Sign, sign, everywhere a sign Blockin’ out the scenery, breakin’ my mind Do this, don’t do that, can’t you read the sign? (“Signs,” 5 Man Electrical Band, 1971)
Carl Addison Swanson often runs through the back of Staples High School — his alma matter — and the nearby Wakeman Field complex.
He counts 81 signs.
He classifies 15 as notices of past athletic team titles, records and scoreboards; 9 thanking donors to fundraising efforts, and 57 as “instructions” (traffic signs, and those indicating where to sit or stand, informing people they are on camera, and one noting how to behave at a game).
Perhaps, Carl suggests, just one is needed: “We are the Wreckers, and we are going to kick your ass.”
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.
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.
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.
As a 5-year-old in 1994, Drew Angus first heard Harry Connick Jr.’s “When My Heart Finds Christmas.”
The iconic album — and the longstanding tradition of family Christmas Eve parties in the Anguses’ Westport home — were important parts of his childhood.
Christmas is his favorite season. Christmas songs play a huge role. And — now that Angus is a professional musician — timeless music like Connick’s inspires him artistically.
For years, the 2007 Staples High School graduate wanted to provide others with the joy he felt. Now — with the release of “A Snow Globe Christmas” — he’s done exactly that.
A busy touring schedule and other commitments kept him out of the studio in past summers. That’s when holiday albums are recorded. Just as Santa’s elves work all year round, it takes months of recording, art, marketing, distribution and promotion to produce something that magically appears right now.
But this August — when the pandemic wiped out Angus’ gigs — he had the perfect opportunity to bring some cheer, via holiday tunes.
Work began in August. He and Black Rock Sound producer Mikhail Pivovarov picked songs, and started arranging.
“With Christmas music, you don’t reinvent the wheel,” Angus says. “You take songs that everyone knows, and make them your own.”
His 5-track EP includes chestnuts like “The Christmas Song” and “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” along with Elton John’s rocking “Step Into Christmas.”
It was also important to Angus that he include new music. So — drawing on his love of Connick, Michael Bublé, Bing Crosby and Nat King Cole — he wrote 2 original tracks.
One — “Snow Globe” — was composed with his friend Nicholas Wells, via Zoom. It’s a hopeful reminder to take a step back, and find some calm amid the holiday season mayhem.
“The season will look a little different this year,” Angus says. “Thanksgiving may be more quiet. The Christmas Eve party won’t be filled with the usual gathering of families.”
Still, he notes, “the cheer will never be lost. I hope ‘A Snow Globe Christmas’ brings families a little joy this holiday season — and for many years to come.”
Just as Nat King Cole, Bing Crosby — and of course Harry Connick Jr. — have done for years, for Drew Angus.
(Click here to hear “A Snow Globe Christmas” on your favorite platform.)
Leave it to the Westport Library to have “Artists in Residences.”
That’s the clever name for an equally clever project. COVID-19 has closed the library’s 3 rotating galleries — popular spaces that were booked nearly 2 years ahead.
So exhibit curator Carole Erger-Fass and artist/library supporter/creative guru Miggs Burroughs — whose “Artist to Artist” discussion series was also shelved — devised a new way to connect artists and art-loving patrons.
The Zoom series provides peeks into otherwise-hidden spaces: artists’ studios.
The first episode was with Nancy Moore. Her “Unconventional Women” exhibit was scheduled to be installed the day the library shut down in March.
Instead, Nancy invited a crew into her airy workplace. She shared her works in progress, showed off the tools of her trade and discussed the inspiration for her vibrantly patterned paintings that no one could now enjoy in person.
The series blossomed into a living document of the state of the arts — and artists — in Westport. Twenty-four episodes have already been recorded. More are in the works.
They feature sculptors, painters, photographers, and digital and collage artists. Some have experimented with new mediums. Others have had the luxury of time to delve deeper into their genres.
Some have been inspired anew by the pandemic. Others have been stymied.
All speak eloquently about their craft. Particularly moving are Westport legends like Ann Chernow, Leonard Everett Fisher, Roe Halper, Nina Bentley, Judith Katz and Niki Ketchman. Their age makes them vulnerable to the coronavirus — but they steam ahead creatively.
The most recent episode features Charles Joyner. His intricate, layered collages meld colors, patterns and symbols inspired by his growing up in rural North Carolina, and his extensive travels to Ghana.
So how is the longtime Carolinian a “Westport artist”?
In 1964, he came to Westport through an American Friends Service program that brought 35 Southern students to the North to promote integration. He lived with the Ader family.
After graduating from Staples High School he headed to Iowa State University on a football scholarship, transferred to North Carolina A&T, then earned a Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina-Greensboro.
Joyner spent many years as a tenured professor in the North Carolina State University College of Art and Design. He is also an outstanding jazz drummer.
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.
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.
Nick Mathias is a hands-on guy. Last year at Staples High School, he loved Mike Sansur’s Technology Education class. They built things in what was once called “wood shop.”
Recognizing Nick’s passion for doing and touching, guidance counselor Vicki Capozzi suggested he look into J.M. Wright. He was intrigued.
