Category Archives: Restaurants

Unsung Heroes #240

Last week’s Queer Cook-Off was a ton of fun. Local celebrities (1st Selectwoman Jen Tooker! State Senate candidate Ceci Maher! Former Staples High principal John Dodig!) competed to create — in just 30 minutes, from a “mystery box” of ingredients — an appetizer and entrée.

As a judge, I can honestly and happily say: “Yum!” And as a member of Westport Pride, I add: “Thanks to the 100-plus people who came to our fundraiser!”

But the real story is the chefs who headed each team. Bill Taibe (Don Memo, Kawa Ni, The Whelk), Jes Bengtson (Terrain Café. Amis Trattoria) and Arik Bensimon (Monogram Design Center) led their teams with creativity, flair, passion — and plenty of zest.

From left: Bill Taibe, Jes Bengtson, Arik Bensimon.

Here’s the thing: Bill, Jes and Arik get hit up for everything. Whenever there’s an event, function, gala, fundraiser, cause or whatever, they’re asked to help.

Sometimes it’s money. Sometimes it’s time. Often it’s food.

They always say yes. Then they do whatever they can to go above and beyond, for whoever they’re helping.

It’s the same with Tony Aitoro. The CEO of Aitoro Appliance in Norwalk always donates his large space for non-profit events. Tony’s on the scene too, smiling and helping and making sure everyone has a good time.

The Queer Cook-Off was especially right for Aitoro, because all 3 teams actually used the high-end appliances that fill the showroom.

Tony Aitoro (left) was also a judge at the Queer Cook-Off. He confers with Westport Pride founder Brian McGunagle.

So thank you Bill, Jes, Arik and Tony. You are this week’s Unsung Heroes. Now I just hope I haven’t given everyone else the idea of asking you for help.

BONUS FEATURE: Speaking of Aitoro: A couple of years ago, I needed a new refrigerator. I told the salesman there exactly what I wanted: The most basic model they had. I did not need a refrigerator that texted me when I was running low on milk, or one with separate compartments for arugula and endive. All I needed was something to keep my food from spoiling.

He took me right over to the least expensive refrigerator. “I could try to tell you why you need a more expensive model,” he said. “But I won’t. This one is fine.”

I bought it on the spot. And I became an Aitoro customer for life. 

(Do you know an Unsung Hero? Email 06880blog@gmail.com)

Roundup: Oystercatchers, Longshore Survey, Dr. K …

We all feel battered by bad news. This morning — reminded of Sandy Hook, Buffalo and so much more by the tragedy in Texas — seems especially difficult.

Fortunately, birds don’t read the papers. They just live their lives — and bring joy and beauty into ours.

A tiny bit of good news: The oystercatchers have hatched at Compo Beach.

Please give them space. They need it. Enjoy them from afar — as in this great telephoto view.

(Photo/Tina Green)

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Longshore is on the drawing board.

As Westport plans “replacement, relocations and/or enhancements of existing facilities and new facilities” for Longshore, the town seeks residents’ input.

Stantec — a landscape architect, planning and engineering firm — has developed a town-wide survey. It takes about 10 minutes to complete. Click here to participate. The link will be active until June 14.

Click here for more information, and project updates.

The Inn at Longshore and 18th hole are just a small part of Longshore Club Park. (Drone photo/John Videler for videler.com)

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The Staples girls golf team — ranked #1 in the state — added to their superb season by defeating Greenwich 181-186 yesterday. The win clinches the FCIAC Western Division championship, the Wreckers’ first solely held division title since 2016.

Staples — now 13-1 — vies for the FCIAC crown on June 2. Two days earlier, they end the league season with a match against Eastern Division champion New Canaan.

Congratulations to coach Patty Kondub and her team!

The 2022 Staples High School golf team. Seated (from left): senior co-captains Lizzie Kuehndorf and Leni Lemcke. Standing: freshman Rachel Pontoriero; sophomore Kathleen Coffey, juniors Reilly McGeehan and Keeva Boyle.

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No one loved Staples High School more than Gerry Kuroghlian. The beloved English teacher collected many Wrecker items during his long career — including yearbooks.

“Dr. K” died last November. Now his wife Ellen is offering some of those yearbooks to anyone who wants them. They’re free — but she hopes their new owners will make a donation to the Dr. K. Humanitarian Scholarship, created by friends and administered by Staples Tuition Grants.

(The first award will be given out May 31. Donations are always welcome!)

The yearbooks are from 1970, ’71, ’72, ’75, ’79, 2000, ’02, ’03 and ’05. Email 06880blog@gmail.com for details.

