Quietly — but very popularly — the Westport Library’s StoryFest has become the largest literary festival in Connecticut.
This year’s event — the 4th annual — runs from October 28 through November 2. There is something for every age.
And every type of reader.
The kickoff (October 28, 7 p.m.) features a virtual conversation with politics and Wall Street writer Michael Lewis. His 16th book, The Premonition: A Pandemic Story, follows a biochemist, public health worker and federal government employee as they confront the pandemic, and realize the federal government’s response is woefully inadequate.
The next night (Friday, October 29, 7 p.m.), Mallory O’Meara launches her new book Girly Drinks!
It tells the history of the female distillers, drinkers and brewers who have played a vital role in the creation and consumption of alcohol. Drinking is not just (and has never been) about. men. To register for the virtual presentation — including a recipe for a signature drink by SoNo 1420 — click here.
On the day before Halloween (Saturday, October 30, 10 a.m.), young readers will read Pink or Treat with Victoria Kann (and enjoy a Pinkalicious parade. Costumes are encouraged. Click here to register.
Saturday programming continues at 1 p.m. with a virtual panel discussion of When Things Get Dark: A Shirley Jackson Anthology. It’s a collection of new short stories inspired by, and in tribute to, the famed author (and former Westport resident).
Panelists include Stephen Graham Jones, Seanan McGuire, John Langan, and Paul Tremblay. Click here to register.
The final event on October 30 (7 p.m.) is an an All Hallow’s Eve in-person celebration with 2 of horror fiction’s biggest stars: authors Stephen Graham Jones (My Heart is a Chainsaw; The Only GoodIndians) and Grady Hendrix (Final Girls Support Group). Click here to register.
StoryFest emds pm Tuesday, November 2 (7:30 p.m.) with a special in-person event. Bestselling author Mitch Albom launches his newest book: The Stranger in the Lifeboat. It’s a fresh take on themes that have defined his work. Click here to register.
Worried about traffic? Want more bike lanes? How can we balance growth with greenery? Interested in Westport’s goal of Net Zero by 2050, energy, transportation, waste, water and conservation issues?
Sustainable Westport and Earthplace are sponsoring a pair of “environmental debates,” prior to next month’s election. Candidates for the Planning & Zoning Commission will meet this Monday (October 18, 6:30 p.m.). Those running for Board of Selectmen will meet on Thursday, October 21 (7 p.m.).
Both events are virtual. Click here for links, and more details. The debates will be recorded, and posted on the Sustainable Westport website for viewing later.
Sunday is International Observe the Moon Night. The worldwide public event encourages observation and appreciation of (yes) the moon.
The Westport Astronomical Society invites everyone to the observatory on Bayberry Lane this Sunday (8 p.m. — only if skies are clear). It’s a chance to see the moon as you’ve never seen it before. All you have to do is look up.
Chris Frantz knows music. The Talking Heads and Tom Tom Club artist — and Fairfield resident also knows the importance of introducing new musicians to new audiences.
He’s partnering with the Westport Library on a new series. The inaugural “Chris Frantz Presents Emerging Musicians” concert (December 4) features New York’s Lulu Lewis, and New Haven’s The Problem with Kids Today. Both specialize in punk rock.
This is another music collaboration and production by Verso Studios at the Westport Library and the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce. The series will feature up-and-coming regional, national and international talent, hand-picked by Frantz..
Vice President Larry Kleinman won the President’s Lifetime Achievement Award. He logged vastly more than the 4,000 volunteer hours required for the honor. Kleinman also received Crew Chief of the Year.
Jenna Baumblatt and Ryan Blake were named Youth Corps Members of the Year. EMT of the Year went to Yves Cantin, an ex-president who stays involved.
Volunteer of the Year is Andrew O’Brien.
