Category Archives: Teenagers

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 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.

For Hands-On Learners, The “Wright” Choice

Every student has their own style of learning.

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.”

Nick Mathias

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.

And many paths to success.

High School, COVID-Style: A Senior Reflects

Lys Goldman is a senior at Staples High School. She is a captain of the girls’ soccer team and a paper managing editor of Inklings, the student newspaper. She is also involved in other clubs, primarily focused on animal rights activism and environmental sustainability.

She does not speak for all Staples students — but her insights are on target, and important. Lys writes:

I walk through the hallways donning my navy blue mask, smiling at friends and then laughing at myself for forgetting that they cannot see my mouth.

I arrive at class shortly after the bell rings, my trip prolonged by the one-way hallways that prohibit my usual routes. I sit down in my classroom as my teacher opens the Zoom meeting and greets the students at home.

Eighty long minutes later I stand up, disinfect my desk with an alcohol wipe, and repeat the process again.

The next day, instead of driving to Staples for in-person school, I drag myself out of bed 3 minutes before my first class. I log onto Zoom to learn online from the comfort of my own house.

Lys Goldman in class, 3 days a week.

Being a high school student during a pandemic has brought changes and difficulties, from dogs barking during online learning, to diminished connections between fellow students, to a loss of typical social lives and extracurricular activities.

However, there have also been unexpected positive impacts, such as a renewed gratitude for time in school and lessened stress levels during online learning.

In school, the environment and procedures have undergone significant modifications to foster safety amidst the pandemic. Of course, first and foremost is the mask mandate. Going to school in a mask, while unfortunately impeding on my penchant for snacking constantly during class, has not had any notable consequences on my ability to learn.

Conversely, the distance between desks has had outsized negative repercussions on my experience in school. Though most of my classes freshman to junior year set up desks in different ways, all grouped at least 2 desks together.

I did not realize it at the time, but the desk setup was a key component in allowing me to connect with my classmates and gain a better understanding of the course content by talking with peers around me.

Because of COVID-19, each desk is uniformly separated to retain space between students. Isolated desks make it very difficult to talk with classmates and help each other understand the material. 

Close in-class collaboration — like these students in the “Staples Spectacular Challenge” — is a thing of the past. (Photo by Julia McNamee)

Another challenge that the pandemic has presented with regards to the hybrid model is the testing procedure. Exam policy varies from teacher to teacher, creating discrepancies throughout the school and even within courses.

Some teachers allow notes on all exams at home and in school; some split the test into 2 sections with notes allowed at home and disallowed in school; some trust the integrity of students at home and prohibit notes on all exams. Ultimately, the lack of uniformity in testing policies and procedures has resulted in questions of fairness among students.

Though the pandemic has unsurprisingly resulted in numerous negative implications on in-school learning, it has strengthened my gratitude for the opportunity to even be in school at all. Knowing that lots of students elsewhere have been forced to turn to full online learning, I have begun appreciating every moment in school — even the miserable test-taking ones.

Just half the senior class is in school together on any day. Still, students find ways to get together.

At home, the challenges and benefits differ from those at school. The main struggle for me is staying focused and eliminating distractions. In a family of 10 kids, 5 dogs, 5 cats and 2 birds, it is very difficult for me to keep my attention strictly concentrated on my class Zoom. It is also very easy to zone out when you are sitting in your own bedroom rather than in a classroom.

On the other hand, online learning does come with some benefits: namely, the opportunity to stay home when needed and not miss important class information or activities.

I am a big believer in mental health days, but sometimes I decide against taking a mental health day even when I need one because I do not want to miss important information, and I do not want the burden of making up classwork.

However, with the ability to stay home and learn on Zoom when needed, it relieves some stress when I feel like I need a stay-at-home day but don’t want to fall behind in my classes.

Outside of school, the typical high school social life has clearly been impacted by COVID-19. I still hang out with a small group of friends, but I avoid large group gatherings. Though I do wish I could participate in a bigger group setting sometimes, I do not believe it is a big price to pay to stay safe.

Additionally, extracurricular activities have been forced to adjust to follow safety regulations, but many are at least still proceeding even in a slightly different form. As member of the girls’ soccer team and the school newspaper, I have experienced a year so far in both organizations that I certainly could not have imagined, but I am extremely grateful that I am able to play and write at all.