The Stamford school — one of 15 in Connecticut’s technical education and career system — offers 9 career education programs: automotive, carpentry, culinary arts, digital media, electrical, health technology, information technology, plumbing and heating, and tourism, hospitality and guest services management.
Students alternate one week learning jobs of the future, and another week of academics. They come from 8 Fairfield County towns. In 17 years at Staples, Capozzi had never sent one from Westport.
“Kudos to Nick’s parents,” Capozzi says. “They wanted to learn more.”
The usual path to Wright Tech begins with an application in 8th grade. Accepted students spend freshman year rotating through all 9 trades, then select one to concentrate on beginning as sophomores.
Nick applied during his freshman fall. His first choice was carpentry, but there were no openings. There was a spot in plumbing and heating though. He took it, and entered Wright Tech as a rare midyear transfer.
It was a big decision — but a great move.
Nick — a Star Scout with Boy Scout Troop 36, and an active member of his Saugatuck Congregational Church youth group — is thriving, both academically and socially.
He has learned all about commercial plumbing. Now he’s studying residential plumbing. He’s learning how to install sinks, showers, boilers and sewage pumps.
“You can’t outsource plumbing,” he says of his future trade. “I’m really passionate about this.”
His teachers combine theory with practice. They let students work at their own pace.
Just as importantly, they prepare teenagers to work independently, and solve problems, in the workplaces they’ll soon join.
“They treat us like they’re our bosses,” Nick explains. “They make everything realistic, so when we go to a job site we can function on our own.”
His teachers’ mantra: “Do a job the same way you’d want it done at your house.”
JM Wright Technical School.
Capozzi is thrilled to hear Nick’s feedback. She says that Wright Tech is an excellent place for “kids who like to tinker. Not everyone wants to sit in a classroom all day.”
Nick notes that Wright Tech encourages students to consider college. But, he says, “if you don’t want to go, you don’t have to. You’ve already got the skills you need to have a good job.”
She urges middle schoolers who may be interested to begin the process in 8th grade. Bedford, Coleytown and Staples guidance departments and school administrators will do all they can to help.
Nick is still only a sophomore. He’s unsure what he’ll do 2 1/2 years from now.
“I may go into engineering,” he says. “College would be important to learn how to manage a job site, or a full construction job. I may start out at a community college. I don’t know yet.”
He has plenty of time to figure that out. In the meantime, he’s happy where he is.
Nick, his parents and the guidance staff at Staples are happy to talk to anyone who might be thinking of all that Wright Tech offers. They know there are many ways in life to learn.
Henry Beck was an inspired choice to speak at this week’s Veterans Day ceremony.
The Staples High School first honors senior — captain of the football and lacrosse teams, and an indoor track athlete as well — is both an FCIAC Exemplary Scholar-Athlete (3.82 GPA) and AP Scholar (Economics and Computer Science).
Henry also serves as a Staples Link Crew freshman mentor. He is a member of the Service League of Boys and the Staples Radio Club.
In the summer he works in maintenance and guest services for Westport’s Parks & Recreation Department. Throughout the year he is a volunteer youth football and lacrosse coach.
In his address at the VFW, Henry said:
I am honored to be here today. Words cannot describe how thankful I am for our American veterans.
When I was asked if I would attend this ceremony and say a few words, I decided that I should tell you a little bit about myself and why I feel so compelled to serve our country. I am privileged to stand here today to talk about service and what that means to me.
Henry Beck, at Wednesday’s Veterans Day ceremony.
For most of my life, I have gravitated towards team sports. My dream, as far back as I can remember, was to play football at Staples High School. I remember idolizing the players I grew up watching, and aspired to be like them.
Football is the ultimate team sport. All 11 players must do their jobs independently to achieve success as a team. As captain this past season, it was my job to lead and inspire my teammates to be disciplined, work hard, and execute.
Often this required trust and sacrifice for the greater good of the team. Doing this repeatedly, throughout the season, enabled us to come together as a brotherhood. There is a quote by G.K. Chesterton that I hold close to my heart every time I walk onto a field to compete: “The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.”
As I entered my senior year at Staples and began the process of deciding where I wanted to attend college, I reflected a lot on who I was, and what was important to me. I kept coming back to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.
My grandfather served in the Army during the Korean War 70 years ago, and while we never spoke about it when he was alive, I was always curious. This curiosity laid the foundation for my interest in West Point. I hope to have the chance to join the most important team on the planet, the U.S. Military, to play a part in its goal of protecting our great nation, its people, and their freedoms.
Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge (Photo/Lauri Weiser)
Whether it is at West Point or an ROTC program, I am compelled to give back and pay it forward. I want to give back for all the freedoms I enjoy today, and I want to pay it forward so the kid in elementary school, who has dreams, will have the same chances I did.
All this self-reflection had me thinking a lot about my freedom and those who served to ensure it. They say that giving one’s life in defense of country or freedom is the ultimate sacrifice. I completely agree.
But it hit me that such a sacrifice started with courage and commitment. Anyone who has served our country first had to have the courage to commit to that possibility. What an inspiring example to follow.
Because of the lessons I have learned from my family, coaches, and now you, courage and commitment will serve as a guiding principle in my life.