Dr. Gerry Kuroghlian

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Speaking of Staples collectors’ items:

Yesterday’s Roundup included an item about the Class of 1966 Homecoming Queen ballot, now for sale on eBay.

Robert Gerrity — who sent that link — has discovered another Class of ’66 eBay goodie. This one has a bit more appeal: a vinyl recording of an Orchestra concert.

Click here to buy this rare item. If, that is, you’ve still got a turntable. And are willing to pay $100.

The 1966 Orchestra record, with conductor Robert Genualdi.

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There’s only one week left in Gilbertie’s Herb & Garden Center’s town-wide scavenger hunt. It’s one of the fun lead-ups to the family-owned business’ 100th anniversary celebration June 4.

All you need for the scavenger hunt is a smartphone, car and driver, and the clues (click here).

It takes half an hour. It’s a great activity for families, anyone new to Westport, anyone who’s lived here a long time and loves Gilbertie’s — or anyone else.

Click here for details. Then click your seatbelt, and scavenge away. When you’re done, you’ve got a chance to win a $50 Gilbertie’s gift certificate.

Meanwhile: Congratulations to the first winners: Bonnie and Allan Arkush.

A scavenger hunt map.

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Some youngsters with critical illnesses ask Make-a-Wish for a trip to Disney World, or to meet a celebrity.

Aaron James wanted to serve food from a truck.

The 17-year-old was diagnosed with cancer 5 years ago. It’s now in remission. So the other day he happily took over Dan Kardo’s food truck at Don Memo. Along with great chefs like Bill Taibe (Don Memo, Kawa Ni, The Whelk), Jess Bengtson (Terrain Café and Amis Trattoria), Matt Storch (Match Burger Lobster, Match) and Robin Selden (Marcia Selden Catering), he served up tacos, oysters and more.

Aaron’s goal is to have his own food truck one day. Here’s hoping that’s one more wish that comes true.

Aaron James outside Don Memo.

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Yesterday, Westport Police released the name of the man killed in Monday evening’s fatal automobile accident on Saugatuck Avenue. He was Mark Lemoult, age 59 of Norwalk.

The incident remains under investigation.

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Westport Country Playhouse’s current production — “Straight White Men” — is both funny and thought-provoking. In between male bonding rituals and conversations about money, work, and love, a father and his 3 adult sons face serious questions about their own identities.

The play runs now through June 5. But the Playhouse is offering free post-curtain events, open to all who want to learn more about the production and its themes.

Anyone can attend; tickets are not needed. Just arrive at the Playhouse 90 minutes after curtain time.

The first (Thursday, May 26) is a conversation with director Mark Lamos,

A symposium after this Sunday’s (May 29) 3 p.m. matinee features the full cast, in an in-depth discussion. of “Straight White Men” for an in-depth discussion about the show.

On June 3 Edson Rivas, executive director of the Triangle Community Center, leads a discussion on gender expectations

Click here for more information “Straight White Men.”

Westport Country Playhouse

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The threshold for entitled parking photos on “06880” is now taking up 3 spaces — not just 2. And a parking job has to be a lot more egregious than just a “No Parking” zone to make the cut these days.

But this driver managed to do both yesterday, at the Westport Library. He or she came all the way from Florida (or registers his or her car there, to avoid Connecticut taxes), just to 1) hog 2 spaces perfectly and 2) ignore the sign that says — smack in front of the driver — “No Parking/Loading & Unloading Only.”

But hey: It is a very nice car.

(Photo/Dan Woog)

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Spring brings a riot of colors to Westport. Sunil Ghirani captured some of them on Soundview Drive, for our “Westport … Naturally” feature.

The sailboat in the distance adds even more.

(Photo/Sunil Hirani)

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And finally … on this day in 1878, Gilbert and Sullivan’s comic opera “HMS Pinafore” opened in London.

Friday Flashback #297

Last week’s Friday Flashback featured one of Westport’s favorite long-time restaurants: Allen’s Clam House.

Readers flooded the Comments section with memories.

Another seafood spot — The Clam Box — was not as long-lived as Allen’s. (Not much else was, either.)

It wasn’t on the water. But its Post Road location, near what eventually became the Sherwood Island Connector near I-95 (“Connecticut Turnpike”) Exit 18 made it a popular spot to meet and eat. Owner Steve Zakos was the well-known host.

 

It was also a popular spot for local politicians. For years they met in the upstairs dining room, and hammered out deals. They may or may not have had the blinds drawn, but this was way before the days of “sunshine laws.”

The Clam Box burned down, was rebuilt, and eventually became Tanglewoods and then Bertucci’s. Now the big space at the foot of Long Lots Road has been divided. It houses Ignazio’s Pizza, Shearwater Coffee, and One River Art + Design.