Lys and the Staples girls soccer team have had a very successful season.

I never expected my senior year of high school to include the changes and adjustments precipitated by the pandemic. Despite the challenges, I am thankful for the opportunity to continue with in-school learning and after-school activities, even with restrictions.

Looking toward college and the rest of my life, I believe this experience will help me appreciate the sense of normalcy that I often overlooked prior to the pandemic.

Roundup: Staples Players, Alexandra Korry, Pumpkins, More

Mark Potts has written for the Washington Post, Chicago Tribune and — while he was a Staples student — the school paper Inklings.

Last night he reconnected with his alma mater. He writes:

Several years ago an unexpected storm deposited me in Kansas, sans ruby slippers. But my hometown is Westport. Once upon a time I was part of the team that launched radio station WWPT, and playing in the pit band for a Staples Players production of “Oklahoma” is one of my favorite high school memories.

So being able to sit in distant Kansas on Sunday evening and listen to the charming, expertly performed WWPT/Staples Players radio production of “The Wizard of Oz” was a great treat.

Bravo to all involved on a delightful piece of entertainment. It just proves, once again, that there’s still no place like home.

Behind the scenes at “The Wizard of Oz.” Plastic separated the actors from each other, in the Black Box Theater.

Alexandra Korry did not have a high profile in Westport. But when she died at 61 recently of ovarian cancer, the New York Times took note, with a long, admiring obiturary.

It called her “a trailblazing Wall Street lawyer whose potent legal and moral rebuke as head of a civil rights panel helped spur the abolition of solitary confinement for juvenile inmates in New York City.”

She was one of the first women elected partner in the mergers and acquisitions department of the prominent law firm Sullivan & Cromwell. She was also committed to public service, as head of the New York State Advisory Committee to the United States Commission on Civil Rights.

Her committee’s reports “criticized the New York City Police Department’sstop-and-frisk strategy, intended to reduce the proliferation of guns, arguing that it was disproportionately directed at Black and Hispanic people.

“And it concluded this year that disparities in state and local funding of education should be considered a civil rights issue because they denied equal opportunity to students in poorer, Black and Hispanic school districts.”

Click here for the full obituary. (Hat tip: John Karrel)

Alexandra Korry (Dick Duane for Sullivan & Cromwell)

Gene Borio sends along this photo:

He explains: “I didn’t know what this was until a woman walking nearby said it was weird: Every pumpkin on her block had been attacked by squirrels. 76 years on this planet, and I’d never heard of such a thing. Neither had she.”

Two religious institutions’ coat drive for Person to Person is nearing an end.

Clothing should be bagged, and sorted by gender and age (adult or youth). Donations can be dropped off in a blue bin labeled “Coat Donations” on the side elevator entrance at Saugatuck Church, or The Conservative Synagogue.

Donation pick-ups are available too. Email for arrangements.

And finally … after more than 50 years on the road, Arlo Guthrie has retired from performing. The 73-year-old son of Woody Guthrie has suffered strokes.

He’s best known for “Alice’s Restaurant.” But his 5 decades of work go far beyond that 20-minute Thanksgiving garbage dump talking classic.

I saw him at the Westport Country Playhouse many years ago. He was the consummate performer. And I really loved that great head of white hair. (Hat tip: Amy Schneider)

Westport Writer Stirs “Niche Sports” Hornet’s Nest

A mother whose daughters are fencers — and who compete in cutthroat tournaments nationally — has an epiphany:

It’s the Fourth of July. (My husband is) in Ohio; I’m in California. What are we doing to our family? We’re torturing our kids ridiculously. They’re not succeeding. We’re using all our resources and emotional bandwidth for a fool’s folly.

Yet she

didn’t know how to make the folly stop. The practices, clinics, and private lessons continued to pile up, pushing everything else off the calendar (except for homework; the woman knew her girls had to be outstanding athletes and outstanding students to get into the right school).

“’We just got caught up in it,” she says. “We thought this is what good parents do. They fight for opportunities for their kids.’”

That’s the opening anecdote in a long, harrowing Atlantic story about youth sports.

Titled “The Mad Mad World of Niche Sports Among Ivy League Obsessed Parents,” it focuses on fencers, rowers, and squash, water polo and lacrosse players — “niche athletes” — in Fairfield County.

