be more lights down.

With more action sure to follow.

The Westport Downtown Association’s newest project is “Light Up Main Street.” The idea is to continue the string lights — currently on Church Lane — all the way down Main Street.

Speaking of action: Josh Allen and Robert Cornield have offered to match up to $2,500 for any donations made.

Church Lane lights.

They’re parents who have each spent the last 12-plus years raising their families here, and supporting the community however they can.

From Coleytown, Greens Farms, Bedford and Staples schools, to Wakemen Town Farm, Little League baseball, DARE, Catch A Lift and other interests close to this town’s heart, both love this town.

Now they turn their eyes downtown.

Josh — who sits on the Westport Downtown Association –and Robert say,
“Tremendous progress has been made downtown, and there is no letting up.  With the continued beautification of Church Lane with ornamental baskets and hanging lights, live music on the weekends and outdoor dining, there is a desire by local merchants and community members to have this atmosphere flow right into Main Street.

“Bright lights always bring joy and happiness.  However making these improvements comes with a cost. We’ll match up to $2,500 for any donations made to lighting up Main Street.”

The Westport Downtown Association hopes many Westporters will “contribute to the continued beautification of our town, and feel a part of this positive change. The sense of community will be enhanced as we continue to make our surroundings more welcoming to all.”

To contribute and learn more, click here.

Hundreds Rally Against Anti-Semitism

Over the past year, Jesup Green has been the meeting place for social justice rallies.

Black Lives Matter and Asian American/Pacific Islander rallies have brought hundreds of people — in those groups, and allies — together to denounce hatred and violence.

Last night, over 300 people — of all faiths, and none — gathered to denounce antisemitism.

Rabbis spoke — and so did other religious leaders, politicians and Westporters. Speakers described incidents around the world, and much closer to home.

The message of solidarity with victims of antisemitism, and the desire for peace in Israel and the Middle East, was strong.

A sense of purpose mixed with feelings of sorrow. Once again, a large crowd united against hate realized: There is so much work to be done.

(Photo/JerriGrahamPhotography.com)

Rabbi Shira Sklar of Temple Shalom — a Staples High School graduate — spoke. (Photo/Darcy Hicks)

Also speaking: Kanwar Singh, a member of the Norwalk Sikh temple. (Photo/Darcy Hicks)

(Photo/Darcy Hicks)

1st Selectman Jim Marpe speaks. (Photo/JerriGrahamPhotography.com)

(Photo/JerriGrahamPhotography.com)

(Photo/JerriGrahamPhotography.com)

(Photo/JerriGrahamPhotography.com)

(Photo/JerriGrahamPhotography.com)

(Photo/JerriGrahamPhotography.com)

 

Roundup: Bear, Beach Sticker, Back …

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The past few days have brought numerous reports of a bear wandering in northern Westport. It is behaving normally — and non-aggressively.

The Westport Police Department says:

“Black bears are becoming increasingly common in Connecticut. To safely co-exist, residents are reminded to take precautions to prevent negative encounters.

“Bears have an incredible sense of smell. To prevent luring them towards your property, secure your garbage in sturdy covered containers in a garage or outbuilding. Residents who compost should do so responsibly. Do not throw meat scraps or greasy, oily, or sweet materials in your compost pile. These will attract bears and other animals.

“Clean barbecues and grills after each use, refrain from leaving pet food outdoors, and remove bird feeders from your property for the summer. Keep your eye on pets and small children playing outside.

“While it can be frightening to see a bear on or around your property, it is important to know that they are very timid animals. They try to avoid human contact.

“If sighted, use caution, and do not approach the bear. The mere presence of a bear does not necessitate its removal. If left alone and given an avenue for escape, the bear will usually wander back into more secluded areas. Sightings can be reported to Westport Animal Control at 203-341-5076, or reported to the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (click here).”

The bear on Old Hill. (Photo/Stella Wong)

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After a year’s hiatus, beach sticker sales to non-residents is back.

Westport’s Parks & Recreation Department began sales yesterday. The cost is $775 (plus tax). Click here, then follow the “Membership” links.

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Back too are Staples Players. Their laugh-out-loud funny, wide-ranging, clever and very welcome spring production — “Words Words Words … and Music” drew raves when the high school troupe returned to stage last month.

Now it’s available — this weekend only — as a video stream. Starting at noon on Saturday (June 5) through midnight Monday (June 7), you can watch the show as many times as you like. It’s a great offer for out-of-towners, and anyone who missed the show (or wants to see it again). Click here for tickets.