But before all that, the spot looked like this:

Yep — that’s the building that eventually became the Clam Box, on the right. A hay truck trundles up the Post Road, toward Roseville Road.

Thanks to Bob Grant, who posted this photo on Facebook. And thanks to all the “06880” readers, who will now post Clam Box memories on the Comments page.

Roundup: Kowalsky Property, WPD Bench, WWC Art Show …

A controversial plan to subdivide one of the last remaining parcels of private open space in Westport hit a roadblock Wednesday.

As first reported by Westport Journal, the Conservation Commission will report negatively on the proposal to put 6 houses on the 12-acre Kowalsky property on Clapboard Hill Road, between Morningside Drive South and Turkey Hill Road South.

Earlier, the Flood &Erosion Control Board expressed concerns about an underground drainage system, built earlier on the property without a permit.

The Planning & Zoning Commission will discuss the application on Monday (7 p.m., Zoom).

Site of the proposed subdivision, at 109 Morningside Drive South. (Photo courtesy of Google Earth)

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There’s a new bench downtown — courtesy of the Westport Police Department.

The handsome furniture — with a plaque identifying them as donors — now sits near the Spotted Horse restaurant.

No word on whether the cops will run you in for loitering, if you sit too long there.

From left: Police Chief Foti Koskinas and Deputy Chief Sam Arciola, with the Westport Police Department bench.

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I ate really well last night.

I was a judge at the first-ever Queer Cook-Off. The fundraiser for Westport Pride drew over 100 people to Aitoro Appliance in Norwalk. They watched 3 teams of local celebrities — headed by an area professional chef — whip up an appetizer and entrée, using items from a mystery box.

I was honored (and well-fed) to be a judge, along with Matt Storch (chef/owner of Match and Match Burger Lobster), Brian McGunagle (founder of Westport Pride), and store owner Tony Aitoro.

Bill Taibe (Don Memo, Kawa Ni and The Whelk) and Jes Bengtson (Amis, Terrain) and their teams created some outstanding food. But the Top Chef award went to Arik Bensimon (Monogram Design Center) and his crew.

Meanwhile, everyone enjoyed great food and drinks. Thanks to all who participated. I was “proud” to be a food taster there!

Westport 1st Selectwoman Jen Tooker (far right) joined chef/restaurateur Bill Taibe (left) on a team for last night’s Queer Cook-Off.

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Local artists are on display tomorrow and Sunday (May 21-22, 2 to 6 p.m.) at the Westport Woman’s Club, 44 Imperial Avenue). Their annual art show is free, and open to all. All works are available for purchase.

Curated by Miggs Burroughs, the popular show features a variety of works and styles. Participating artists donate a portion of their sales to fund WWC community service grants, scholarships and programs.

Artists in the show include Ola Bossio, Trace Burroughs, Ann Chernow, Susan Fehlinger, Larry Gordon, Tom Kretsch, Arpad Krizsan, Paul Larson, Erzsebet (Bet) Laurinyecz, Jena Maric, Jon Puzzuoli, Peter Savarine, Gay Schempp, Oksana Tonasiv and Larry Untermeyer.

There’s also a drawing of the artists’ work, plus a special drawing of a piece by the late artist Howard Munce.

Musician Mark Naftalin — a Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee with the Paul Butterfield Blues Band — will play piano both days.

For more information on the Westport Woman’s Club and art show, click here.

This work by Gay Schempp will be on display at the Westport Woman’s Club art show.

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Longtime Westporter John Luscombe — the husband of former State Representative Jo Fuchs Luscombe — died on Sunday, at Danbury Hospital. He was 86.

The Oahu native was an electrical engineer. He was proud to work on many government contracts. One was part of the Apollo Project, which resulted in the first moon landings.

John was a devoted sailor and boater. For many years he was part of a local group, he “Ancient Mariners.”

He served as treasurer and commander of the Saugatuck River Power Squadron, having achieved the grade of senior navigator. He was also treasurer of the Minuteman Yacht Club.

An avid tennis player, for a number of years he ran the summer program for Y’s Men, playing both indoors and outdoors.

In addition to his wife, John is survived by his niece, Debbie Harding MacInnes,; nephew John Harding; grand-nephews and grand-nieces, and Bill Abrams, brother of his late first wife, Cornelia Abrams Luscombe.

Services be will announced at a later date. Click here to leave condolences for the family.

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“Westport … Naturally” features animals, flowers, plants, trees and more.

But there are other natural wonders here too. Today’s example: a double wave at Compo Beach.

(Photo/Jonathan Prager)

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And finally … today is the birthday of energetic English musician — and famed Players Tavern regular performer — Joe Cocker.