None of the examples specifically mentions Westport. But the writer — Ruth S. Barrett — lives here. Her stories are not far from home.

The Atlantic illustrated Ruth Barrett’s story with this time-lapse photo by Pelle Cass.

There’s the Darien parent who says, “There’s no more church. No more friends. We gave it all up for squash.”

Barrett writes about the “excessively ornate … circular logic” college sports ecosystem that rewards athletes in once-less-popular sports whose families can pay their own way at private colleges.

The pool of those athletes has grown. But the number of spots on teams has not.

As Barrett notes bitingly:

Alpha sports parents followed the rules — at least those of the meritocracy — only to discover that they’d built the 80th- or 90th-best lacrosse midfielder in the country. Which, it turns out, barely qualifies you for a spot at the bottom of the roster at Bates.

When COVID hit college athletics hard, the rat race seemed over. Inside Lacrosse CEO Terry Foy told Barrett:

The kid who would have gone to Yale now goes to Georgetown. The kid who would have gone to Georgetown now goes to Loyola. On and on. And then eventually you get down to Wentworth. And then you just don’t play college sports.

But it was only a temporary pause. Parents are as determined as ever to have their children — in whom they have invested untold amounts of money, and incalculable hours of driving, cross-country travel and competition-watching — find a spot on a college team.

And — it goes without saying — an elite one.

“What parent wants to have a child who’s going to be playing for a bottom-tier school with bottom-tier academics in the armpit of the United States?” the mother of a water polo player in Stamford asks. “I want to be polite. But there’s no way in hell.”

Barrett is unsparing. She writes:

Amid the shifting norms, there’s a growing sense of unease among suburban parents in niche-sport hubs—a dread that they went too far, failed to read the room. And they’re not wrong.

“It’s easy to stereotype the Fairfield County player,” says Lars Tiffany, the men’s varsity-lacrosse coach at the University of Virginia. “The Fairfield County player is the rich kid who still has his umbilical cord connected: the kid who doesn’t really have to take ownership of his mistakes or actions.”

Tiffany insists he doesn’t buy in to such broad-brush stereotypes. “We try not to care where they’re from,” he says. And yet, “if they’re from a hotbed, there’s an expectation level.”

He elaborates: “Do I hold the Fairfield County lacrosse player to a higher standard? Of course. You just know he’s been coached up. So flash-forward to me watching a [high school] junior on the lacrosse field. The thought is going through my brain that I like his skill set but there’s room for growth.

“But then I think, Wait. He’s already had a lot of people working on these things. He’s a little tapped out. Maybe I’ll take a player from Northern California or Texas. Someone who hasn’t been exposed to such elite coaching. Someone whose best lacrosse could be ahead of him. You try to tell yourself not to overanalyze, but you do.”

There’s much more in Barrett’s Atlantic piece, including a harrowing scene with 2 squash players at Stamford’s Chelsea Piers.

“The vibe was primal and strange,” Barrett writes.

“I was half-expecting Grace to chop off Emma’s ponytail and hold it aloft. This was the junior-squash world at its pre-pandemic apogee—the Hunger Games for the ruling class.”

There’s the example too of squash parents who “install pros off tour in their guest homes or in-law suites, to be available for private instruction on demand.”

How do young athletes cope? Some burn out. Barrett cites an NCAA survey that mentions “off-the-charts” binge drinking and drug use by lacrosse players.

Remember that fencing family in the opening anecdote? Barrett goes back to them. During the pandemic, the mother says:

The girls were lying on the trampoline, finding shapes in the maple trees. I realized that I’d never seen them doing that — just lying down on the trampoline together, giggling about different things. I think they’re going to look back on this period as one of the happiest times of their youth. It feels so good to get off that hamster wheel.

But that did not last. The next month, she took her daughters to a “secret bunker court” no one else knew about.

Barrett writes:

It’s a haunting vision: the ponytailed girls in hidden glass boxes training harder and harder, hitting straight rails along the line, faster and faster, even as the college spots melt away and the cultural sands shift beneath their feet.

(To read Ruth S. Barrett’s full Atlantic story, click here. Hat tip: Fred Cantor)

Staples Players Plan 3 Special Shows. Global Audience Invited!

In the 1930s, American families gathered around the radio. They listened to live dramas, musicals and comedies, complete with sound effects.

