Category Archives: Organizations

Cribari Bridge Is Lit. Let The Holidays Begin!

The crowd was far smaller than usual.

But even the coronavirus can’t dampen the joy of one of Westport’s favorite traditions: lighting the William F. Cribari Bridge.

The bulbs are new. The colors are beautiful. And now more than ever, we need this annual Al’s Angels gift.

(Drone photos/Patrick Sikes)

Roundup: Toy Drive, Y Pool, More


If it’s Thanksgiving, it must be time for the Westport Police Department’s annual Toy Ddrive.

Local union 2080 and the Westport Police Benevolent Association are sponsoring the event. Each year, thousands of toys are distributed to underprivileged children throughout Fairfield County, and at Bridgeport and St. Vincent’s Hospitals.

Westport police officers will accept new, unopened and unwrapped toys at the ASF parking lot (1560 Post Road East) on the first 2 Saturdays and Sundays in December (5, 6, 12 and 13), from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

In addition, collection boxes will be set up now through December 14 at:

  • Age of Reason, 9 Post Road West
  • ASF Sports & Outdoors ,1560 Post Road East
  • Awesome Toys and Gifts, 429 Post Road East
  • The Toy Post, 180 Post Road East

Questions? Email anowinski@westportct.gov, or call 203-341-6000.

What a great gift for a kid!


Swimming at the Y has been my COVID happy place. Nothing like a pool-ful of chlorine to keep the coronavirus at bay.

No longer. The Westport Weston Family Y announced yesterday that effective immediately, both the lap and warm pools will be shut down indefinitely.

The decision was based on updated guidelines from the governor’s office. Under those rules, only 4 swimmers could be allowed at any time.

The wellness center, gymnastics center, group fitness classes and school-age childcare programs remain open.

The Westport Y pool will look like this for a while.


And finally … c’mon! You didn’t really expect anything different today, did you?

Roundup: Bathrooms, Cribari Bridge, Suzuki, More


The other day, Mary-Lou Weisman emailed the Parks & Recreation Department.

She and her husband had been upset to find the Compo Beach bathrooms locked. They were replaced by porta potties “filled nearly to the brim” (and lacking toilet paper).

Mary-Lou noted that medical experts have warned against using such small, secured enclosures during COVID.

A Parks & Rec employee replied. She noted that bathrooms are seasonal facilities only, and the water has been shut off for the winter. (Year-round bathrooms are available at the Ned Dimes Marina.) The department is following up with the service company that maintains the porta-johns.

Mary-Lou responded: “Are the 2 proper restrooms at Compo closed because of financial concerns. or because the water pipes would burst in cold weather? If the concerns are financial, I would hope the town would provide the necessary funds to keep them open. I would further suggest that if frozen pipes are a concern, that problem might be mitigated by being wrapped, and probably by other means.

“If Westport can afford to build pickleball courts and skateboard ramps, the town should be able to keep the bathrooms open all year.”

Bathroom facilities at Compo Beach are closed. (Photo/Matt Murray)


On Friday, the William F. Cribari Bridge will glow again. It’s a holiday tradition that makes Saugatuck special.

Yesterday, “06880” reported that a crew of Al’s Angels and friends worked for hours, restringing lights and replacing broken bulbs.

They don’t want a lot of publicity. But here’s the gang to thank. They bring a bit of joy, at a time we all desperately need it.

(Photo/Al DiGuido)


COVID has canceled some of Suzuki Music Schools’ traditional  performances.

So the Westport students are going online. Among the highlights: a mid-month “Ode to Joy.” The virtual orchestra project features students and faculty from the Westport and Orange campuses and KEYS Bridgeport, celebrating Beethoven’s 250th birthday.

Suzuki adds: “As a non-profit music school, we keep the community culturally connected by providing free concerts, scholarships, and international events to the public directly due to the generosity of others, so it is inherent that we help those around us grow as well. In that spirit, we encourage the public to not only donate to Suzuki Schools at www.suzukischools.org this Giving Tuesday, but also to the organizations they appreciate and that affect them most.


And finally … whenever I think of Suzuki musicians, I think of “M*A*S*H.” In the unforgettable final episode, Major Charles Emerson Winchester III is aggravated that a group of Chinese North Korean POWs are musicians. He tries to teach them his beloved Mozart Clarinet Quintet in A, with moderate success.