He was born today in 1944. He died in 2014 of lung cancer. He smoked 40 cigarettes a day until 1991, when he quit.

Roundup: Ramadan, Ignazio’s, Westport Inn …

On Thursday Adil Kassam, and Mehnaz and Atif Bhanjee — representatives of the Ismaili Muslim community — presented 1st Selectwoman Jen Tooker, 2nd Selectwoman Andrea Moore, and the Westport Police and Fire Departments with gifts of appreciation.

During the holy month of Ramadan, it’s traditional to visit municipal offices, to express thanks and appreciation for the valuable contributions and services they provide.

Town officials, in turn, expressed gratitude for the Muslim community’s thanks.

Town officials and Ismaili Muslim community representatives, on Thursday.

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Two Westport pizza restaurants are looking for new owners.

Ignazio’s — which after many delays opened in November 2019, just 4 months before COVID struck — is one.

A description on BizBuySell reads: “Fantastic opportunity to take over a well executed and furnished Pizza restaurant. Casual and contemporary interior with a wood fired Pizza oven as the center piece makes for a great setting. Keep the existing, highly acclaimed concept….

“Capitalize on this highly trafficked corridor on the Post Road E. in Westport with great visibility, easy access and a parking lot that can accompany 30+ cars. Indoor seating capacity of 60 plus outdoor seating.

“Seller will stay on to train incoming buyer on all operations and recipes. Add a driver(s) to your staff to capitalize on delivery. Target marketing and added delivery will definitely bolster the bottom line.”

The asking price is $275,000. Rent is $8,000 a month. Ignazio’s lease runs through 2028.

The other restaurant is Golden Pizza, in the Westfair strip mall. Less information is available; the price for this business is $85,000. Click here for details. (Hat tip: Tony Litman)

Ignazio’s Pizza.

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The Westport Inn renovation continues.

On Tuesday, May 24 (7:30 p.m.; Zoom link), the Architectural Review Board will review the proposed transformation of the long-closed hotel, from 117 rooms to 41 hotel rooms, and 10 apartments.

According to the application, the front of the building would be demolished to create better parking, circulation, landscaping, and a new addition to the west side.

The Westport Inn,

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Opening night at the Levitt Pavilion opens with Fleetwood Mac.

Well, with Tusk, anyway — the ultimate Fleetwood Mac tribute band.

The Sunday, June 12 show kicks off a season of over 50 nights of free entertainment. The Tusk show is free too.

Free tickets will be available to Levitt Pavilion members today (Saturday) at noon. Public access begins tomorrow (Sunday) at noon. Click here for tickets, and more information.

Tusk

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For those who missed the Westport Library “#StopAsianHate: One Year Later” program last week, video links are available.

Click here or below for part 1 of the documentary “We Need to Talk About Anti-Asian Hate.

Click here for the panel discussion that followed.

Up next: a Remarkable Theater screening of “Everything Everywhere All at Once” (May 19, 8 p.m.). A short film about AAPI Westport will be shown before the feature. Click here for tickets.

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Aspetuck Land Trust’s next “Lunch & Learn” is “Designing Biodiversity: Pollinator Habitat Creation, Connectivity, and Research at the Aspetuck Haskins Preserve.”

Evan Abramson leads the session this Friday (May 20, noon to 1:15 p.m.). He’ll discuss current research at ALT’s Haskins Preserve in Westport, to improve the landscape for at-risk pollinators.

Participants will receive a PDF of the Pollinator Toolkit to use on their own properties. Click here to register.

Haskins Preserve, a hidden Westport gem.

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Cheese fries and Froot Loops may not be on the menu at any Westport restaurant. But it’s the name of a one-man show at Fairfield Theater Company May 23 (8 p.m. — free!).

Westporter Mark Graham is directing Chris Fuller’s production, getting ready for Off-Broadway. The star is the son of noted Weston author Elizabeth Fuller, and grew up there.

It is described as “a true, moving and humorous story of a professional golfer’s struggle with bipolar disorder, and his unexpected journey to enlightenment.” Click the teaser below:

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Janette Kinnally sends this obituary for her mother, Janet Kinnally, who died last week at 80.

“She was a loving, kind soul that cared deeply about her family and friendships. I don’t think I ever met a person who did not remember her with great affection and fondness.

“She grew up in London, during the war, and her family of 5 girls was displaced. She lived in a convent for 5 years. When she returned back home, her father suddenly passed away when she was 15. She needed to make money and worked in many jobs, including as an usherette. She met the Beatles. She worked in England until she moved to the States to help her sister, who had moved to Connecticut.

“While on a work visa, she met my father at an insurance company at the age of 23. It was love at first sight for my father. They dated for several weeks until she told him she had to go back to England. My father wrote and said he would like to visit. He went to England, but bought 2 tickets back to the States. He asked her to move back and stay with his family.