This fall — decades later — families can gather together to enjoy 3 Sunday plays, courtesy of Staples Players.

They’ll be broadcast — free! — on WWPT-FM.

It’s a novel, creative way for the high school drama troupe to put on a show in the midst of a pandemic.

And — because this is 2020 — the professional-quality entertainment can be enjoyed by Players’ relatives, alumni and many fans all around the globe. You can listen on any internet-connected device, via the school radio station’s livestream.

The shows span genres: a musical (“The Wizard of Oz”), a beloved novel (“Pride and Prejudice”) and a classic (“It’s a Wonderful Life”). The dates are October 25, November 8 and November 22, respectively. Airtime is 6 p.m.

Though Players were initially disappointed not to mount their traditional fall mainstage musical, they’ve embraced the radio shows eagerly. Over 50 students are in at least one show. Many are in 2; a few are in all 3.

The live action will be broadcast from the Black Box theater, with actors separated by Plexiglas booths. Sound effects — like the tornado in “Oz,” doors opening and feet creaking — are courtesy of the tech crew, seated next door in Staples’ TV and radio studio.

There’s live music too: Don Rickenback’s piano.

No radio show is complete without ads, of course. With no auditorium audience, Players lost an important fundraising opportunity. But local businesses — including major sponsors Gault, Melissa & Doug, Mitchells and Steve Madden Shoes — will air old-time radio ads.

(There’s still time to buy ads. Players will custom-write a jingle — and sing it. Email

Most rehearsals have been by Zoom, though some have been in person (socially distanced, of course). Good weather has allowed plenty of room outdoors.

Staples Players director David Roth (right) leads an outdoor rehearsal for the upcoming radio plays. (Photo/Kerry Long)

Players directors David Roth and Kerry Long have made this special project a community event. Each Sunday show will have a food tie-in.

The “Wizard of Oz” menu is curated by Little Barn. Menu choices includes Wicked Witch Wings, Tin Man Tacos, Munchkin Burger (for kids) and emerald City Cocktails.

For “Pride and Prejudice,” Gruel Brittania offers Pemerley’s Prime Rib dinner complete with Yorkshire pudding, roast potatoes and sticky toffee pudding, while “It’s a Wonderful Life”‘s classic meal comes from Dunville’s: George’s Yankee Pot Roast, Zuzu’s Scallops and Mary Hatch’s Stuffed Sole. Ordering details will be available soon.

Meanwhile, Cold Fusion — the locally owned gelato and sorbet company — is celebrating the 3 shows with limited edition special flavors.

“Somewhere Over the Rain-dough” is available for order (before Thursday, October 15!) to enjoy with “The Wizard of Oz.” “Bennet Bananas” is the perfect pairing for “Pride and Prejudice,” while “George Bailey’s Irish Cream” is on tap for “It’s A Wonderful Life.” Click here to order.

The directors are as excited about the radio plays as the actors and tech crew. “Rehearsals have been a lot of fun,” Roth says. “Each show has a different style. There’s a lot of creative energy.

“Of course they’d love to be onstage. But they love this opportunity. They appreciate all the efforts everyone is making for them. They can’t wait to perform these plays.”

(The 3 radio shows can be heard on WWPT, 90.3 FM. For the livestream, click on

ENCORE: Though there’s no dancing on radio, Players are keeping their skills sharp. Choreographer Rachel MacIsaac leads dance classes 4 times a week, on the school tennis courts.

Rachel MacIsaac leads an outdoor dance class.

There are no costumes on radio either. But Players’ costume crew is doing designs for every play, just as if they were onstage.

Players runs tech workshops 2 to 3 times a week too. Students get special instruction in skills and tools.

Some of the Foley equipment used for sound effects. (Photo/Brandon Malin)

Jaime Bairaktaris: “I Saw Hatred Today”

Jaime Bairaktaris is a multi-talented, community-minded Westporter. On Monday the 2016 Staples High School graduate, current Sacred Heart University student and 2020 Connecticut Paraeducator of the Year witnessed something disturbing downtown. He writes: 

I’ve heard about hatred in our community. I’ve heard stories from friends, neighbors, social media and news sources. But I had not seen it myself.

This week, I think I saw it. It was ugly and deliberate, in the form of 3 middle school boys with their opinion to display, or partially formed frontal lobes to blame, or a sense of common respect to try to gain.