Volunteer Service Award winners include James Bairaktaris, Jenna Baumblatt,. Ella Bayazit, Ryan Blake, Michael Burns, Yves Cantin, Andrew Dinitz, Carol Dixon, Danielle Faul, Leah Foodman, Daniel Guetta, Dorothy Harris, Deanna Hartog, Jonathan Huzil, Mary Inagami, Vignesh Kareddy. Larry Kleinman, Eliza Lang, Christopher Moore, Annika Morgan, Christopher Muschett, Andrew O’Brien, Lynette Pineda, April Rademacher, Stewart Reifler, Morgan Rizy, Joshua Rosen, Alice Sardarian, Kathleen Smith, Ian Speers, Swati Sriram, Nancy Surace, Audrone Tarnok and Ekaterina Taylor-Yeremeeva.
Honorees (clockwise, from upper left):Yves Cantin, Jenna Baumblatt, Larry Kleinman, Ryan Blake.
Despite the recent deaths of 3 of the their most active, engaged members — and the COVID cancellation of the traditional Great Duck Race and Wine Tasting fundraisers — Westport’s Sunrise Rotary Club pushes forward with its mission to give talent, time and money to community and social causes.
Sunrise Rotary’s International Service Committee got approval last week for 2 new projects: sustainable agriculture to benefit Syrian refugees in Jordan, and battling malnutrition through improved food security in Guatemala. Members are also excited about participating in the upcoming Bridgeport schools’ Read Aloud Day.
For more information on Westport Sunrise Rotary, click here.
Up Next Teens is a Staples High School organization that fights food insecurity in Fairfield County.
They’re sponsoring tomorrow’s Remarkable Theater showing of “Pirates of the Caribbean.” Ticket purchasers have the option of contributing $25 to their fundraiser. Click here for tickets. Enjoy the show — and help a great cause.
And finally … on this day in 1878, the Edison Electric Light Company began operation. By 1890 it merged with several other Edison companies, and became the Edison General Electric Company. Today we know it as GE.
Domestic violence is real, and part of Westport life.
Next Monday (October 18, 7 p.m.), the Westport Domestic Violence Task Force, Westport Human Services Department and Westport Library will present an important webinar.
“When Stop Doesn’t Work: What is the Impact on our Children?” features Ann Rodwell-Lawton, associate director of the Domestic Violence Crisis Center. She and Liz Modugno — an alcohol and addiction counselor at Westport’s Aspire Counseling — will discuss the generational impact of trauma and family violence on children. Click here to register.
Westport native Bruce Michelson is now an English professor — and noted Mark Twain scholar — at the University of Illinois. He credits Burr Farms Elementary School 6th grade teacher June Jack with getting him interested in the famed author.
John Kelley — who sent along this interview with Michelson from the Mark Twain Circle of America newsletter — recalls a field trip to Twain’s Hartford home with that class. Michelson mentions the visit in the piece.
It took place more than 60 years ago. Who knows what youngster today will follow a career in the 2080s that started — perhaps today — in one of our elementary schools?
At Winslow Park. another dog owner told me he had seen a dead dog on the road just outside a North Compo entrance — one of several openings in the stone wall along the road. Why are those openings not gated to prevent such a tragedy? Dogs will be dogs, and one unauthorized squirrel chase in the wrong direction could spell disaster.
If the town can’t swing it, maybe a group of regular Winslow Park dog owners could get together with a plan to chip in and make this happen.
There are gates — though open on this part of the Winslow Park stone wall. (Nell Waters Bernegger)
Longtime Westporter June Fernie died recently. She was 94 years old.
A child of the Depression and World War II, she was the eldest daughter in a family of 7 children. She left her home in Guelph, Ontario, Canada at 17 for Toronto, where she worked as secretary at an advertising agency. Her life changed when John Fernie, a recently discharged RAF pilot and artist from Scotland, walked through the door looking for a job.
After a quick courtship they married and emigrated to the US in 1947, making their first home in a cold-water flat in Brooklyn.
A talented illustrator, John found work quickly at a prestigious Madison Avenue ad agency. Working together, the newlyweds earned success.
In 1950 they moved into their first real home in Westport. Their children Bruce, heather and Mitchell were born and raised there.
June and John enjoyed all that New York, Westport and London had to offer in the swinging ‘60s, socializing with creatives from the art and literary worlds as well as entertainers from movies and music.
June organized family skiing in Vermont every winter, and annual summer holidays in England and Europe. Supportive of John’s love of fast automobiles, she was an enthusiastic pit crew during frequent weekends at the racetrack.