“They got married in 1967. They had a true love story. The ones you read about in books, that you wish you had; that was their love and affection for each other. They held hands and walked every day at the beach or her favorite place, Sherwood Island, until my mom could no longer walk a few months ago. They were married for 55 years. She was my dad’s one true love.

“My mom and dad moved to Westport in 1967 and gave birth to me in 1969, her one and only child. We had a special bond. She said I taught her what true unconditional love was. I understand what she means, now that I have 2 boys (ages 16 and 11) of my own. She loved her two grandchildren, Mikhail and Andrew, more than anything.

“My mom was also a lifelong health and wellness pioneer. She sought out Eastern and holistic healing modalities throughout her life. She worked for a chiropractor, a naturopathic doctor and as a caregiver for end-of-life patients. She loved nature, gardens, the ocean and animals, and was a dog walker. She loved helping others. She was truly an amazing woman who inspired me daily.

“My mom and dad enjoyed traveling around the world. Every year they met up with her sister and brother-in-law to travel to a different destination around the globe. They had many stories to share of their adventures and the amazing people they met around the world.

“I moved back to Westport  in 2012 with my husband Andrey and my two boys, wanting to be close to my parents as my mom’s health declined from dementia/Alzheimer’s. We lived together until the end of her life.

“I feel grateful that we had the last 10 years together, so she could spend time with me and my children. We have many special memories together, but the ones I remember most are singing at the dinner table and afterwards dancing to the music from the ’50s and ’60s, or doing karaoke at our house during the holidays with our extended family.

“My mom will be greatly missed by our family every day, but her love and her life lessons and generosity of spirit will live on in us forever!

“Please make donations in her honor to the Westport Senior Center or alz.org, an organization providing support, care and research for Alzheimer’s.”

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A memorial service and reception to celebrate the life of Joel Hallas is set for Saturday, May 21 (2 p.m., the Memorial Garden of Saugatuck Congregational Church). A reception will follow also in the garden.

Joel Hallas died in November.

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Every May, hundreds of turtles from the Saugatuck River collect on the low tide island south of the Levitt Pavilion.

It started yesterday. Soon, there will be a lot more.

Tom Feeley sent today’s “Westport … Naturally” photo, taken from the west bank. That’s Grace Salmon Park in the background.

(Photo/Tom Feeley)

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And finally … if you’re wondering where Tusk — the Fleetwood Mac band that opens the Levitt Pavilion season next month (story above) got its name — click below.

 

Friday Flashback #296

As Westporters wait for the final announcement that Elvira’s Deli has been saved — it’s coming soon! — and at the same time gnash our teeth over the stuck-in-zoning-infraction-limbo large residential construction that replaced Positano’s/ Cafe de la Plage across the street — we keep hearing references to “Allen’s.”

From 1890 through the 1990s, Captain Walter Allen’s clam house on Sherwood Mill Pond — a few yards from the long-lived market — was one of our town’s go-to restaurants. It was the perfect place for shellfish, seafood, and killer water views, while celebrating birthdays, anniversaries and anything else.

Allen’s Clam House, in the 1940s.

A list of Westporters who had their first dates there would be a window on town history.

Westport artist Hardie Gramatky painted this view of the Mill Pond, from the back of Allen’s Clam House

Today, Allen’s is the site of the town-owned Sherwood Mill Pond Preserve. With natural grasses and plants, a wide variety of wildlife, a kayak launch — and the same killer views — it’s a wonderful use of the property.

Aerial view of Allen’s Clam House. (Photo courtesy of Dave Stalling)

But it sure was nice to have it — and Positano’s — as a pair of waterfront restaurants for all those years.

Rear view of Allen’s, on the Mill Pond. (Photo/Matt Murray)

Roundup: Mattress Recycling, Document Shredding, Experience Camping …

Did you know that more than 75% of a mattress can be recycled — even that old one in your basement?

So how to get rid of it? Sustainable Westport and Earthplace host their semi-annual mattress recycling drop-off event this Saturday (May 14). Bring your dry, unsoiled mattress and/or box spring to Earthplace from 8:30 to 11: a.m.

It will be recycled into all sorts of stuff, from carpet pads and insulation to air filters and steel products.

Can’t get your mattress to Earthplace? Boy Scout Troop 36 will take it for you. Spots are limited; click here to sign up. A donation of $20 is suggested.

And … if you miss this event and can’t wait for the fall collection, Park City Green in Bridgeport accepts mattresses and box springs year round, Call 203-212-3860.

Boy Scout Troop 36 picks up recyclable mattresses.

