Category Archives: Organizations

Fire Department Says: Keep Cool!

With the hottest temperatures of the year predicted for this weekend — and heat indexes well over 100 degrees — the Westport Fire Department sends this alert:

The Town of Westport reminds residents of health and safety measures to protect against heat-related illnesses, and to take special care of young children, seniors and other at-risk populations:

  • Find air conditioning, if possible
  • Check on family members and neighbors
  • Drink plenty of fluids
  • Avoid strenuous activities
  • Watch for heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke
  • Never leave people or pets in a closed car
  • Watch for heat illness
  • Wear light clothing.

The following cooling centers are open to the public this weekend:

  • The Senior Center, 21 Imperial Avenue (Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; Saturday, 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.)
  • Westport Library, 20 Jesup Road (Friday 9 a.m. to 6 6 p.m.; Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sunday, 1 to 5 p.m.
  • Westport Weston Family Y, 14 Allen Raymond Lane, lobby open to public (Friday 5:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Saturday 7 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.; Sunday 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.).

The Fire Department will update their Facebook page with new openings and/or changes.

Click here for a link to the 2-1-1 “Extreme Heat Protocols” website.

One other way to keep cool: Elvira Mae’s ice cream window. (Photo/Robin Tauck)

Street Spotlight: Woods Grove Road

Some Westporters live on the water. Others live in the woods, or close to town.

But only residents of Woods Grove Road enjoy the Saugatuck River on two sides — with Coffee An’ just beyond.

Plus, of course, an easy stroll downtown.

Woods Grove is off Canal Street, on the right just past the parking lot for the old 323 restaurant, heading west toward Kings Highway.

Woods Grove Road is close to downtown. I’s bordered by 2 branches of the Saugatuck River.

AJ Izzo — owner of the old Crossroads Ace Hardware, another great close-by attraction (now replaced by an excellent liquor store) — says that when he grew up on nearby Richmondville Avenue, the area was woods, and a dirt road. Most houses were built in the 1940s and ’50s.

Ken Bernhard — who moved there from around the corner — calls Woods Grove “a charming respite.”

It’s a dead-end, so there’s little traffic. But it’s a long, winding road, so there are plenty of families. Kids play in the street. Neighbors chat.

Woods Grove Road is well named.

A “watering hole” features a dock and rope swing. “There’s nothing more pleasant than the sound of kids laughing and splashing,” he says.

The main branch of the river is great for canoeing and kayaking. Every morning, Ken says, a neighbor on the Wilton Road side paddles — with his German shepherd — to the dam and back. Everyone waves.

The neighborliness extends to Aquarion. The water utility owns land across the river. A while back, the pumping station made a distracting, growling sound. Ken offered to buy equipment to deaden the noise.

Nope, Aquarion said. They did it themselves.

A Woods Grove back yard.

Ken calls Woods Grove “delightful. The houses are not big, and the lots are not too large. Everything is the perfect size — just as much as we need.”

Besides Coffee An’ and the Merritt Country Store, residents can walk or bike to the library and Levitt. The Y — and Merritt Parkways exits 41 and 42 — are around the corner.

Yet one of the most interesting features of Woods Grove Road is one that neighbors barely mention.

A non-profit enterprise — the Westport School of Music — is located in a house halfway down the road. Established in 1938, it’s got a great reputation.

The Westport School of Music looks like any other home.

Students come and go quietly. There’s a little more traffic because of it than normal, but Woods Grove residents hardly notice. They’re happy to be near such a well-regarded, artistic enterprise.

Life on Woods Grove Road is good. Between the beautiful river and delicious donuts, who can complain?

Grizzly David Stalling

Dave Stalling grew up in Westport. After graduating from Staples in 1979 and earning a forestry degree from Paul Smith’s College in the Adirondacks, he enlisted in the Marines. He served in an elite Force Recon unit, and attained the rank of sergeant.

Dave then received degrees in journalism and wildlife at the University of Montana. He has worked for the US Forest Service, National Wildlife Federation, Trout Unlimited and other conservation groups, and served 2 terms as president of the Montana Wildlife Federation.

Dave currently works as a writer, editor and activist (click here for his blog). He lives in Missoula with his son Cory. 

Dave Stalling and his son Cory.

Recently, Dave was interviewed about his passion for protecting wild places and grizzly bears. Among the podcast topics: how growing up in Westport helped shape his beliefs, values and life’s work. Here’s an excerpt:

My dad was a pretty interesting guy. He grew up during the Depression and did a lot of fishing and crabbing and hunting, mostly to help feed his family. He quit high school after Pearl Harbor, and joined the Marine Corps. He was in some horrendous battles; he fought on Iwo Jima, Saipan, Okinawa.

After the war, because he didn’t have a high school degree, he never really pursued his dreams. He actually wanted to get into wildlife and forestry and move to Montana, so I kind of lived my dad’s life. He was incredibly knowledgeable, self-taught about wildlife.

We did a lot of hiking, camping and backpacking. Growing up on Long Island Sound, in Westport, Connecticut, we spent a ton of time pursuing fish that migrate up and down the East Coast, called striped bass.

Dave Stalling cooks dinner. These are not striped bass.

We would fish for them mostly at night. We would go out there, and he’d take a kind of scientific approach to it all. He kept track over many years of what times of year, what the moon was, what tides were, and where he would catch these fish.

Maybe he would set up on the northeast corner of Cockenoe Island at a certain tide during a certain moon in October, and catch these big migratory bass that come through. We would catch them up to 40 or 50 pounds, but there’s been stripers netted in commercial fishing boats that were over 100 pounds. They’re big fish. And really good eating fish.

What really helped influence me was my father went far beyond just teaching me how to catch fish. He was very passionate about the wilds. He taught me about sandpipers, horseshoe crabs, jellyfish, sea robins, scallops, mussels, lobsters — everything that made up the world of the striped bass. He would tie it all together for me, and of course talk about the importance of keeping healthy estuaries and that sort of stuff.

Dave Stalling

At the same time, he would get really sad and tell me stories. He’d point out places where there’s now big giant mansions along the East Coast, big estates and golf courses. He told me how when he was a kid those were salt marshes and estuaries, where he used to fish and crab.

It had dramatically changed in front of his eyes — which I can relate to now because I’ve been in Montana for over 30 years, and see the same kind of stuff. When I first moved here, I had permission to hunt on this ranch just outside of Missoula. It’s now Wal-Mart, Costco and all that development.

Parts of Montana are still pristine.

He taught me to go beyond the fishing, and really appreciate what sustained these fish. I guess through that I developed a really strong connection to the environment, to the wilds.

There’s also a desire to protect it all. At the time striped bass were rapidly declining, because of PCBs and other chemical pollutants in their spawning grounds, like the Chesapeake Bay and Hudson Bay. So I learned a lot about that.

He traveled up and down the New England coast, attending meetings and fighting to protect the striped bass that meant so much to him.

I got a lot from him, obviously. He was a good man. He passed away 16 or 17 years ago. I miss him every day.

To hear the complete interview, click below.

Fine Arts Festival: Calling All Kids (And Adults)!

Westport’s Fine Arts Festival draws painters, photographers, sculptors — and art lovers — from around the country.

Plenty of residents browse stroll the stalls on Main Street.

But for a town that prides itself on its arts heritage, the number of local artists showing is limited.

This weekend (July 20 and 21, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.), we’ll get our fill.

Following last year’s successful pilot, the Artists Collective of Westport hosts 2 activity tents for kids and parents. Set up at at Brooks Corner, they’re a spot for kids to show off their creatives sides. Drawing, rock painting, origami — you name it, it’s there for children to do.

Action in last year’s Fine Arts Festival children’s tent.

New this year, the Collective will set up a giant Art Experience tent on Taylor Place, near Tiffany.

Over 20 Collective artists have volunteered. There will be several at a time, leading interactive projects and demonstrating techniques and media. Among them: clam shells, eggs, ceramics, murals, wire, camera-less photos, Band-Aids, folded paper, paint and more. Susan Fehlinger is the Collectivist in chair.

Westport Artists Collective co-founder Miggs Burroughs remembers when he was a boy. His father Bernie was president of the Westport Artists Club. Miggs, his brother Trace, and many other local kids grew up surrounded by art. Illustrators, cartoonists and painters seemed to be everywhere — always giving back to the community.

“I have a great sense of pride carrying out his legacy, in some small part, by helping the Collective keep the visual arts alive and lively for generations to come.”

Some of this art may be featured in the Experience Tent.

Miggs will be in the tent, at the 46th annual Fine Arts Festival. He and many others will be working with youngsters at  Brooks Corner too.

Odds are good they’ll inspire at least one young artist. In 2083 — at Westport’s 109th Festival — he or she may be giving back to the next generation, just like Miggs and his very talented colleagues will do this weekend.

(The Fine Arts Festival — and the Westport Artists’ Collective participation in it — is a partnership with the Westport Downtown Merchants Association. For more information on the Festival, click here.) 

Sustainable Westport Unfurls New Logo

When Westport’s Green Task Force rebranded itself as Sustainable Westport — to reflect its evolved mission engaging the community in projects like renewable and efficient energy, electric vehicles, recycling, waste management, and clean waterways, beaches and parks, all part of our goal to be net-zero by 2050 — they realized they needed a new logo.

Over 50 Westport residents, students and businesspeople submitted designs.

And the winner is:

Westporter Lisa Mezoff’s design will be featured in the new website and social media campaign, which goes live next month.

Selection committee member Dawn Henry says the winning logo “best balanced the multiple aspects of what sustainability means for Westport, while still being an elegantly simple design, and representing growth and the coming together of different parts of our community.”

A poster of all submitted designs will be displayed at Town Hall, beginning Monday (July 15). Click here to see the honorable mentions; click here for all entrants.

Never Too Old To Learn

Westport’s Volunteer Emergency Medical Service offers a variety of courses: first aid, CPR, AED, EMT.

They’re open to anyone interested. You can be as young as kindergarten. Or as old as 102.

The other day, Jean Wells told WVEMS’ Stop the Bleed class. She learned the basics of helping in life-threatening bleeding situations.

Jean Wells, surrounded by Stop the Bleed instructors.

This was not just some whim. During World War II, she served in the Coast Guard. She has volunteered for the American Red Cross and at Norwalk Hospital for over 50 years.

Of course, that’s just half her life.

(To learn more about EMS courses, click here. Hat tip: Simone Neri)

Labor Of Love: Blues & Views Festival Returns

Way back in 2008, Bob LeRose launched the Blues, Views & BBQ Festival.

The owner of popular Main Street restaurant Bobby Q’s wasn’t really sure if a downtown music-and-food event would fly.

From modest beginnings, it soared.

“Blues” expanded to funk, soul and rock. Acts like Blues Traveler, Spin Doctors, James Montgomery, Sister Sparrow, The Revivalists, Popa Chubby — and Charlie Karp — rocked the Levitt Pavilion stage.

The Levitt stage offers some of the best music anywhere.

Barbecue tastings and contests expanded from the library parking lot to the Imperial Avenue lot. Kids’ bounce houses and slides sprang up. Non-profits set up informational booths.

Thousands of visitors poured into Westport every Labor Day weekend. It was a huge event — so big, it was hard to pin down exactly what it was.

This year, organizers have one goal: Bring back the winning formula.

They’ve reduced the footprint. This year’s festival — set for August 31 and September 1 — will use the Levitt Pavilion and library parking lot only. “We’re renewing our focus on community,” organizers say.

They promise a killer music line-up, tons of family fun, interesting vendors, great food, convenient parking (including the Imperial lot), and affordable ticket prices.

They’ve also changed the name. It’s now Blues & Views — no BBQ. There may be a barbecue food truck, but the cooking competition is off the table.

However, LeRose returns as a producer. He’s joined by Westport tech entrepreneur/marketing strategist Peter Propp, and Crispin Cioe. The Blues Hall of Fame saxophonist/ songwriter/Westport resident has played and recorded with James Brown, the Rolling Stones, Solomon Burke, Tom Waits, Ray Charles and the Ohio Players, plus many others.

A high-powered steering committee of music-loving locals is helping too.

The group has partnered with 2 non-profits. Staples Tuition Grants and Wakeman Town Farm will receive a portion of the proceeds.

Planners hope to see more Westporters than ever at the 12th annual Blues Views & BBQ Festival — along with tons of visitors.

Blues Views & BBQ: a weekend for all ages. (Photos/Dan Woog)

Saturday — which focuses on New Orleans/Southern vibe music — includes the Anders Osborne Band. Sunday features funk and soul, with Brooklyn’s Lawrence as headliner.

Other performers include Jake Kulak and the Lowdown, Kat Wright, Southern Avenue, Flow Tribe, Neville Jacobs, School of Rock, The National Reserve, The Commonheart, High & Mighty Brass Band, and The Main Squeeze.

More details — including Jesup Jam’s kid-friendly food and fun activities — will be announced soon.

Tickets go on sale at 10 a.m. today. For early-bird prices and more information, click here.

Signs: The Lawful Sequel

Earlier today, I posted Amy Ancel’s story about the theft of legal signs for non-profit events. Here’s a re-post from 2017, courtesy of the Westport Police Department:

Unfortunately we have experienced vandalism and theft regarding temporary signs in the past. This type of behavior will not be tolerated. These crimes may lead to criminal charges such as trespassing, criminal mischief and/or larceny.

The following policy has been established by town officials, in order to provide coordination for the placement of temporary signs by Westport non-profit organizations wishing to advertise one-time-only charitable events.  Signs placed on public property advertising a private business or company will be removed. (Bold italics are mine!)