As a kid my plan was to follow the example set by the Staples football players. Now that I have done that, my dream is to follow the example you have set by serving our country.
Thank you for giving me the freedom to choose what I do with my life. Thank you for your commitment to our country and for being a role model for my generation. Thank you for your courage!
Superintendent of Schools Tom Scarice is conducting a master class in communication. Today he provided these updates to the community:
COVID Update On October 13 I shared with the community that the public health experts we consulted projected a significant spike in rates of infection in the subsequent 4-6 weeks. The following chart of new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people illustrates the fulfillment of those projections.
As the rates of positive COVID cases increase in the community, cases enter our schools.
However, since we returned in September, we have been able to mitigate the spread of the virus, maintaining safety in our schools.
That said, I cannot say the same for other settings in the community. In full candor, the ability to maintain in-person schooling is largely dependent on the vigilance of the community to apply the same mitigating measures your child experiences each day in school.
Our cases are widely related to lapses in the community. Local public health experts are not reporting widespread outbreaks in schools, but they are uncovering outbreaks in informal settings (e.g. youth sports, informal gatherings/parties, car pools, etc.).
This is not intended to cast aspersion on such activities, but only to implore those in the community to support our efforts in anticipation of a long winter confronting this pandemic. We will continue to work as vigilantly as we can to enforce our measures as well.
Staples High School On Full Remote Through Thanksgiving, Bedford and Coleytown Middle Schools Return to Hybrid Monday November 16
Due to a staffing shortage as a result of significant quarantines, Staples, Bedford and Coleytown Middle were all placed on remote learning for November 12 and 13.
Staples will remain on remote through Thanksgiving, and the middle schools will return to the hybrid model on Monday November 16. Click here for full details.
How Do Mitigating Measures Work?
At the expense of oversimplifying the use of mitigating measures, perhaps this graphic captures it best from the Cleveland Clinic.
Can My Child Get a Negative COVID Test to Return to School From Quarantine?
No. Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus. During this time, even after a negative test, you may develop symptoms and become infectious within this 2-14 days time frame after exposure. This is based on consistent guidance from the CDC and the Connecticut Department of Public Health.
Can My Child Return to School After a Positive COVID Test if They Subsequently Get a Negative PCR Test?
No. A student can return to school 10 days after the onset of symptoms or 10 days after the date of the positive test. A subsequent test does not negate a previous positive test.
Does My Child Need a Negative COVID Test to Return After a Quarantine Period?
No. If your child does not develop symptoms they may return to school after the 14 day quarantine period. If your child does develop symptoms, it is best to have your child see their pediatrician.
Next Steps We will continue to monitor our ability to mitigate virus transmission in the schools and maintain our staffing levels so that we can receive students on-site safely. However, it is possible that an intermittent or extended remote learning period may be implemented if necessary for our schools.
Yesterday, 2 officials advised Westporters about the rapid increase of coronavirus in town.
Superintendent of Schools Tom Scarice said that while COVID cases have been discovered in the school population, administrators’ swift response to new cases has resulted in “little to no widespread COVID contamination.”
However, new cases require immediate attention, like quarantining and contact tracing. While the lack of spread demonstrates that the processes in place are working, the schools are continually challenged by new cases resulting from outside activities.
These include recent large gatherings, parties and sports activities involving students or parents. Photos and social media posts caused 1st Selectman Jim Marpe to ask Parks and Recreation director Jen Fava to consider reinstating earlier COVID-related policies at local parks, fields and recreation facilities.
Marpe says: “The ability for our schools to remain open for in-person learning is dependent on the actions of our entire community. I urge all residents to follow the appropriate public health protocols so that our community can remain open, but safe.
“Please refrain from contact sports, wear a mask, social distance, avoid gatherings and practice good hygiene. Residents are strongly urged to avoid gatherings where adherence to social distancing and mask wearing cannot be accomplished.”
Anyone awaiting test results, whether taken because of symptoms or COVID exposure, should not go out into the community until receiving those results.
Staples Players have done most rehearsals for their radio shows remotely. When they do get together, they are diligent about wearing masks. (Photo/Kerry Long)
The Westport Library’s Holiday & Winter Book Sale is always eagerly anticipated by gift givers.
The bad news: COVID-19 has knocked out in-person shopping. This year it’s all online.
The good news: It’s already there.
Fiction, mystery, arts, biographies, photography, cookooks, sci-fi, puzzles, kids’ books, plus CDs, puzzles an games — they’re all available from the comfort of home.
Click here to browse. All books are available for pickup by appointment at the library’s upper parking lot, 7 days after purchase.
New items are added weekly. So bookmark the page, and check back often.
Speaking of holiday gifts: This is my favorite so far.
Savvy + Grace — the wonderful, whimsical Main Street gift shop across from Rye Ridge Deli — sells some very cool Westport-themed items. What stands out is a fleece blanket, featuring an 1890s topographic map of the town.
Click here to check it — and much more — out. In-store shopping, curbside pickup and shipping are all available.
Savvy + Grace’s Westport blanket.
And finally … today is Friday the 13th. Just what we need in 2020!
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