In 1970 June and John moved their family to Vermont, before finally settling
in Kennebunkport, Maine in 1980.
June was a talented administrator who, in addition to managing her husband’s art business, worked for many years as an administrative assistant in Maine. Her years as a volunteer at the Kennebunkport Historical Society brought her a great deal of pleasure.
June is survived by her children Bruce (Katherine Walsh) of West Tisbury, Massachusetts and Heather Fernie McInnis (Craig) McInnis of Kennebunkport; daughter-in-law Barbara Borchardt of Cumberland, Maine; foster daughter Jill Deveraux of Oro Valley, Arizona; grandchildren
Alexander, Dana, Bowen, Avery, Mitchell and Trevor, and great-grandchildren Mae Fernie, Helena and Ollie.
The Westport Library Book Sale earlier this month exceeded already high expectations. That’s due in part to over 200 volunteer who assisted with setup, the event itself and cleanup. Other volunteers work year long processing books, and helping at the Westport Book Shop.
Organizes give a special shoutout to organizations that supported the effort, including the Westport Young Woman’s League, Neighbors and Newcomers of Westport, Abilis, Westport Public Library staff, Staples Service League of Boys, Westport National Charity League, Builders Beyond Borders, and Staples High School National Honor Society.
All proceeds of the sale support the Westport Library, and the employment of adults with disabilities.
Staples Service League of Boys (SLOBs) at the Westport Library book sale.
Three attorneys at Westport’s FLB Law — Stephen Fogerty, Eric Bernheim and Joshua Auxier — have been named to the 2021 Connecticut Super Lawyers list. Brian Tims has been named to the publication’s Rising Stars roster.
Super Lawyers lists are generated by peer ratings.
The Westport Library’s Malloy Lecture in the Arts has drawn some impressive names here: Philippe de Montebello, Arthur Miller, Christo, Joshua Bell, Joyce Carol Oates, John Lithgow, Clive Davis and Salman Rushdie, to name just a few.
This year’s guest is equally luminous. But she’s a lot more familiar locally.
Kelli O’Hara “comes to town” November 11 (7 p.m.).
Our neighbor just happens to be one of Broadway’s great leading ladies. She earned a Tony Award in 2015 for her portrayal of Anna in “The King and I,” along with Drama League and Outer Circle nominations.
The Oklahoma native made her Broadway debut in “Jekyll & Hyde.” She followed with shows like “The Light in the Piazza,” which garnered her first award nominations. She got more for “The Pajama Game,” “South Pacific,” “The Bridges of Madison County,” “Kiss Me Kate” and others.
O’Hara also starred in NBC’s live telecast of “Peter Pan.” She made her Metropolitan Opera debut in “The Merry Widow,” with Renee Fleming. She is a frequent guest on PBS’ Memorial Day and July 4th celebrations, and has performed i Kennedy Center tributes for Jerry Herman and Barbra Streisand.
She and her husband, musician/filmmaker Greg Naughton, have 2 children. O’Hara is passionate about furthering the arts in education. She serves on the boards of New York City Center and the New York Pops.
The Malloy Lecture in the Arts is the legacy of the late Susan Malloy. It was created in 2002 as a free, public annual discussion by an individual with significant cultural influence, whose work has enhanced an understanding and appreciation of the arts.
A limited number of in-person tickets are available, beginning at 10 a.m. today (Tuesday, October 12). Click here to register. The event will also be livestreamed and recorded.
Westport’s real estate market continues to sizzle.
According to Brown Harris Stevens, though the 189 homes that closed in Westport in the 3rd quarter of 2021 represented a 29% decrease from the same period last year, that’s still the 2nd highest number of closings for the quarter in 20 years.
The average house closing price rose 5o $1.86 million, a 9% year-over-year increase and the highest for any quarter in Westport in the past decade.
Homes on average sold for 101.4% of the list price — the 2nd straight quarter it’s been over 100%.
Closed houses in the 3rd quarter spent an average of 58 days on the market — a record low. (Hat tip: Roe Colletti)
This house at 5 Hedley Farms Road in the Greens Farms neighborhood is on the market at $12.6 million.