Sophie Rossman, Benny Zack and Samanath Webster in “Words Words Words.” They are monkey, writing “Hamlet.” Or trying to … (Photo/Kerry Long)

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How “back” is Westport?

The Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce announces the return of 2 favorite events. Both were knocked out last year by COVID.

Slice of Saugatuck returns Saturday, September 11. It’s an afternoon of food, entertainment, food, games, food, fun and food. It takes place in the pizza-shaped “slice” of Saugatuck that is home to so many restaurants, and is so easily walkable.

The Dog Festival returns Sunday, October 10. Winslow Park — always a haven for canines and their masters — really goes to the dogs. It’s filled with vendors, K-9 demonstrations, obstacle courses, contests and much more.

To learn more about both events, click here.

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Also back after a year away: The Y’s Men’s Tuesday evening gathering at Compo Beach. Non-men are, as usual, always welcome.

(Photo/Molly Alger)

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And back too is the Longshore pool. Michael Catarevas reports: “After rainouts Saturday and Sunday, and no one showing up on Memorial Day, I was delighted to be first in the water this season — especially after it was closed all last year. I had three pools to myself Tuesday afternoon, though I only used the big one. The water was very cold, but great!”

Michael Catarevas: first in the Longshore pool. (Photo/Patrick Haggerty)

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Yet another post-pandemic sign: Starting Monday (June 7), the Board of Education will return to in-person meetings. Everyone must wear a mask, and maintain 3 feet of social distancing. Meetings will still be livestreamed on the town website and Cablevision Channel 78.

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Today (Wednesday, June 2) is the 1st-ever Lou Gehrig Day across Major League Baseball.

Chuck Haberstroh co-chairs the group that lobbied for the day. It will be featuresd on all media platforms.

A large group of Westporters will be at Yankee Stadium, honoring Chuck’s mom Patty Haberstroh, an inspiration to her family and the entire town.

Click here for an interview with Chuck and Sweeny Murti, WFAN’s longtime Yankees beat reporter. Chuck starts around the 15-minute mark.

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Speaking of baseball: 50 years to the day after Staples High School beat Norwalk 4-2 in a state tournament game, Class of ’71 teammates Nils Nilsen and Steve McCoy returned to the Wrecker diamond.

They were in the stands to watch the ’21 team open its own state tournament. Unfortunately Staples fell, 9-4 to New Canaan.

Half a century ago, Nilsen halted a Bear rally with 1-hit relief pitching. McCoy had 2 hits, including a game-winning double.

Nilsen went on to pitch at Harvard University. McCoy became a soccer captain, and the 3rd-leading career goal scorer at Duke.

Nils Nilsen and Steve McCoy, at the Staples baseball field. (Photo/Fred Cantor)

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MoCA Westport’s “Yappy Hour” — yes, for dogs — has been postponed. It was set for tomorrow (June 3); the new date is Thursday, June 10.

The event includes custom drinks (for owners), and a chance for pets to meet others, sit for a free portrait, and romp outdoors. It’s free — but all dogs must be leashed. (MoCA encourages donations of unopened food or treats to support local rescue organizations. For more information, click here.

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A crew of volunteers — including Danielle Dobin, Michael Cammeyer, Emma Rojas, Sarah Manning, Luc Lafonta and Shawn Kapitan turned out yesterday to change the lights on the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen bridge.

Danielle Dobin and Michael Cammeyer, on the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge.

They now shine in the colors of the rainbow, to celebrate Pride Month. Enjoy them throughout June!

(Photo/Brian McGunigle)

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One of the 3 American oystercatcher chicks at Compo Beach has died, Carolyn Doan reports.

She adds: “My son James is a huge fan of the piping plovers, so we visit the area regularly. The Audubon Society has talked with the town because of drones being flown overhead. Oystercatchers attack them frantically to distract them from the nest, thinking they are predators.”

So, Westporters: Give all these birds space. They were there long before us!

American oystercatcher and chick (Carolyn Doan)

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Today’s “Westport … Naturally” takes us to the Lansdowne garden of Lauri Weiser. What a spring we’ve had!

(Photo/Laurii Weiser)

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Before we close the book on the 2021 Memorial Day parade, here’s one final shot. It’s a unique drone perspective from Joel Triesman, as marchers turn onto the Post Road and cross the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge:

(Drone photo/Joel Triesman)

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And finally … the lyrics and art are cringe-worthy. But in honor of the bear that is doing who knows what in our woods:

Pic Of The Day #1506

Strolling on the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge (Photo/JC Martin)

Roundup: Book Sale, Fine Arts Festival, Ben Casparius …

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Has the dreary weather got you down?