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And … once you’ve recycled your mattress, bring your secure documenets to the William Raveis parking lot (47 Riverside Avenue, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.).

You can watch them being shredded. And you don’t even have to remove any staples.

The suggested donation is $10 for a box or shopping bag, $20 for a large garbage bag. 100% of all funds go to the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

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The Day of Champions is set for this Sunday (May 15, 9 to 11:30 a.m., PJ Romano Field between Saugatuck and Kings Highway Elementary Schools).

The family-friendly fun and fierce competition may remind you of summer camp. That’s because it’s a fundraiser for Experience Camps — the place where children who have lost parents or siblings can smile again, with peers who understand and caring counselors.

Click here for more information — and to create, join or donate to a team.

Fun at Experience Camps’ 2019 Day of Champions.

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Tickets are going quickly for the Queer Cook-off. The Westport Pride fundraiser — pitting 3 teams, each with a noted chef, and celebrity teams — is set for Thursday, May 19 (6 p.m., Aitoro Appliance, Norwalk).

As they’re cooking in a “Chopped”-style competition, there’s plenty of food and drink for the “audience.” Food and beverage sponsors include Organic Krush, Copps Island Oysters, Dave & Charlie’s Hometown Deli, Garden Catering, Longford’s Ice Cream, The Kitchen and Tribus.

Ingredients for the chefs — Bill Taibe of Don Memo, Kawa Ni and The Whelk; Jes Bengtson of Terrain Café and Amis Tattoria, and Arik Bensimon of Monogram Design Center — come from Sport Hill Farm, Ayn’s Chili Oil and Pam’s Jams. Raffle prizes are donated by Nordstrom, Clay Story CT, Munson’s Chocolates, artist M.C. Hewlett, Monogram and various chefs.

As if that’s not enough to whet your appetite: I’m one of the judges.

Click here for tickets and more information.

 

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“Westport .. Naturally” has featured a few shots of the Parker Harding Plaza swan.

Most have been wide-angle shots. Here she is, primping for her close-up.

(Photo/Claudia Sherwood Servidio)

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And finally … Susan Jacks, the Poppy Family singer best (and probably only) known for her 1969 hit “Which Way You Goin’ Billy?,” died last month in British Columbia. She was 73, and on the waiting list for a second kidney transplant. Click here for a full obituary.

Roundup: Michael Bolton, Lynyrd Sykynrd …

And the winner of “American Song Contest” on NBC is …

… not Michael Bolton.

Connecticut’s (and Westport’s) contestant finished 7th Monday night. After 8 weeks, the title went to AleXa of Oklahoma.

But our guy made the semifinals — the top 10 out of 55, in our national version of Eurovision. And our neighbor is still #1 in our hearts. Click here for the full story.  (Hat tip: Mark Mathias)

Screenshot from the “American Song Contest” website.

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The schedule for paving (and closing) Riverside Avenue from Charles Street to Railroad Place has changed again.

It’s now tomorrow and Friday (May 12 and 13), from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. If you’re dropping off or picking up at the New York-bound platform, take note!

Road paving here soon.

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There are agendas. And then there are agendas.

Here’s what the Downtown Plan Implementation Committee will discuss tomorrow, beginning at 8:30 a.m. (click here for the Zoom link).

I. Opening Remarks – Chair
A. Overall Meeting Goals
I. Approval of Minutes (4/2022 Meeting)
II. Strategic Priority Review
A. Parking Lots Reinvention
1. Downtown Lots Design Master Plan
a) June kickoff meeting with core steering team
b) Planning for public engagement and project timeline
2. Baldwin Lot – completion targeted for end of June
B. Pedestrian Access
1. Streetscape Improvements
a) Bench installs
b) Additional cans for high traffic locations
Strategic Priorities (cont)
Pedestrian Access (cont.)
2. Main Street Improvements
a) Status (bump out and re-pavement)
C. Sustainability
1. Solarization
a) Initial meetings with consultant
2. Alternative Transportation
a) Bird proposal
(1) background
D. Maintenance
1. Special Services District
a) Last Ordinance Draft
b) Cost development – RFQ

If you can’t make the 8:30 start, perhaps you can watch during dinner.

Main Street magic (Photo/June Rose Whittaker)

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The Staples High School boys lacrosse program is adding 4 honorees to their Hall of Fame.

Bill Rexford (Class of 1986), Ryan Kubie (’96), Paul McNulty (Staples ’64, head coach 2009-18) and the 16-0, undefeated regular season 2010 team will be honored at halftime of Saturday’s game against New Canaan. The contest begins at 3 p.m. The Wreckers are currently ranked #2 in the state.