Westport’s 25th annual Mental Health Breakfast is set for October 26 (8 a.m., Westport Library). Residents can attend in person, and join virtually.
The event will address the intersection of youth mental health and substance abuse. Dr. Aaron Wiener will offer insights about youth drug trends and the potential impact of recent marijuana legalization, followed by audience questions and further opportunities for discussion and networking among providers.
The town has just received a big gift. Dorsky Gallery Curatorial Programs in New York donated 23 prints, created in the 1970s by noted artist Richard Hunt (b. 1936) to the Westport Public Art Collections.
The gift helps realize the Westport Arts Advisory Committeee’s initiative to “contemporize and diversify the public art collection,” says town arts curatoro Kathie Bennewitz.
The works will be featured in a 2022 exhibition at MoCA, showcasing WestPAC’s recent accessions and rich holdings.
1st Selectman Jim Marpe and town arts curator Kathie Bennewitz flank Noah Dorsky,. They admire the Dorsky Gallery’s gift of 23 prints.
There’s no end to the wonders of “Westport … Naturally.”
Yesterday it was termites. Today we feature a mushroom. Matt Murray spotted this beauty in the small park on Compo Beach Road by Gray’s Creek — not far from the graves of men who died at the Battle of Compo Hill.
Former owner of Crossroads Ace Hardware, current RTM member, he’s got his finger on the pulse of every issue in town. He knows the ins and outs, pros and cons of life here today. He’s got plenty of opinions — but he delivers them with grace, warmth and optimism.
No one loves Westport more than Jimmy. And no one articulates that love better than he.
The other day, we sat on the Westport Library Forum stage. Thanks to Verso Studios, our conversation is now part of the “06880: The Podcast” series. Click here to enjoy Jimmy Izzo’s memories, insights and ideas.
Over the past week, 15 COVID cases have been identified at Saugatuck Elementary School.
Superintendent of schools Thomas Scarice says, “Although there appears to be very limited transmission within the school as new cases span multiple grades and classrooms, by definition, a sudden rise in the number of cases at this rate constitutes an outbreak.”
Officials asked the state Department of Public Health to review the cases, and the school district’s mitigating measures. Scarice said, “This discussion affirmed that community transmission (i.e. after school activities, large community social events, etc.) has likely contributed to the recent rise in cases at SES. As a result, it appears that in-school mitigating measures have been effective. “
The DPH recommended a round of surveillance testing for all students and staff at SES. Testing is set for tomorrow (Friday, October 1).
Sustainable Westport has taken a giant step forward, with the appointment of 2 new co-directors.
Gately Ross has dedicated her career to the health and conservation of wild and domestic animals, and the health of the environment. She combines a deep understanding of ecology and human impact on populations and ecosystems with clinical practice, team leadership and training experience in veterinary emergency and critical care medicine.
She has an undergraduate degree in biology from the College of Charleston, a masters of science from San Francisco State University, and a doctorate in veterinary medicine from Tufts University. A Westport resident since 2007, Gately lives in Greens Farms with her husband, 3 boys and rescue dog.
Johanna Martell has over 15 years experience as a legal and business advisor, with a focus on commercial real estate, corporate, tax and estate planning. She holds an undergraduate degree in political economy from Princeton University and a law degree from Georgetown University Law Center. A Westport resident since 2013, she also lives in Greens Farms with her husband and 3 sons.
There’s a new program on the youth basketball scene.
The Westport Weston Family YMCA is introducing a basketball program for grades K-4. The program will introduce fundamentals in a fun way. Light competition begins for the 3rd graders.
The program is run by Mike Evans. The Weston High School all-state selection played at Hamilton College, then in Belfast and as a volunteer assistant coach at Harvard. He’s been a shooting instructor for NBA professionals too
High school students will help out.
Kindergartners through 2nd graders will have clinics on Saturdays, in November and December.
Third and fourth graders will have Saturday clinics, plus one weekday practice. They’ll play intrasquad games, and perhaps face an outside opponent too.
Lewis Grossman is a Staples High School graduate, and professor of law and history at American University. He specializes in food, drug and health law. His new book — Choose Your Medicine: Freedom of Therapeutic Choice in America — examines that topic from the Revolutionary War to the Trump presidency.
He’ll be at the Westport Library on October 12 (7 p.m.) to discuss his findings. The event is both in-person and livestreamed. To register for a seat or watch from home — and purchase a signed copy of the book — click here.
ArtSmart — the joint program between the Westport PTA Council and Westport Library that brings arts education and creative arts programming into elementary schools — held a kickoff event yesterday at the Westport Library.
Attendees (who do not need art or teaching experience) learned how they can help. A workshop for new volunteers follows on October 13. For more information, email co-chair Danielle Dobin: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The youngest attendee watches Danielle Dobin explain the ArtSmart program.
A few tickets remain for Earthplace’s major fundraiser.
The “Woodside Bash” includes a harvest dinner under the stars, open bar, mechanical bull and music by the party band Pimpinella. It’s this Saturday (October 2, 7 to 10 p.m.). Click here for tickets. Proceeds help fund Earthplace’s many environmental education programs, their museum and trails and more.
The fun continues the next day (Sunday, October 3, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.), with a Family Festival. Activities include a climbing wall, apple slingshot, donuts on a string, pumpkin bowling, hayride, corn pool, food trucks and more. $10 for adults; $5 for children. Kids under 2 go free!
Sure, you can go to the Tribeca Film Festival in New York.
But you can cut your schlep considerably, with a trip to the Westport Library’s Short Cuts Film Festival.
The 11th annual event will be screened live on the spectacular HD screen in the Trefz Forum — and online too — on 3 Thursdays: October 14, November 4 and November 18.
Tribeca selects 90 short films, from over 3,000 submissions. The Short Cuts Festival chooses 15 of those — “the best of the best.”
This year’s lineup includes 2 narrative/animated programs, and a first-ever documentary evening. Talkbacks with directors are scheduled too. For complete information on all films, including tickets, click here.
“The Kicksled Choir” — a Norwegian film — won the Best Narrative prize at the Tribeca Film Festival.
You may have seen Robin Wolfe Scheffler running around town.
The son-in-law of longtime Westporters Steven Parton and Melody James loves training, whenever he’s here. Sometimes he pauses in mid-run to take photos, like this dramatic shot of the Staples High School track:
It will all pay off at the 125th Boston Marathon October 11. He’s using the fabled event a a fundraiser for the National Braille Press’ children’s literacy program.
“Reading with my young son has been one of the best parts of being a parent. But that same experience costs 3 times more for families with blind or visually-impaired members,” he says. Click here to support Robin.
Westport Country Playhouse’s Script in Hand play reading is always popular.
The next one — of “Mrs. Mannerly,” a comedy about a young boy and his manners teacher — will reach a wider audience than usual. It will be filmed — with a live audience — on Monday, October 11 (7 p.m.). The performance will be available for on-demand streaming from October 13-17.
“Mrs. Mannerly” will feature Playhouse favorites Mark Shanahan and Anne Keefe in the roles of student and teacher.
In-person tickets are $20. Tickets for on-demand streaming are $20 per individual, $40 for 2, $80 household. Each purchase entitles the buyer to an individual link. Click here, To purchase tickets click here, call 203-227-4177, or email email@example.com.
Today’s “Westport … Naturally” photo comes courtesy of Julie Blume. Her husband took this picture of a baby opossum Monday night. She reports that he — the animal, not her husband –“was in our backyard, hopefully eating lots of ticks.”
And finally … happy birthday to Jerry Lee Lewis. The wild rock and rockabilly pianist as survived several wild episodes — marriage to his 13-year-old cousin, an arrest at Graceland for allegedly attempting to shoot Elvis Presley, and IRS woes — and turns 86 today.
Click here to help support “06880” via credit card or PayPal. Any amount is welcome — and appreciated! Reader contributions keep this blog going. (Alternate methods: Please send a check to: Dan Woog, 301 Post Road East, Westport, CT 06880. Or use Venmo: @DanWoog06880. Or Zelle: firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks!)