With the war’s end imminent, the prisoners ship out from the 4077th. Gamely, they play the piece in the back of the truck.

Casualties continue to arrive — including one of the just-released POWs. The entire group had been killed, minutes after leaving camp.

“He wasn’t even a soldier,” the distraught doctor says. “He was a musician.”

Winchester returns to his tent. He puts on a record of the Clarinet Quintet, then smashes it in rage.

 

Cribari Bridge Lights: You Can Help!

Whatever goes around, comes around.

For over 20 years from Thanksgiving through January, traffic going around — or over — the William F. Cribari Bridge has slowed. Everyone is awed by the span’s lights, from Riverside Avenue to Bridge Street.

The colorful display is beautiful, wherever you stand. Driving through it is especially fun.

The William F. Cribari Bridge, in all its holiday glory. (Photo/JD Dworkow)

The lights are a gift from Al’s Angels. The non-profit — started in part by Al DiGuido, and aided by countless volunteers — provides holiday meals, gifts  and toys to thousands of children and families battling cancer, rare blood disease and severe financial hardship.

Al’s Angels gives so much to Fairfield County. And so many give to Al’s Angels.

Last year, Saugatuck Rowing Club gave back to both. The boathouse/fitness center/restaurant just a few yards from the bridge sponsored a bridge lighting festival. Hundreds of people came, and contributed funds that help Al’s Angels continue its amazing work.

Merry Christmas, thanks to Al’s Angels.

The Rowing Club wanted to do the same thing this year. COVID makes the need more urgent than ever — both in terms of the number of people who need help, and covering the shortfall from people having a tough time donating this year.

But the recent spike in cases makes a big gathering untenable.

Meanwhile, for 5 hours this weekend — working through 3 a.m. — volunteers replaced all the old lights with new ones. They were (of course) a donation from Al’s Angels, with help from A.J. Penna & Sons Construction.

A low-key lighting celebration is set for this Friday (November 27, 6 p.m.). There won’t be a big crowd, unfortunately.

So Diana Kuen and the Rowing Club are asking their friends — and all “06880” readers – to help. They hope everyone who can will donate $20 (or more!).

Of course, you don’t have to wait until Friday. Click here to give funds. Click here to provide a gift to a child, through Al’s Angels’ Touchless Toy Drive.

This year more than ever, we need those Cribari Bridge lights.

And this year more than ever, Al’s Angels needs us.

Whatever goes around, comes around.

The Cribari Bridge at Christmastime. (Photo/Joel Treisman)

 

 

 

 

Roundup: Christmas Tunes, Food, Tree And More


The Senior Center is filled with fascinating people.

High on the list: pianist Irwin Lebish. A veterinarian since 1954, he is still — in his 90s —  a general practitioner at Schulhof Animal Hospital.

That’s not all. He also plays piano with the hands of 20-year-old.

The other day, Dr. Lebish recorded a Holiday Piano Recital — jazz, standards and more — for the Senior Center. He was joined by a young whippersnapper: his son Scott, on bass.

Jim Honeycutt and Nick Pisarro videotaped it all. Click below to enjoy!


Everyone knows about stress eating. But what about stress cooking?

If the thought of making another — or any — holiday meal fills you with dread, click here.

The WestportMoms’ Food Delivery & Catering Guide is filled with businesses that have pivoted during the pandemic to provide — in addition to their usual delicious fare — catering, weekly meal plans, delivery and curbside pickup.

No cooking? No problem! Click here.


MoCA Westport invites all high school students to submit works of art for a student exhibit. “Hindsight is 2020” will run open January 23, and run through March 6.

This is the first student in-person show at MoCA’s Newtown Turnpike space. The museum presented an online student exhibition in July.

“Hindsight is 2020” will feature submissions created this challenging, unique year.

All high school students may submit 1 work, of any kind. The deadline is January 8. Cash prizes of $500, $300 and $100 will be awarded by judges. Click here for details, or email liz@mocawestport.org.


Downtown’s newest Christmas tree stands outside Savvy + Grace, near the steps to the old Tavern on Main.

Check it out — and don’t worry. It will be trimmed soon!


And finally … happy 55th birthday to Björk! Now — can anyone name another Icelandic singer-songwriter?!

Roundup: Michael J. Fox, Big Bucks, Downtown Dollars, More



Two days after the high school sports governing body pushed the start of interscholastic winter sports back to January 19, Governor Lamont did the same for youth teams.

His order — effective Monday — ends club team practices, games and tournaments, indoors and outdoors, for the next 2 months. Several COVID outbreaks have been traced back to youth sports.

Youth basketball has been played in Westport since the early 1900s. This was an early YMCA team. It — and all other kids’ sports — have been canceled through January 19.


The other night, Ian O’Malley’s Ring app notified him there was a visitor at his Greens Farms-area door.

The Westport realtor and New York radio personality was not expecting anyone.

“He was a lot bigger than he looks” (below), Ian reports:

He was not the only buck hanging around. James Chantler Brown has seen this handsome animal several times in the past few days, off Whitney Street:


Speaking of big bucks: The Westport Downtown Merchants Association has just launched “Downtown Dollars.”

The goal of the digital gift card is to encourage local shopping. Purchasers can write a personal message on the card, and send it to family, friends and colleagues by email, text, even physically (!).  

Click here to purchase; then scroll down for a list of participating merchants.


David Krasne has created a Google spreadsheet that tracks daily coronavirus updates in Connecticut. Each tab reflects a different town in southern Fairfield County.

David also tracks the rolling 7-day and 14-day average new case rates, per 100,000 population. Click here to see Westport; click other tabs at the bottom of the page.


Two years ago, Westporter Andrew Goldman launched an independent podcast, “The Originals.”

In April — with his interview with “The Nanny” Fran Drescher — it became the Los Angeles Times‘ only official podcast. Since then he’s chatted with Danny DeVito, Joan Collins, Barry Sonnenfeld and many others.

Goldman’s most recent guest is Michael J. Fox.

The episode is “different and more personal than any I’ve done,” he says. Goldman begins by talking about his “almost inconceivable privilege” — but admits he is still not particularly happy.

Fox, of course, has many more reasons to despair. His Parkinson’s is increasing; a recent accident took away his ability to walk, and send him into depression.

Yet the actor found a way to rekindle his optimism. His message is inspiring — and particularly meaningful at this unlike-any-other-holiday time.

Click here to listen.

 

Michael J. Fox’s book was released this week.


Gabriel Marous is a Westporter teenager, Pierrepont School student and Saugatuck Rowing Club racer.

He’s also seen the effects the coronavirus has had on area residents. So, with 2 friends, he formed the North Stamford Youth Action Group.

Their first initiative — a drive-through food pantry — helped them feed 33 families. A second one is set for this Sunday (November 22). With the holidays coming, the need is even greater.

To help, email digital gift cards from a local grocery story to contact.NSYAG@gmail.com. You can also search for Cash App under the name “NSYAG.” To volunteer, use the email address above or call 203-744-9796.

Gabriel Marous


Fourteen Staples High School seniors have been named National Merit Scholarship semifinalists. They are among more than 1.5 million students who took the PSAT exam. Congratulations to:

Back row (from left): Alexander Toglia, Simon Rubin, Sebastian Montoulieu, Rishabh Mandayam. Front: Charoltte Zhang, Mira Mahendru, Gary Lu, Lucas Lieberman, Frederick Linn.

(From left): Elana Atlas, Reed Caney, Mohit Gupta, Hannah Even. Missing: Max Montoya.


And finally … 35 years ago today, Microsoft unleashed Windows 1.0 on the world.

Roundup: Real Estate, Good Deeds, More


We all sense it. Now we have proof.

Jason Mudd of Cindy Raney & Co. realtors sends a Bloomberg statistic: This fall, Fairfield County had the fastest-rising real estate prices in the country.

Sales rose 80% in September county-wide from a year before. The median home price increased by 33%.

Westport saw a 72% rise in all sales, from January 1 through October 27, 2020, compared to the same time frame a year earlier. It was highest (135%) in the $2 million-plus price range.

Jason hears the same thing as realtors all over town: As quarantine cases increase, buyers (many from New York City) want more space — in their yards, and in their ability to work from home.

They want good schools for their children — and room for their kids to spread out, if they need to learn remotely.

Interestingly, open floor plans are not always the most popular. With families increasingly confined to their homes, “nooks and crannies” enable people to separate from family members for privacy.

Westport is attractive for many reasons, Jason says, beyond space and schools. There’s a vibrant restaurant scene. Plenty of shopping.

Another selling point: proximity to New York. Though the railroad station parking lot seems abandoned, the ease of hopping a train to the city is a big selling point for our town.

Plus it’s just a really pretty place, with tons of great people. But we already knew that.


Among the many people moving from New York to Westport (see above) is Maxx Crowley.

It’s a return home. His father Steve is the longtime owner of SCA Crowley Real Estate Services, and Maxx has joined the family business.

He’s also a new Westport Downtown Merchants Association board member. It did not take him long to help beautify Main Street and environs. He and his dad helped repurpose the summer barrels.

They’re also providing the holiday community tree. It goes up tomorrow, just outside Savvy + Grace.


Just in time for the holiday season: Good Deeds.

Westporter Bill Pecoriello launched the cashback app on Tuesday.

Good Deeds lets shoppers earn cash back while accessing their favorite brands and retailers, then automatically give some or all of those earnings as donations to the causes and nonprofits they care about.

Bill created the app after facing challenges raising funds for his nonprofit Sweet P Bakery, and The Porch to sell those baked goods. For more information, click here.


For 3 decades, ABC News correspondent and anchor Jay Schadler reported around the globe for “20/20,” “Good Morning America,” “Nightline” and “World News Tonight.”

He hitchhiked 20,000 miles across America.

On Tuesday, December 8 (7 p.m.) he lands in Westport.

Virtually, anyway. The Westport Library and “Live at Lincoln Center” producer Andrew Wilk team up for this online presentation.

“I come not as a teacher or a guide, but as a fellow traveler who’s still somewhere between being lost and finding his way home,” Schadler says.

Wilk adds, “I worked with Jay when he anchored the National Geographic Channel. I developed great admiration for his talent as a storyteller. Storytelling is at the heart of what we do in television. There aren’t many in Jay’s league.”

Click here to register for the free event.

Andrew Wilk (left) and Jay Schadler.


 

And finally … On this day in November 19, Abraham Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address. In just 271 words — at a time when the nation’s very existence was in doubt — the president reminded listeners of our highest ideals.

He concluded by urging “that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

 

Roundup: Stores, Staples Players, Sustainable Westport, Sports, More


In yesterday’s story on a new movie shot in Westport, I casually mentioned that Barnes & Noble is moving.

I did not mention where.

Its new home will be the former Restoration Hardware (and before that, Fine Arts I and II theater). Looks like the bookstore-and-more will be downsizing — after enlarging from its first Westport location (the old Pier One, just east of its current Post Road site — soon to be the new Saugatuck Grain & Grape).

So what will replace the current Barnes & Noble?

Word on the street is it’s a grocery store — possibly Amazon Go.

That would be fascinating — and not just because Westport is ripe for advanced shopping technology.

The other reason: The previous tenant, before Barnes & Noble, was Waldbaum’s.

Changes coming soon


There’s not much wonderful about 2020. But “It’s a Wonderful Life” was a wonderful 1946 film. And this Sunday (November 22, 6 p.m.) it will be a wonderful radio show, courtesy of Staples Players.

Though the high school is closed, dozens of students — actors, the tech crew, sound effects people — have been working remotely.

Which is exactly how audiences around the globe will experience the old-time, very cool show on Sunday. They’ll gather around their radios — and devices — to enjoy a wonderful experience.

In true “show must go on” fashion, directors David Roth and Kerry Long are devising ways for actors to multi-task, and come up with sound effects on their own. At the same time, they’re solving complicated technical problems.

“As always, they’re rising to the occasion,” Long reports.

To join the (free!) livestream fun, click  on www.wwwptfm.org. Westport-area residents can tune in to WWPT, 90.3 FM.

Colin Konstanty rehearses his George Bailey role, in “It’s a Wonderful Life,” before Staples High School went to full remote learning. (Photo/Kerry Long)


Sustainable Westport Advisory Team — a town body — will become simply Sustainable Westport. The new non-profit organization becomes a partner with Earthplace.

The group — which educates Westport residents and businesses to become a Net Zero community by 2050 — will continue to work with town officials.

Public Works director Peter Ratkiewich and operations director Sara Harris will be “sustainability coordinators” (aka “liaisons”).

If you think Net Zero by 2050 is far off — it’s not. It’s just as near to us as 1990.


COVID knocked out last spring’s high school sports season. Fall athletes played modified schedules. Now the virus has taken a toll on winter sports.

This morning, the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference postponed the start date for tryouts and conditioning to January 19. Hundreds of  Staples students had been slated to start basketball, gymnastics, ice hockey, indoor track, skiing, squash, swimming, wrestling and cheerleading around Thanksgiving.

Earlier this month, the state issued new rules for youth sports — those run by outside (non-high school) organizations.

High-risk sports — wrestling, tackle football, boys lacrosse, competitive cheer, dance, boxing, rugby and martial arts — were halted through the end of the calendar year.

Participants in medium-risk sports like basketball, gymnastics and ice — hockey — are required to wear face coverings.

In addition, youth teams can no longer travel out of state. Regional tournaments and competitions in high- or medium-risk sports cannot be hosted in Connecticut. Venues were urged to limit spectators, and devise contact tracing protocols for players and fans.

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And finally … did you know this is International Drum Month?

Community Thanksgiving Feast Continues — With Changes

All over town, Westport families are reimagining Thanksgiving. Tables will be smaller; celebrations, more subdued.

Saugatuck Congregational Church has made changes too. The Community Thanksgiving Day Feast — a 40-year interfaith tradition — will not bring hundreds of folks together there, to share turkey, trimmings and fellowship.

But older and needy Westporters will not be forgotten. Organizers are working with OnTheMarc Events to provide meals through the Gillespie Center and Senior Center. Support comes from the Interfaith Council of Westport and Weston, Westport Rotary Club, Westport Sunrise Rotary and Temple Israel.

Saugatuck Church has also organized a Thanksgiving hotline. Residents in need can confidentially request food assistance. Click here to fill out the form, or call 203-227-1261.

Donations are needed to help support the assistance program. Click here to help.

For 20 years, Coleytown Elementary School students have created holiday cards as Community Feast decorations. They’ll do the same, to accompany food at the shelter and Senior Center.

Saugatuck Church’s Thanksgiving may look different this year. But some traditions never change.

This year’s Community Thanksgiving Feast will look different from years past (above). ’
But the willingness of Westporters to support one another continues — this year virtually.

Roundup: Open House, Fundraising, Food, More


There will be far fewer open houses this holiday season.

But MoCA Westport has plenty of space. They’re doing theirs early in December — nearly 3 weeks before Christmas. And they’re taking every COVID precaution they can.

MoCA’s Holiday Open House is set for Saturday, December 5 (12 to 5 p.m.). The event includes caroling by (small groups of) Staples Orphenians. They too will perform far less often than usual this year, so catch ’em while you can.

There’s free hot chocolate and doughnuts, plus food to purchase from the Melt Truck and Bubble & Brew.

Visitors can also enjoy the “World Peace” exhibit. Entry is timed, and limited to small groups.

The Westport School of Music — now housed on the 2nd floor will offer timed, small-group tours of its new space. Musicians will perform too, on the Steinway piano in the MoCA gallery.

The open house is run in conjunction with the Westport Police Department’s annual toy drive. Attendees can bring an unwrapped toy (or more) to add to the box.


The fate of the Staples High School wrestling team’s winter season is uncertain. But — COVID or no — the squad is fundraising for any eventuality, this year or next.

They’ve teamed up with BD Provisions in Fairfield’s Brick Walk, to sell bags of coffee. It’s roasted personally — and wonderfully — by owner (and Westporter) Tara DiPippa.

Coffees include Midnight Joe, Toasted Coconut, Organic Ethiopia and Colombian Decaf. For more information and to order, email FraasL@yahoo.com.

Tara DiPippa roasting BD Provisions coffee.


Neighborhood Studios — the fantastic after-school, weekend and summer music and arts programs serving 1,600 Bridgeport students a year — is raising much-needed funds with a virtual concert.

And plenty of Westporters are involved.

The event — “Great Songs for Hard Times” — kicks off this Friday (November 20, 8 p.m.). Performers include many familiar names: Rob Morton (aka Rob Schlossberg), Lorraine Watkins, Lynn Flaster, Lori Brasher, and Laurie and Jeffrey Gross.

Click here for tickets, or to make a donation.


Here’s a food drive. It’s for the Open Doors Foundation, a non-profit providing academic, athletic and enrichment programs for low-income students in Fairfield County and the Caribbean.

Non-perishable items can be dropped off at the Body Pulse Fitness Center (10 Bay Street, Westport). Monetary donations are great too; click here to help.

The Open Doors Foundation educates, enlightens and empowers.


And finally … one year ago today, the first known case of COVID-19 was traced to a 55-year-old man. He had visited a market in Wuhan, China.