Category Archives: Organizations

Doggone It! Dog Festival Is Postponed

It’s not the dog days of August. But predicted unsettled weather — including possible thunderstorms — has forced postponement of Westport’s Dog Festival.

Originally scheduled for this Sunday at Winslow Park, the new date is Sunday, May 27. The time is the same: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

“It’s the prudent thing to do,” said Matthew Mandell, executive director of the sponsoring Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce.

“The weather has really been tough the last few weeks. Besides, dogs don’t like thunder.”

This is the 2nd time in 3 years that the festival date was moved. The 2016 debut was postponed — yet still a great success.

Now let’s hope the 3rd time is the charm for Memorial Day. The last 2 parades were canceled, due to weather.

 

For more information about the Dog Festival go to http://www.westportwestonchamber.com/dogs

For 15 Years, “Ceremonies And Celebrations” Help Teens Graduate

As high school and middle school graduations approach, many Westport students worry about what’s ahead.

Some have more immediate concerns: having the right clothes for the ceremony, and the festivities that surround it.

For 15 years, Westport’s Human Services Department has eased those fears. Its “Ceremonies and Celebrations” program helps purchase new clothing for graduates who cannot afford them.

Last year, 32 Westport students were able to purchase “special event” wear.

Human Services director Elaine Daignault says she always receives “heartfelt notes of thanks, and photos of the proud young people as they walked across the stage or stood with their relatives on this memorable day.”

In the grand scheme of things, the right clothes for graduation might not seem like much. To a teenager, it can be the biggest thing in the world.

Tax-deductible checks (payable to “DHS Families Program”; memo line: “Ceremonies”) may be sent to the Department of Human Services, 110 Myrtle Ave., Westport CT 06880, or dropped off in Room 200 of Town Hall daily from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Gift cards of any amount (American Express, Visa, MasterCard, Trumbull Mall/Westfield Shopping Center) are also gratefully accepted.

Human Services notes that donations honoring a teacher or special person in a student’s life will be acknowledged with a letter to the honoree.

If you know people who could benefit from this program, contact Patty Haberstroh (hsyouth@westportct.gov; 203-341-1069).

 

Westport Historical Society Mystery Item #2

Over the next year, the Westport Historical Society is presenting “The History of Westport in 100 Objects.”

The exhibit changes every 2 weeks. Each time, there’s a new “mystery” item. The winner — chosen from all correct guesses — gets an item from the gift shop.

The 2nd object was this:

If you guessed “grain flail” — you’re right!

I’m not sure how many people did. But Eric Davré is the winner.

And if you’re wondering, a grain flail is

an agricultural tool used to separate grains from their husk. A flail is made from 2 or more large sticks attached by a short chain or strip of leather so it may swing down onto grain piles to thrash or beat out grain from the husk. Flails fell into disuse when the original combine harvester, pulled by horses, was invented. But flails have survived the test of time. In Minnesota, wild rice of the Ojibwe people can only be legally harvested from canoes using this method.

(For more information on the “100 Objects” exhibit, click here.)

Unsung Hero #48

Earlier this year, WestportNow celebrated its 15th anniversary.

Since 2003 the site has provided readers with political news, police reports, coverage of community events like library talks and fundraisers, obituaries, photos of sunrises and sunsets, and the immensely popular “Teardown of the Day.”

The founder, editor and publisher is Gordon Joseloff. He gave up his editor’s post between 2005 and 2013 — that’s when he served 2 terms as the town’s 1st selectman — but he’s been back at the helm ever since.

Gordon Joseloff (Photo/Lynn Untermeyer Miller)

Joseloff’s journalistic chops are real. He worked for UPI. Then, during 16 years at CBS News, he rose from a writer for Walter Cronkite and Dan Rather to correspondent, senior producer and bureau chief in New York, Moscow and Tokyo.

Joseloff covered the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the downing of Korean Air Lines flight 007, the assassination of India Prime Minister Indira Gandhi (for which he won an Emmy Award in 1984), the Bhopal gas leak, and the overthrow of Philippines President Fernando Marcos.

And he’s a Westport native. His family’s roots run deep: They owned downtown property including the Fine Arts Theater, a very popular spot for over 8 decades. (Today it’s Restoration Hardware.)

Joseloff was a teenage reporter for the Westport Town Crier, and helped create the predecessor of Staples’ WWPT radio station, broadcasting at Compo Beach.

Prior to running for first selectman, Joseloff served 14 years on the Representative Town Meeting (RTM) — 10 of them as moderator.