Think back to a year ago this Memorial Day weekend. Life was a lot worse. So go out and enjoy Westport’s 2 big events. They’re great. Many people have worked hard to make them happen. And they’re important to the sponsors.

The 48th annual Fine Arts Festival runs from now through 5 p.m. Artists on displya includes painting, photography, sculpture, fiber, printmaking, mixed media, glass, ceramics, jewelry, wood, graphics and print making.

There’s music, food, and plenty of activities for children. Click here for more details.

Today is also the last day of the Westport Library Book Sale — which means all books, CDs and DVDs are half price.

Every customer gets a coupon for The Westport Book Shop (used book store on Jesup Green). The sale is open from noon to 5 p.m. And you’ll be dry: It’s all inside the library!

Westport LIbrary Book Sale

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The University of Connecticut baseball team plays in this afternoons Big East finals (1 p.m.).

Yesterday, Ben Casparius got them there.

The 2017 Staples High School state championship team captain and Connecticut Gatorade Player of the Year pitched 7 innings great innings against Creighton. The Huskies won 2-0 in the conference semifinal, played in Mason, Ohio.

Casparius struck out 13, while allowing just 3 hits. After the game he said, “it was an awesome experience, an awesome day for us, and we’re ready to go [Sunday]. We’re not even close to done yet.” (Hat tip: David Goldstein)

Ben Casparius, in a post-game interview yesterday.

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Speaking of Staples grads: Class of 2012 alum Ellen Kempner leads Palehound, an indie rock duo. She met Melinda (who records as Jay Som) on tour

They realized they’re compatible — “two breathy-voiced songwriters whose music can be fragile or bruising, offering both vulnerability and resolve,” the New York Times‘ Jon Pareles writes — and joined forces.

In January 2020 they rented an Airbnb house for two weeks, and recorded an album. They called themselves Bachelor.

It’s been released as “Doomin’ Sun.” Pareles says:

Kempner and Duterte brought out the best in each other. In the songs they wrote together, satisfaction often stays just out of reach. They look at desire, estrangement, insecurity, pop fandom, shoplifting and, in the album’s title song, climate change. And they sing like sisters who know each other’s secrets.

Click here for the full Times story. (Hat tip: John Karrel)

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Up on Weston’s Kellogg Hill, Jolantha celebrates Memorial Day:

(Photo/Hans Wilhelm)

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On Friday night, MoCA Westport welcomed the Alexa Tarantino Quartet. The Jazz at Lincoln Center Emerging Artist performed a great set — including the Connectcut premiere of their “Firefly” album. Attendees enjoyed a Firefly aperitif too.

Next up in the Music at MoCA Series: Jocelyn and Chris, a sibling rock duo seen recently on “The Today Show.” They perform outdoors on June 11 (7 p.m.). Click here for tickets.

Alexa Tarantino Quartet, at MoCA Westport.

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Tina Green sent along today’s “Westport … Naturally” photo, of a newly hatched peregrine falcon. She notes that the birds been nesting in the Saugatuck area for many years.

(Photo/Tina Green)

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And finally … in honor of Westport’s Fine Arts Festival:

 

Pic Of The Day #1503

Church Lane scene (Photo/JC Martin)

Fine Arts Festival Debuts Downtown

Early rain kept crowds low, when the 48th annual Westport Fine Arts Festival opened this morning downtown.

But the showers stopped, the temperature rose, and traffic is picking up at the Westport Downtown Association event.

The show runs today (Saturday) until 5 p.m., and tomorrow 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Artists on displya includes painting, photography, sculpture, fiber, printmaking, mixed media, glass, ceramics, jewelry, wood, graphics and print making.

There’s music, food, and plenty of activities for children. Plus: It’s nowhere near as hot as the usual mid-July oven!

Click here for more details.

Eric Heitmann of Hopewell Junction, New York was ready this morning, on the Post Road near Main Street. When the rain let up, he displayed more of his nature-oriented work. (Photo/John Karrel)

Friday Flashback #246

Westport’s Memorial Day parade is a small-town classic. And photos like this are classic too:

Mimi Rossell Wolfe posted it to social media the other day.

It’s from 1967 or ’68, she says. Her mother was the Cub Scout leader.

Over half a century later, some things have changed. Traffic on Main Street is one-way (and the parade no longer takes that route). The Mobil station is Vineyard Vines. Sport Mart is — I forget.

But crowds still line the sidewalks. Cub Scouts still march. (A few) kids still ride their bikes.

See you at Monday’s parade. Be sure to take photos, to post on whatever replaces social media in 2075 or ’76.