Rexford and Kubie starred in the early days of Staples lacrosse. The ’10 team made history.

McNulty, meanwhile, was one of the keys to the growth of Staples lacrosse into the powerhouse it is today.

He took over a program that had had 3 coaches in 4 years. Within a year, he coached that ’10 squad to its undefeated record. The Wreckers reached 2 state championship games during his tenure.

McNulty returned to his alma mater — where he starred with Laddie Lawrence on the track team — after a hugely successful career coaching Wilton High lacrosse: 3 state championships, 2 state runners-up, and 20 All-Americans, among other achievements.

McNulty is a member of both the US Lacrosse and FCIAC Halls of Fame, and has earned numerous other honors. During his 50-plus-year career, he also coached football, soccer, tennis and track, starting at a segregated Black school in Jacksonville, Florida.

Fun fact: He was a student teacher at Robert E. Lee High School in Florida with Coach Leonard Skinner, who was notorious for sending home boys with long hair. A few of them wanted to form a band, and did not want to get their hair cut.

So they quit school, formed that band, and named it after their coach: Lynyrd Skynyrd.

Paul McNulty

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The Cottage of Westport has named a new chef de cuisine: Danny Oddo.

He was previously executive sous chef at The Simone in New York City. He also worked for Marc Murphy’s restaurant group, which included Landmarc in Tribeca, and was part of the opening team at the Paloma in the Hotel Hendricks.

“Growing up in New Jersey, my love of cooking stemmed from visiting local farms and spending time in the kitchen with my mother and grandmother,” Oddo says.

“I am inspired to have the opportunity to work with Chef Brian Lewis and his entire team to bring my experience and background to our guests, and to work with local farmers and purveyors to offer new flavors, textures and colors on our menu.”

Danny Oddo

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Its name is simple: Circle of Friends.

Its mission is clear: pairing local teens with special needs youngsters. They spend at least one weekend a month together, doing what friends do: bake cookies. Play games. Go bowling.

It’s a wonderful, low-key organization, loved by all who participate in it.

Their annual fundraiser and volunteer recognition is Sunday, May 22 (5:30 p.m., Beth Israel Synagogue, Norwalk). It’s always a warm, welcoming night. This year, special awards (courtesy of Senator Richard Blumenthal) will be presented to teens from Westport, Weston and surrounding towns. Despite the isolating effects of COVID, they’ve provided home visits and programs to their friends.

The evening promises good food, inspiring speeches, prizes and more. Click here for tickets and more information.

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Beechwood Arts’ final event of “UpsideDown at The Westport Library” is this Friday (May 13, 7 p.m.).

There’s a reception for 15 artists (with wine and refreshments). Their art will be projected on the 19-foot screen, and they’ll share stories of reinvention and inspiration over the past couple of years, when “the world turned upside down.”

Click here to register for the free event.

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The Westport Library middle school summer program includes math, literacy and STEAM activities. Each week the immersive experience covers a different topic, over 2 days.

Mondays center around a blend of inquiry, design, research, writing and the arts. The Tuesday class builds on the work from Monday, focusing on math, science and revision, testing and technology, with students creating a physical representation of their learning.

Students work together to solve challenging problems that are authentic, curriculum-based, and interdisciplinary. Click here for details.

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Rach’s Hope is a special organization, with a special mission: It helps families address the many challenges of a child’s critical illness.

Named for Rachel Doran — a 2018 the Staples High School National Merit Commended Scholar, talented Players costume designer, and founder of her own pajama company — the annual fundraiser is special too: a “PJ Gala.”

This year’s event raised nearly $40,000. Donations are still being accepted. Click here to learn more.

Enjoying the Rach’s Hope gala.

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In today’s “Westport … Naturally,” Canada goose parents teach their offspring to use the designated crosswalk.

(Photo/Les Dinkin)

Nice! Now if they could only teach it (and themselves) to not poop all over the beach …

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And finally … based on the Paul McNulty story above, you’d have to be brain dead not to know what today’s featured band is, right?

“Back From COVID” Supper & Soul Canceled — Due To COVID

Tonight’s “Supper & Soul” dinner and concert has been postponed, due to a COVID outbreak in the Cris Jacobs band.

Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce director Matthew Mandell call it “quite the bummer. We were all set to go. This was supposed to be the back-from-COVID show. It just proves this virus has not gone anywhere.”

The last live Supper & Soul show was held in February 2020. The Chamber offered streaming shows and drive-in concerts during the pandemic.

The Chamber is looking at options to ensure all ticketholders either see the rescheduled show or receive a refund. Detailsl will be announced soon.

Ticketholders who will want to eat at their chosen venue should call and secure a table. This is independent of the Chamber; meals would be at diners’ expense. All restaurants have already been informed of this situation and would still like to be your host.