A member of Westport Rotary and an honorary member of the Westport Historical Society advisory council, Joseloff is also a volunteer firefighter, and a former Emergency Medical Technician.

Congratulations on 15 years to WestportNow — and thanks to Gordon Joseloff, its founder, guiding light, and this week’s Unsung Hero.

 

[OPINION] Westport Deserves Better From Aquarion

The battle between Aquarion and North Avenue residents — over the proposed construction of 2 large water tanks — drags quietly on.

“06880” Robert Harrington provides this view of the ongoing battle:

Behind the scenes, things has been busy. Since December, we have been trying to gain a better understanding of the reasons for the increase in water capacity and work with Aquarion on a compromise for the proposed water tanks on North Avenue.

To date, we have not reached agreement. Aquarion has rejected our compromise plan, committing only to extra landscaping.

After a months-long campaign, North Avenue residents have removed road signs opposing the water tanks. They hope to foster a better relationship between Aquarion and the community.

Our plan proposed removing the 9-foot dome roof, and a modest 5-foot reduction to the planned 31-foot side walls. (The current tank side wall is 11 feet).

Piping upgrades alongside this project would deliver the fire department more fire flow and pressure than the current plan.

It is nearly impossible to shield 2 40-foot giant tanks. Last August, Aquarion’s CEO promised Westport’s Planning & Zoning Commission that the tanks would be “fully shielded within a few short years.”  This will not be the case. Under our plan, two 25-foot tanks would be much easier to screen. Nowhere in Connecticut has anyone successfully screened 40-foot tanks.

Twin tanks in Trumbull are unscreened.

The 3-acre North Avenue site is very different from other Aquarion properties. They are typically located on 20 to 30-acre lots, surrounded by thick woodland.

The Westport project is currently on hold, pending an appeal at the state’s Public Utility Regulatory Authority. Yet neighbors may be denied an opportunity to present their arguments.

Limited talks with Aquarion are ongoing. However, Aquarion’s legal stance is to stop the neighbors by filing motions to block them.

The neighbors’ action group has an important message. 1,200 residents signed a petition requesting an independent water study, and lower tanks.

We support a major water infrastructure upgrade, but the new tanks need to fit better within the residential environment.

An aerial view shows the North Avenue Aquarion tank site, opposite Staples High School.

The problems are not just related to how they look.

During low usage periods, (i.e., during the fall/winter months), water will have to be drained off to prevent water quality issues. The tanks are too large.

More worrisome, 73% of Westport’s key fire hydrants will still have “deficient” fire flow and pressure.

11 of 15 test hydrants will not be compliant with Insurance Service Office standard. As the P&Z is sworn to uphold public interest and welfare in town, we have formally asked them to investigate this.

A peer review, paid for by Aquarion, cited both issues.

What the study did not highlight is the biggest single opportunity to increase our ISO rating: annual inspections of fire hydrants. Aquarion won’t commit to annual inspections. They should.

Bigger tanks alone cannot fix the problem. Piping upgrades are needed too. This is critical to properly protect Westport.  Aquarion’s own data shows this clearly.

Residents can get lower tanks. Fire Department can get significantly better fire flow. This costs money — although both tank and piping upgrades could be paid for over the life of this 50+ year project.

This appeal matters. Our voices should be heard. Aquarion is trying to ensure that doesn’t happen. Elected officials have our backs.

First Selectman Jim Marpe has written to PURA requesting our appeal be heard,

State elected officials have followed his lead. Senators Toni Boucher and Tony Hwang, and State Representatives Jonathan Steinberg and Gail Lavielle have written to PURA Secretary Katie Dykes that they support the rejection of Aquarion’s motion to dismiss.

Save Westport Now and the Coalition for Westport have shown strong support too.

Water quality issues, deficient hydrant data and a proper look at alternatives were not fully discussed at the P&Z.

Eversource/Aquarion, the state’s largest electric/water utility, need to rethink. Our plan would protect Westport and avoid going to PURA altogether — if agreement can be reached beforehand.

Westport deserves better.

Dawn Henry’s Cross-Country Ride To Environmental Activism

Two years ago, Dawn Henry bought a Tesla.

It was not to save the planet. “I just thought it looked cool,” she admits.

The Westporter was a successful marketing executive. She’d spent 12 years working with Diageo. Now she was a sought-after consultant.

Environmental concerns were off her radar. “I vaguely knew about climate change,” she says. “But I wasn’t paying much attention.”