But there it was, plain as day.

I paused while tutoring another middle schooler. We watched the boys pull up a sign for a national political candidate from Jesup Green. They broke it into pieces, threw it in a trash bin, then took turns spitting on it before walking away, screaming to each other.

Spitting on it!

We were confused. So were the many other kids and adults sharing Jesup Green and Riverwalk tables. My student and I talked about respect, hatred, and why — regardless of opinion — we respect all things, and all people.

A nice day, marred.

We talked about better ways to share our own opinions, and how everyone’s opinion matters in one way or another.

Then we talked about how we never spit. Not during a pandemic, not on a sign, not at another person. Not ever.

As we talked, a group of middle school girls retrieved the sign from the trash. They placed it back on the lawn.

My student and I talked about how there are helpers everywhere. We talked about why we need to restore the good that is sometimes taken from a community, and how sometimes it is taken by people who may not realize they’re doing it — or may not care.

I wish I could have thanked those girls. Not just for putting back the sign, but for caring. For teaching us a positive lesson. And for reminding us that the majority of kids who hang out downtown do care.

But then the boys returned. They ripped the sign from the ground again, threw it onto Jesup Road, and took turns jumping on it. Then they flung it onto the middle of Jesup Green, before finally leaving.

Those boys did not care.

I wish I could have said something to my student, to everyone around us, to the girls who tried to help — something that could have made the situation better.

But I was at a loss. So I went back to our social studies. The hum of conversation and COVID-era working returned to the green.

I reported the incident to the police, so it’s on record. But I don’t know who those 3 boys are. I only know they don’t care. I don’t know their names, their families, their hobbies, their strengths, who they’ve helped in their lives, or who looks up to them.

I don’t know any good things about them. I only know that they destroyed a sign on Jesup Green.

Is this bigotry? Impulsivity? Stress? Lack of education? Too much media? Am I a snowflake? Or a Karen? Do I care too much? Did I not care enough to stop them? Is this a non-issue? Or is this a real probme.

This is not a case of “kids being kids.” The majority of those I see on their skateboards, scooters or bikes, in the deli or on the green, are energetic, loud, and — most importantly — respectful.

They’re doing what they should be doing: having fun, while learning how to make their own choices.

These boys made their choices. They chose hatred.

So I can’t help but wonder: How do we fix this?

Aw, Shoot!

The Westport Farmers’ Market is — like every other public gathering — socially distanced.

But that did not prevent dozens of young photographers from getting up close and personal with the produce and products at our town’s favorite Thursday event.

This year, 8- to 18-year-old entrants in the “Young Shoots” contest had a choice. They could showcase produce, flowers, prepared food — or anything else representative of the Farmers’ Market — at home or at the Imperial Avenue parking lot.

Just as they’ve done constantly over the past 6 months, the young artists demonstrated resiliency, creativity, and spunk.

Plus a great eye.

Awards were presented — socially distanced, of course — at Gilbertie’s Herbs & Garden Center last week.

Alexander Sod won 1st place in the 11-14-year-old category for his photo, “Unraveling.” His shot also captured the overall “People’s Choice” award.

“Unraveling” (Alexander Sod)

The contest is “an incredible way to show both my creativity and my love for food –the taste, its shapes, patterns, and textures you can’t find anywhere except in nature,” he says.

Rose Porosoff placed 2nd in that age group, for “Veins.”

Other winners include:


  • 1st place: Kayla Stanley for “Rinsing Strawberries”
  • 2nd place: Nakul Sethi for “The Sunset Focaccia.

“Rinsing Strawberries” (Kayla Stanley)

15 to 18-year-old

  • 1st place: Morgan Freydl for “Seacoast Mushrooms”
  • 2nd place: Anooshka Sethi for “Sunshine Toast.”

“Seacoast Mushrooms” (Morgan Freydl)

First place was worth $100, plus WFM merchandise. Runners-up  get $50 each plus WFM swag,

Lori Cochran-Dougall, executive director of WFM, says Young Shoots is more than a food photography contest.

“Clearly it encourages creativity in young people. But it also reminds adults that kids see things with a lightness and simplicity that we might miss. To see the world of food through their eyes is refreshing.”

To see all the entries from this year’s contest, click here.

(The 7th annual “Young Shoots” contest and reception were sponsored by the Westport Farmers’ Market, in collaboration with the Drew Friedman Community Arts Center and Artists Collective of Westport.)

Alexander Sod and Westport Farmers’ Market director Lori Cochran-Dougall, at the “Young Shoots” awards ceremony.


Unsung Hero #158

Alice Ely writes:

As gardens chair at Wakeman Town Farm, I’ve had the privilege of knowing Staples High School senior Teagan Smith since she first volunteered in 2017.

She has stepped up to help the planet in ways large and small for her entire high school career. As a freshman she began with the fall harvest, and kept coming. Year after year, she has been on hand and willing to do any job – which at the farm are mostly dirty ones.

Teagan Smith, scrambling to help.

It quickly became apparent that Teagan’s passion is sustainability. Eager to learn more, she has been a quick study of the farm’s sustainable practices, such as composting, winter sowing and non-chemical pest controls.

She has educated visitors about what does (and does not) go in recycling. She reached out to officials at the town Department of Public Works, and created her own flyer of creative recycling projects.

As an upperclassman with many interests and responsibilities, Teagan has continued to make time for the farm. This summer she worked as a Save the Sound intern taking water samples, but still managed a significant commitment to WTF.

She set up the farm stand every Saturday morning, showcasing veggies and flowers in beautiful displays that attracted record numbers of customers. She even shows up for 7 a.m. stints on weekdays!

Teagan Smith, at the WTF farm stand.

Her quiet competence and leadership make it easy for a new crop of volunteers to follow her example.

This year she the helm of Staples’ Club Green. We look forward to hearing what the club tackles next.

For the rest of this challenging year — and, we suspect, the rest of her life — the world will look a little greener because of Teagan Smith.

(To nominate an Unsung Hero, email

Teagan Smith, down at Wakeman Town Farm.


Dracula Highlights Library’s StoryFest

From F. Scott Fitzgerald and J.D. Salinger to John Hersey and Peter De Vries, then on to A.E. Hotchner and Jane Green, Westport has long been a writer’s town.

Back in the day, a special Rabbit Hill festival celebrated the works of local children’s author Robert Lawson.

In 2018, the Westport Library introduced a new community-wide literary event. Dedicated to every genre imaginable, it celebrated the written word, in all its forms.

Because of COVID, StoryFest 2020 will be virtual. From Sepetember 15-29, more than a dozen live and pre-recorded events will feature top authors and creators in fiction, comics and young adult literature.

Highlights include:

  • A live opening: “Stoker on Stoker,” featuring Dacre Stoker — best-selling author and great-grandson of Dracula’s own Bram Stoker (Tuesday, September 15, 7 p.m.), followed by “Beyond Stoker: Contemporary Visions of Vampires in Fiction” (8:30 p.m.).

  • Bestselling thriller writes Wendy Walker and L.C. Shaw share their latest books, “Don’t Look For Me” and “The Silent Conspiracy” (Wednesday, September 16, 7 p.m.).
  • A panel with speculative fiction writers Charlie Jane Anders, Sarah Galley, Stephen Graham Jones, Tochi Onyebuchi and Paul Tremblay, diving into “The World in the Mirror: How Genre Imagines the Present” (Wednesday, September 23, 7 p.m.).
  • Josh Malerman explores the terrifying world of “Bird Box” and its recent sequel “Malorie” (Thursday, September 24, 8 p.m.).

Also scheduled:

  • “Displays of Affection: How Love Stories Reflect the World” (Thursday, September 17, 7 p.m.).
  • “What the Dark Teaches Us” (Friday, September 18, 7 p.m.).
  • “How the Story Tells Itself: The Unexpected Narrative” (Monday, September 21, 7 p.m.)
  • “In Our Next Issue: Comics and the New Worlds in Their Pages” (Monday, September 21, 8:30 p.m.).
  • “Then and Now: How History Shapes Stories for the Present” (Tuesday, September 22, 7 p.m.).
  • “Final Cuts: New Tales of Hollywood Horror and Other Spectacles” (Thursday, September 24, 7 p.m.)
  • “Valuing the Spectrum of Identities in YA” (Tuesday, September 29)
  • “Finding Bravery Through Books (Tuesday, September 29, 4 p.m.).

All events are free. Click here for full details; click on an individual session to register. An email link will be sent 48 hours before the event.