Roundup: Little Rock 9, Indie Movies, Lice …

Three years after Brown vs. Board of Education, public schools in Little Rock, Arkansas, were still segregated.

But on September 25, 1957, US Army soldiers escorted 9 black teenagers into Central High School. 14-year-old Carlotta Walls LaNier was the youngest

On May 24, 2022 (7 p.m.), Carlotta — now in her 70s, and the last survivor of that courageous group of 9 — will join her friend, Westporter Steve Parrish, “In Conversation” at the Westport Library.

Carlotta will describe what it was like to be escorted by armed soldiers through an angry mob, and what happened to her and her family in the months and years after. She’ll reflect on her journey — and ours, as a country and a society.

Click here to register.

Carlotta Walks LaNier

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Staples High School’s Independent Learning Experience allows to move beyond the classroom setting, tackling projects or courses not otherwise offered there. Through an Independent Learning Experience, students spend a semester or full

Several students have produced films (giving new meaning to the phrase “indie movies”). They’ll be screened on Tuesday (May 10, 6:30 p.m., Staples auditorium). Each is about 10 minutes long.

Themes and filmmakers include:

  • An ex-criminal turned interdimensional defense officer investigates a lead on a former partner (Jacob Friedman)
  • Co-dependency and instability challenge 2 teens as they deal with daily life (Leah Chapman and Tate Mullineaux)
  • A high school girl struggles with mental illness (Elen Macaluso)
  • A couple preys on victims in a twisted game of betrayal, manipulation and psychosis (Ben Seideman).

A question-and-answer session and small reception follow. The public is invited.

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I don’t have any young kids. Nor do I have much hair. So I would not know about what I’m told are lice outbreaks at some Westport schools (and pre-schools).

But Liz Solovay is on the case.

The Westport resident owns Lice Treatment Center. She’s been helping local families with in-home and treatment center services for over 15 years.

As if you don’t need more reasons to call Liz: This is Small Business Week. So while you’re taking care of some “small business” of your own, you’re also helping one.

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Lynsey Addario has taken some haunting, harrowing photos of Russia’s war on Ukraine.

But one that the 1991 Staples High School graduate (and Pulitzer Prize winning photojournalist) published in yesterday’s New York Times may be among her most sorrowful.

Nothing illustrates the depravity of the Russian invasion — and its toll on innocent people — more than this simple shot.

Aleksandr, a resident of Kramatorsk, sat in a room of his destroyed apartment after it was hit by a Russian airstrike yesterday. (Photo/Lynsey Addario for the New York Times)

Thank you to Lynsey, fellow Staples grad and Times photographer Tyler Hicks, and all others in the war zone, for showing the world what is going on half a world away.

To learn more about the history, geography and culture of Ukraine, listen to Professor Walter Zaryckyj at the Westport Library on Monday (May 9, 7 p.m., in-person and Zoom). He’ll speak on “Understanding Ukraine: Past, Present and Future.” Click here to register.

“06880” is a proud co-sponsor of this important educational event.

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The 2022 rugby high school nationals will be televised.

That’s of interest to “06880” readers, because Staples High School will be in them.

The Wreckers — ranked #5 in the nation — head to Elkart, Indiana soon. They compete for a US title from Thursday to Saturday, May 19-21 (times TBD).

Can’t make it to “The RV Capital of the World”? Go to Little Barn instead. Matches will be shown there, on a big screen.

In March, a crowd gathered at Little Barn for the rugby team’s kickoff tournament in Virginia.

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The Joggers Club is moving — from Compo Beach to the Greens Farms train station.

They invite everyone to stop by, every Saturday at 8 a.m. The first run is free. They offer a variety of distances and paces. All are fun.

Plus coffee, treats and music after each run.
·        When: Every Saturday @ 8:00am
·        Where: Green’s Farms Train Station

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The Westport Weston Family YMCA will offer 15 needs-based lifeguard certification scholarships this summer.

Applicants must be 15 to 23 years old, with strong swimming skills. There are 2-day courses May 7-8 and 14-15, and June 4-5 and 11-12. Click here for the application, and more information.

Questions. Contact Julia Marshella by email (jmarshella@westporty.org) or phone (203-226-8984).

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The other day, our “Westport … Naturally” feature showcased a handsome swan, sitting on her eggs.

She must have been foraging for food yesterday. Here was the scene:

(Photo/Elaine Marino)

And we’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: Don’t get too close! Give her and her cygnets-to-be plenty of space.

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And finally … on this date in 1940, John Steinbeck won the Pulitzer Prize for The Grapes of Wrath. It was a novel — but it cut very, very close to the truth.