Dawn Henry

She flew to California to pick up the electric car, then drove it home. At nearly every charging station along the way, she chatted with people who were interested in renewable energy.

There were, for example, 2 solar installers from Germany. They talked for 45 minutes. Dawn learned a lot.

Back home, she watched documentaries and read about climate change. She realized that the effects will not be “300 years from now. It’s happening today.”

The 2016 election galvanized her. “What Scott Pruitt is doing to the EPA, the fossil fuel money that’s going into politics — our government is moving backwards,” she says.

She joined national organizations. She went to conferences, and got trained as an advocate.

She lobbied Senators Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal, and Congressman Jim Himes. “They’re great on the environment,” she says. “But I realized there’s not a lot that’s going to happen nationally. It’s more on the local level.”

Dawn Henry and her son Charles at the Climate March in Washington, DC, in April 2017.

She took the Climate Reality Project course in Seattle. The brainchild of Al Gore, it was “amazing,” she says. Back home, she made presentations at the United Methodist Church, the Fairfield Senior Center and Fairfield University. Soon, she’ll speak at the Westport Senior Center and Bartlett Arboretum.

Dawn joined the board of the Connecticut Fund for the Environment, Westport’s Green Task Force and the Electric Car Club.

“It’s hands-on. You can see results,” she says of the community organizations. “Energy, waste, water, conservation — they’re all important.”

So how does Dawn assess our town’s awareness of and commitment to environmental concerns?

“We’ve got good history and momentum,” she says. “There’s Net Zero” — the goal is to be fully sustainable by 2050. “The plastic bag ban. And we’re expanding our EV charging stations.”

Dawn Henry presenting at Indivisible’s ICT4 “Evening of Action” at the Unitarian Church last month.

Through her involvement in environmental issues, Dawn says, she has met “so many great people, in Town Hall and around town, I’d never have known.”

But, she notes, she and her fellow activists have “way more ideas and ambitions than we have hands to do them.” She invites anyone interested in helping to contact her (dawn@henrystrategy.com).

If you want, she’ll show you her Tesla.

It is pretty cool.

Compo Beach Palm Tree Returns!

Last June, Westporters thrilled to the sudden appearance of a palm tree at — of all places — Compo Beach.

It was all a big — and very cool — mystery.

The next day, “06880” uncovered the story. Butch Izzo — whose Izzo’s Landscaping has a contract to plant trees around Westport — donated the palm. It replaced a different species that had died on South Beach, between the kayak launch and Ned Dimes Marina.

Parks and Recreation was not amused. But the public was. Quickly, Parks and Rec embraced — metaphorically, anyway — the unusual tree. It remained there, loved and admired and frequently photographed, until it was removed for the winter.

Now it’s back.

Or at least, a different palm tree is.

Butch Izzo and his crew planted it this morning.

The 2018 palm tree.

It’s there — presumably — for the season.

Last year, the palm tree was fun.

Now it’s a tradition.

(Hat tip: Tom Leyden)

Krish Crushes Cubes

If you’re like me, you can solve a Rubik’s cube in about the time it takes a spaceship to reach the Andromeda galaxy.

And return.

If you’re like Krish Shah-Nathwani though, you can do it in 1 minute, 41 seconds.

Blindfolded.

He’s been cubing since 2014. He was a Bedford Middle School student, and spent days teaching himself with an online tutorial. Very quickly, Krish got hooked.

Pyraminx

His first competition came a few months later, at Yale. His time of 17.89 seconds — yes, you read that right — was not good enough to earn honors (you read that right too). But Krish had fun, made friends, and loved the cubing community.

He began specializing in pyraminx (a tetrahedron puzzle with nearly a million different positions). Before year’s end, he placed 2nd at an MIT event.

2015 brought Krish’s 1st sub-10 second solve; his 1st win, and a trip to the nationals in Portland, Oregon.

He loved competitions. “They’re a great social gathering with like-minded people,” Krish — now a Staples High School sophomore — says. “I’ve made friends all across the country.”

Last year, he entered 13 competitions. Computers generate “scrambles.” Each cuber gets 5 different “solves.” The best and worst scores are discarded, because a lucky scramble can allow a contestant to skip a few steps. Scores are based on the average time of the middle 3 solves.

Krish got his first sub-10 second average. That was a “huge milestone.”

Kirsh Shah-Nathwani intently works a cube.

He also had his first blindfolded success. When the timer starts, cubers memorize what they see. He imagines a sequence of letters, then solves the cube using a mnemonic.