The sign in the foreground is illegal. (Photo/John Karrel)

General Guidelines for ALL Temporary Signs

  • Town property includes traffic islands and road rights of way.
  • The town may not approve, nor is it responsible for, any signs erected on State of Connecticut property. It is not advisable to place signs on State of Connecticut property (including rights of way and islands along Routes 1, 136, 57, 33, and the Sherwood Island Connector, nor on the exit or entrance ramps of I-95 or the Merritt Parkway), as the state may remove them.
  • No sign may be placed on any school property without the prior permission of the superintendent’s office.
  • No sign may be placed within the interior of Compo Beach or Longshore.
  • No sign may be placed on Town Hall property.
  • No sign may be placed on trees or utility poles.
  • No sign may interfere with traffic visibility.
  • Signs on private property require property owner approval. Signs on private property shall not extend beyond the property line or into the town right-of-way and is suggested they be removed within 2 days after the publicized event or election.

There are rules for advertising charitable events.

Temporary Signs for Advertising Charitable Events

The placement and locations of temporary signs on Town property for the purpose of advertising a charitable event requires review and approval by the Westport police chief, director of Planning and Zoning, and director of Parks & Recreation, or their designated representatives. Qualifying organizations (i.e. local non-profits) may send the attached request, including proposed locations, for the placement of temporary signs to: Selectman’s Office, Westport Town Hall, 110 Myrtle Avenue, Westport, CT 06880 or selectman@westportct.gov.

The following conditions will apply to charitable events:

  • A maximum of 15 signs are allowed for each such event. This includes directional signs.
  • The signs may be erected not more than 2 weeks before the event and must be removed within 2 days after the publicized event.
  • The size of the sign cannot exceed 2 feet by 3 feet.
  • Non-compliance may result in the removal of signs.

Please note that this press release pertains to Town of Westport roads, and not state roads, like Route 1, Route 33, Route 57 and Route 136.

Temporary Signs for Political Purposes

Political signs are considered an expression of free speech and are allowed on public property. The General Guidelines noted above apply to temporary signs for political purposes.

 

Another Sign Of The Times

Westporters have a complex relationship with advertising signs.

We don’t want them clogging traffic islands — particularly when they’re illegal.

But for non-profits, they’re great vehicles for passing the word to passersby.

Alert “06880” reader/avid volunteer Amy Ancel writes:

People have been removing non-profits’ event yard signs from areas all over town — even those permitted and approved by the first selectman’s office.

This week’s thefts include signs for the Westport Library Book Sale and Wakeman Town Farm’s Family Fun Day.

I checked with Chip Stephens of the Planning and Zoning Commission. He and fellow commissioner Al Gratrix stopped removing illegal signs a year ago.

So it appears that members of the general public are removing our signs from town roads. They can’t do that!

Of course, commercial signs — like for Mosquito Joe, Hauling Unlimited and kids’ camps — are not legal anywhere.

But non-profit event signs are legal. They are approved by the first selectman’s office, for specific locations. They should not be touched by the public. This includes traffic islands maintained by local businesses.

These signs are one of two main ways non-profits have of advertising special events. (The other is social media.)

And these signs cost a lot of money. We try to reuse them, to create less waste!

We spend a lot of time and energy placing them. We’re only allowed 15 signs per event. It’s so aggravating to see them go missing almost as soon as we put them up!

This “Just In”: Miller, Paul Combine For Musical Gold

Back in 2001, 1/4 of a Staples High School music octet was named Justin.

Justin Miller — a senior — went on to a storied career as a music director. He led the Westminster Chorus of Los Angeles to the 2009 “Choir of the World” Pavarotti Trophy, and Barbershop Harmony Society International Chorus gold medals in 2007, ’10 and ’15.

A few days ago he did it again. Westminster recaptured the world title, in Salt Lake City.

Miller’s chorus did it decisively, setting a new record for the highest score ever: 97.9%.

But there’s more to the story.

The 100-man chorus paired the tender ballad “I’ll Be Here” from Broadway’s “The Wild Party” with “From Now On.”

That’s the tune from “The Greatest Showman,” written by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul.

The same Justin Paul who, as a junior in 2001, sang in that famed octet with Justin Miller.

The director is proud of his friend’s work. He wanted to showcase it on his choir’s biggest stage.

So now — in addition to Grammy, Oscar and Tony awards — Justin Paul can say he’s “won” a Barbershop Harmony Society International Chorus gold medal too.

(For the full story on the competition, click here.)