Category Archives: Organizations

Good Food, Great Prices Mark Restaurant Week

If you think Fairfield has stolen all of Westport’s culinary thunder, I have 2 words: “Restaurant Week.”

In fact, our dining options are so many and varied, we can’t fit Restaurant Week into just 7 days.

The annual event runs from this Sunday (October 2) for 2 weeks (through October 16). If you want to be technical, it all started earlier this month, with sidewalk samples provided by the Slice of Saugatuck.

Tutti's owners Pasquale and Maria Funicello -- and their family -- are proud partners in Restaurant Week.

Tutti’s owners Pasquale and Maria Funicello — and their family — are proud partners in Restaurant Week.

This year’s list includes 25 eateries, and 1 specialty cocktail bar. They’re spread from Saugatuck to Southport, and all offer prix fixe menus and drinks. The range is $15-$25 for lunch, $25-$35 for dinner. Brunch begins at $15.

Restaurant Week is promoted by the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce, and sponsored by Castlekeep Advisors, WEBE 108 and WICC 600.

Here are the participating restaurants. If you can’t find one you like — well, there’s always Fairfield.

  • 323 Main
  • Arezzo
  • Boca (2nd week only)
  • Da Pietro’s
  • Fleishers Craft Butchery
  • Gray Goose
  • Harvest
  • Jeera
  • Le Penguin
  • Paci
  • Pane e Bene
  • Pearl
  • Positano’s
  • Rive Bistro
  • Rizzuto’s
  • Sakura
  • Spotted Horse
  • Tarantino
  • Tarry Lodge
  • Tavern on Main
  • Terrain Garden Café
  • The Boathouse
  • Tutti’s
  • Via Sforza
  • Wafu
  • And … Vine  Wine Bar

Kids, Cops Join Forces

Across America, police departments and the communities they serve are examining their relationships.

For several years, Westport cops and teenagers have worked together, playing dodgeball and meeting informally.

Now we’re kicking it up a notch.

The Westport Police and Department of Human Services are teaming up in a Police-Youth Collaborative. Students will meet with officers throughout the year, planning fun events and doing community service projects in town.

The idea is to get 15-20 teens, and 5-7 officers who don’t regularly interact with youth, to build stronger, healthier relationships, develop mutual respect, and create a better community.

Then deputy, now chief Foti Koskinas (left) played on this winning Dodge-a-Cop dodgeball team last fall.

Then deputy, now chief Foti Koskinas (left) played on this winning Dodge-a-Cop dodgeball team last fall.

Two activities are already scheduled for this month: a high ropes course (Sunday, October 9 at the Discovery Museum in Bridgeport) and a distracted driving event at Staples (Saturday, October 22),

Sergeant Sereniti Dobson and Human Services’ youth services program director Kevin Godburn secured a state Office of Policy and Management grant of nearly $10,000. It pays for some police overtime and team-building exercises.

“Kids can be catalysts. They can bring change to their peers,” Godburn explains. “Kids need to understand cops more, and police officers can understand where Westport kids are coming from.”

Everyone is excited, Godburn adds. “There’s always a positive response when kids and cops work, play and interact together. Both sides really do want to get to know the other.”

Walk With Gigi For ALS Awareness

For over 30 years, Gigi of Westport was a well-known, beloved local institution.

Raised in Egypt, England and Switzerland, with an MBA from the London School of Economics, Gigi Sakr and her skincare and medical aesthetics business helped countless Westport women look better.

But she also helped raise the confidence of unemployed women desperate for work, and the self-esteem of acne-scarred teenagers. She had plenty of high-end clients, and volunteered her services for plenty more who could not pay.

Gigi Sakr and her daughter, Gizelle Begler.

Gigi Sakr and her daughter, Gizelle Begler.

Gigi was also one of the first female coaches with the Westport Soccer Association. In  her spare time, she walked — a bandanna wrapped around her spiky blonde hair — anywhere near the water.

Five months ago, she closed Gigi of Westport. She’d been hospitalized with blood clots in her lungs, and an inflammation of her heart. At the same time, she was diagnosed with ALS — commonly called Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

“I always felt like a 30-year-old,” Gigi says. “Now I feel like I’m 90.”

She cannot walk or use her hands. Breathing is difficult.

“You see yourself dying a slow death,” Gigi adds. “Nothing can be done. There’s no treatment.”

She spends her days taking care of herself. And doing what she can to help others.

On Saturday, October 15 (10 a.m., Sherwood Island State Park), the ALS Association will sponsor a walk. The goal is twofold: to raise funds for, and awareness of, the disease.

Gigi Sakr in her native Egypt, a year ago.

Gigi Sakr in her native Egypt, a year ago.

Despite the famous ice bucket challenge, too many people know too little about it.

She is organizing a group — “Team Gigi” — for the ALS Walk. Family members (including her daughter Gizelle Begler, who closed her very successful couture business to take care of Gigi), friends and former customers have all signed on.

Gigi will be at the walk. And not just to cheer everyone on.

She’ll participate too — in a wheelchair.

“I’m gonna do it!” she promises.

Her voice and body are weak. But her spirit is very, very strong.

(To sign up for Team Gigi — or make a contribution — click here.)

Next Attraction: A Drive-In Theater!

Today’s teenagers have out on a lot of things:

Dial phones. Dial-up modems. Drive-in movies.

Stephen Rowland is a very involved Staples High School senior. Among other activities he’s a varsity soccer player, serves meals at the Gillespie Center, and is a Homes With Hope youth board member.

A year ago, his father casually mentioned drive-in movies. Intrigued by the concept, Stephen searched online for more.

Kids: This was how America used to roll.

Kids: This was how America used to roll.

Not long after, the Homes With Hope youth board was casting about for a new, exciting fundraiser.

Bingo!

Producing a pop-up drive-in movie in Westport is not easy. But Stephen and the rest of the youth board found a company with a 40-foot screen, projector and sound system.

Compo Beach — near the kayak launch — seemed like the perfect spot.

Permits were needed, from town commissions. But Stephen and his peers pushed hard.

“The idea of driving up to a movie, not getting out of your car, being comfortable and having fun, is pretty cool,” Stephen says.

So this Saturday (October 1, 7 p.m.), “Ghostbusters” — a 1984 classic chosen for its broad appeal to kids, teenagers and parents — will be shown on what is believed to be Westport’s 1st-ever drive-in movie screen.

The only other better choice would be “Back to the Future.”

(The Westport Cinema Initiative is a partner with this project. The cost is $30 per car — cheap enough so that no one has to hide in the trunk. Besides, proceeds benefit Homes With Hope. Beach stickers are not required. Joey’s by the Shore will be open for food. For more information, click here.)

Fire Up This Survey

Most of us have never needed the Fire Department to race to our homes or business.

But nearly all of us have had some interaction with Westport firefighters. They help out during medical emergencies, weather emergencies, even routine inspections.

Now the Fire Department wants to know: How are we doing?

fire-departmentThe town’s Strategic Planning Steering Committee has designed a community survey. Just a few minutes long, it will identify current areas of strength, and help plan for the future.

The second part is important. Westport has changed substantially since our fire stations were built.

(Case in point: The “new” firehouse across from 5 Guys replaced a much smaller station on Church Lane. It was repurposed in 1978 as the YMCA fitness center. That building long outlived its usefulness, and is now being incorporated into Bedford Square.)

Our firefighters are no longer volunteers; they’re full professionals. Their vehicles, equipment and methods have all evolved.

The Saugatuck fire station, in its long-time location on Riverside Avenue.

The Saugatuck fire station, in its long-time location on Riverside Avenue.

The size of residential houses — and construction materials used — continues to grow. So do our office buildings.

Also increasing: the number of calls the Fire Department answers on I-95 and the Merritt Parkway.

The survey is part of a broader study. Town officials must answer questions like: Are our fire stations located in the right places? How should we think about new technologies like drones and robotics?

Your input can help. Please click here for the survey. It runs through October 9.

The Vigilant Firehouse on Wilton Road, circa 1977. It now houses the Neat coffeehouse and and wine bar.

The Vigilant Firehouse on Wilton Road, circa 1977. It now houses the Neat coffeehouse and and wine bar.

 

Wakeman Town Farm Raises The Roof

Back in the day, when a farmer needed help his neighbors rallied round.

In 2016, Westporters do the same for Wakeman Town Farm.

The working farm that offers educational programs, hands-on workshops and Community-Supported Agriculture — among many other sustainability efforts — was the site last night of an old-fashioned barn-raising.

Wakeman Town Farm is a place of growth and healthy living. But the farmhouse itself needs repairs. (Photo/Charlie Colasurdo)

Wakeman Town Farm is a place of growth and healthy living. But the farmhouse itself needs repairs. (Photo/Charlie Colasurdo)

Nearly 250 people gathered for the 7th annual Harvest Fest, to “raise the roof.” The Cross Highway property needs new shingles, interior and exterior renovations, and a new kitchen classroom, to better serve its stewards — the Aitkenhead family — and the 10,000 students and adults who pass through the farm every year.

Robin Tauck pledged a major gift. Others gave plenty too  — including $100 “shingles.”

First Selectman Jim Marpe and his wife Mary Ellen (center) were at last night's Wakeman Town Farm Harvest Fest, along with Kelle and Jeff Ruden.

First Selectman Jim Marpe and his wife Mary Ellen (center) were at last night’s Wakeman Town Farm Harvest Fest, along with Kelle and Jeff Ruden. (Photo/Dan Woog)

Area purveyors like Greens Farms Liquors, Rothbard Ale + Larder and AMG Catering donated appetizers and libations for the cocktail hour. DaPietro’s, Harvest Wine Bar, Wave Hill Breads and Saugatuck Sweets were among those providing fantastic, locally sourced dinners.

This was not your typical fundraier food! (Photo/Charlie Colasurdo)

This was not your typical fundraier food! (Photo/Charlie Colasurdo)

Dining inside the farmhouse tent. (Photo/Charlie Colasurdo)

Dining inside the farmhouse tent. (Photo/Charlie Colasurdo)

It was all served and poured by big-name volunteers: heads of non-profits like Bill Harmer (Westport Library), Tony McDowell (Earthplace), Jeff Wieser (Homes With Hope) and Sue Gold (Westport Historical Society).

Staples students — many from the Environmental Studies courses — pitched in too.

Environmental Studies students volunteered to serve too.

Environmental Studies students volunteered to serve at Harvest Fest. (Photo/Dan Woog)

The WTF roof is a lot closer to be raised, thanks to last night. But you can still help — 2016-style. Click here to contribute any amount.

These were just the appetizers. (Photo/Dan Woog)

These were just the appetizers. (Photo/Dan Woog)

wtf-3-charlie-colasurdo

Wakeman Town Farm Committee co-chairs Liz Milwe and Christy Colasurdo. (Photo/Charlie Colasurdo)

Monica Lewinsky In Westport: More Than Just Words

When I heard that Monica Lewinsky will speak in Westport on October 6 — as part of the Westport Arts Center’s bullying exhibition — my first thought was: “Huh?”

But that’s the whole idea. For nearly 20 years, she’s been defined by what happened between her and the President of the United States.

Lewinsky is no longer a 24-year-old intern. She’s a 42-year-old woman who spent 10 years in self-imposed silence (several of them outside the country).

Now she’s speaking out. She talks about a subject she knows too well: internet shaming.

Lewinsky has tried to move beyond her image as the young woman in a stained dress. She’s now a social activist, contributing editor to Vanity Fair — and ambassador to BystanderRevolution.com.

Lewinsky has first-hand knowledge of the “culture of humiliation.” She is an expert at the effects of cyberbullies.  Anyone — and everyone — can become, like her, a target of the digital playground.

Her 2015 TED Talk — “The Price of Shame” — has been viewed millions of times. In it, she describes losing her reputation instantly — and globally — via the internet. “Public humiliation as a blood sport has to stop,” she says.

In Westport, Lewinsky will build on themes underlying the Arts Center’s exhibit. It examines the topic of bullying within a broad cultural context that considers how perceived imbalances of social, physical — or political — power can be abused to marginalize others.

Sadly, it seems just as relevant in 2016 as it was in 1998.

(Monica Lewinsky’s talk at the Westport Arts Center at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, October 6 includes a panel discussion. For more information or to purchase tickets, click here or call 203-222-7070.)

 

60 Years Later, Elmo Morales Can’t Forget Westport

Earlier this month, Greg Wolfe and Nancy Lewis dropped their daughter Emily off for her 2nd year at the University of Michigan.

After dinner, the couple passed a tiny t-shirt shop near campus. As they looked at merchandise set on the street, the owner came out to chat.

Elmo Morales designed this t-shirt for Jim Harbaugh's return as Michigan football coach.

Elmo Morales designed this slogan for Jim Harbaugh’s return as Michigan football coach. (Photo/Ryan Stanton for The Ann Arbor News)

“Where are you from?” he asked.

“Westport, Connecticut,” they said.

He was stunned. “You’re the first people I’ve ever met here from Westport!” he said.

And then Elmo Morales told his story.

In 1957 he was an 11-year-old living in Washington Heights. The Fresh Air Fund arranged a week in Westport. He stayed with the Petrucci family. They owned a liquor store, and had a son around Elmo’s age.

His eyes welled up as he told Greg and Nancy his story.

On the way home after picking Elmo up at the train station — with his clothes in a shopping bag — the Petruccis took him to a toy store. They told him to pick out anything he wanted.

He chose a Mattel 6-shooter. “I never got anything, except at Christmas,” he says. “And then it was pajamas.”

It was the first time Elmo had seen carpeting in a house, or a TV in a bedroom. There was orange juice every morning. Every day, they went to the beach.

Most importantly, Mr. Petrucci talked with Elmo about college, and what he wanted to do with his life. It was the first time the boy had thought about his future.

“They broadened my horizons,” Elmo says. “I was able to see the rest of the world. Everything grew from that little seed.”

Elmo went back to Washington Heights. A shared love of jazz cemented a friendship with a youngster named Lew Alcindor (now Kareem Abdul-Jabbar).

Elmo earned a track scholarship to Michigan. He stayed in Ann Arbor, and became a teacher.

After graduating from Michigan, Elmo Morales continued to run.

After graduating from Michigan, Elmo Morales continued to run.

About 40 years ago, he opened Elmo’s T-Shirts as a sideline. For years it was on Main Street. Not long ago, he moved to East Liberty Street.

This is one of those great “Westport meets the world” stories I love so well.

But don’t just read it and smile.

Every year, Staples sends at least a dozen graduates to the University of Michigan. So, students and parents: Head to 404 E. Liberty Street.

Buy a t-shirt or souvenir.

And then tell Elmo you’re from Westport.

Oh My 06880 — Photo Challenge #90

The Nevada Hitchcock Memorial Garden is hidden in plain sight: on the well-traveled corner of Cross Highway and Weston Road.

Fred Cantor, Susan Schmidt, Bobbie Herman, Barbara Sherburne and Nancy Hunter Wilson all knew that the plaque featured in last week’s photo challenge can be found there.

Then Ellen Greenberg, Louise Ward Demakis, Jerry MacDaid, Morley Boyd and Wendy Crowther all added great information about the pioneering journalist who in 1924 founded the Westport Garden Club. Click here for the photo, and some intriguing history about Nevada. (Though we still don’t know where she got that unique first name.)

This week’s photo has nothing to do with gardening. If you think you know where in Westport you could find this, click “Comments” below.

oh-my-06880-september-18-2016

Lobster Fest!

A lovely late-summer day.

Beer and wine. Music. A huge crowd of friendly, sociable people, ready to mix, mingle, kick back and chill.

And of course about 3,000 lobsters, shipped in yesterday from Nova Scotia.

Those were the ingredients for today’s Lobster Fest.

In just 5 years, the Rotary Club event has become a major highlight on the Westport calendar.

It’s the biggest block party in town. It’s Compo and community at its best.

And — best of all — it raises about $75,000, which the Rotary Club plows right back into good causes locally, nationally and abroad.

If you weren’t there, you missed a fantastic party.

And some really amazing lobsters.

lobsterfest-fresh-lobsters

The stars of the show.

Rotary Board member Rick Benson claws State Representative Gail Lavielle.

Rotary Board member Rick Benson claws State Representative Gail Lavielle.

Homes With Hope CEO and Lobster Fest volunteer Jeff Wieser pours a beer for 1-year-old Andy Wolf. Her dad, Jim, looks on amused.

Homes With Hope CEO and Lobster Fest volunteer Jeff Wieser pours a beer for 1-year-old Andy Wolf. Her dad, Jim, looks on amused.

Nearby, a slightly older youngster explored the Beaver Beer car.

Nearby, a slightly older youngster explored the Beaver Beer car.

First Selectman Jim Marpe and his wife Mary Ellen were also Lobster Fest volunteers.

First Selectman Jim Marpe and his wife Mary Ellen were Lobster Fest volunteers.

As the sun set on Lobster Fest, no one wanted to leave.

The sun set on Lobster Fest, but no one wanted to leave.

At the end, not much remained of the 3,000 lobsters.

At the end, not much remained of the 3,000 lobsters.