So that 1:41 time? It includes the seconds he spent memorizing the cube.

Last year, at nationals in Fort Wayne, Indiana, Krish reached 2 semifinals and 1 finals.

At Penn, he finished second in the “normal” category (a regular Rubik’s cube solve). The winner was the North American record holder for fastest solve. “He’s one of my idols,” Krish says. “So I didn’t feel that bad.”

6×6 Rubik’s cube

Competitions involve many different categories. Krish can do 2×2, 3×3, 4×4, 5×5 and 6×6. He’ll do 7×7 this June. (It’s worth noting — though Krish says it very casually — that he does 3×3 with only one hand — and blindfolded.)

He also does square 1 (shape-shifting) and megaminx (a dodecahedron).

Is there anything Krish can’t do?

“I can’t solve with my feet,” he admits. “It takes me like 10 minutes. I have a friend who did it in 16.9 seconds.”

A key characteristic of a good cuber is resilience, Krish says. You do not need “genius IQ,” or a mathematical mind. “Once you understand how a cube works, it’s simple,” he claims.

As you may have figured, Krish is the real deal. He’s sponsored by Speed Cube Shop, an online seller of cubes, timers, lubricants, carrying bags, and anything else a competitive cuber could want.

Krish gets his cubes for free (and displays their logo prominently).

That’s a big help. Each cube turns differently, he explains. And each cuber has his particular style. A serious cuber needs lots of cubes.

Krish puts them to good use. You can see them on his YouTube channel. He has over 1,500 subscribers. He’s so well known, in fact, that at competitions he gets asked for autographs and selfies.

In March, Krish won his first competition, in Poughkeepsie, New York, with an average time of 8.36 seconds. He set a personal best time there too: 6.73 seconds. That got his name on the World Cube Association home page.

This summer, Krish heads to Nationals in Salt Lake City, to compete against some of the best in the world.

But, Krish insists, all this competition is not about beating others.

“It’s cool to get accolades. But it’s more about competing against yourself. I’m ecstatic when I better myself.

“And we’re all supportive of each other. When Daniel Gutierrez beat my state record, I was so happy. He practiced so long, and worked so hard.”

Speaking of practice: Krish spends 2 to 3 hours a day on his cubes.

“It’s not an obligation. I enjoy it,” he says. “I do it while I’m on video calls with friends in other states. We talk with each other about everything. And we race too.”

Every month or so, he sees those cubing friends in real life, at competitions.

Krish and friends, at a cubing competition.

His other friends — those at Staples — think his cubing is cool. Teachers are impressed too.

The entire school saw see Krish in action recently, at the talent show. He was just as entertaining as the singers and dancers.

Which leads to this important detail about Krish Shah-Nathwani: He has a life beyond cubing.

A member of Staples Players, he has performed onstage in “Music Man,” “Newsies,” and the One-Act Play Festival.

“It rounds me out as a person,” he says. “Cubing brings out my analytical side. Players brings out my artistic side.”

But he can’t resist one final plug for his greatest passion.

“Give it a try!” he urges. “We need more Connecticut cubers.”

Pic Of The Day #387

Wakeman Town Farm (Photo/Jeff Simon)

Downtown Art Show: Bigger And Better Than Ever

There’s always something new under the downtown art show sun.

And we do mean “sun.” The annual event always seems to be held on the hottest weekend of the year.

This year’s 45th art show — that’s what everyone calls it, though the official name is the Westport Fine Arts Festival — will expand to Church Lane.

Last year’s return to Main Street and Elm Street — after a few years hidden in Parker Harding Plaza — was hailed by artists and art-lovers alike. Over 9,000 people attended.

According to the sponsoring Westport Downtown Merchants Association, the 2017 show was ranked 34th in the nation.

Sculptures filled the street in front of Banana Republic, at last year’s summer art show.

Also new this year: an expanded jury of prominent local artists and experts.

The panel — with graphic artist Miggs Burroughs, Westport Arts Center director Amanda Innes, Westport Library curator Chris Timmons, town arts curator Kathleen Bennewitz, WDMA and The Visual Brand president Randy Herbertson, and festival director Sue Brown Gordon — has already selected over 160 high-quality local, national and international artists. They span a broad variety of categories, and include last year’s Best in Show winner, photographer Mark MacKinnon.

The downtown art show — er, Fine Arts Festival — is set for the weekend of July 14-15. We know 2 things:

  1. It will be filled with excellent art, music, food and fun.
  2. It will be hot. Wear sunscreen!

PS: The logo is new too: