Category Archives: Weather

Roundup: Memorial Day Parade, Yankee Doodle Fair, Waterspout …

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In one more sign of approaching normalcy, the town is moving forward with plans for an actual Memorial Day parade.

This year’s theme for the float contest is “Honoring Women Veterans.” Certificates will be awarded for Best Development of Theme, Best Youth Organization Float, Most Creative, Best Community Organization, Most Colorful, and the Best Overall Float.

If past form holds true, the Y’s Men will win the Overall award. They’ve won it nearly every year for the past 20 or so.

And the only reason the Y’s Men did not win in 2020, 2017 or 2016 was because there were no parades. (COVID last year; rain those other 2.)

Weather and COVID permitting, this year’s event begins at 9 a.m. on May 31, at Saugatuck Elementary School. Veterans — and thousands of others — will march north on Riverside Avenue, trn right on Post Road East, then continue to Myrtle Avenue.

 

The Y’s Men’s float won, as usual, in 2012. This one honored Korean War veterans — complete with freezing mist.

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The Memorial Day parade is not the only tradition that’s returning.

The Westport Woman’s Club’s Yankee Doodle Fair returns this year — but not in its century-old mid-June, end-of-school, welcome-summer slot.

Yesterday, the Board of Selectmen approved the event for September 23 through the 26th.

So it will be a start-of-school, welcome-fall fair.

But it’s still at the Woman’s Club site on Imperial Avenue.

Even after 100 years, little changes.

The 2017 Yankee Doodle Fair (Drone photo/Ryan Collins)

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Yesterday was spring-like — warm and mostly sunny. Guy Sherman wanted to  photograph a few interesting clouds over Saugatuck Shores.

He got a bonus: this rare and remarkable waterspout:

(Photo/Guy Sherman)

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A month ago, the old wood-shingled house at 19 Soundview Drive bore a demolition sign.

Then it was gone.

Now the home — one of the oldest, as-yet-unrenovated along the Compo exit road– has been painted and spiffed up. It looks eager to greet renters and beachgoers.

And ready to last another 100 years.

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The Learning Community Day School celebrates its 50th anniversary on April 28th.

The institution — housed for many years on Hillspoint Road — is not just patting themselves on the back. They’re raising money for kindergarten scholarships, with their first-ever golf outing.

It’s set for Monday, April 26 at Longshore. Check-in and breakfast are 9 a.m.; tee times start at 10 a.m. You can play 9 or 18 holes.

The cost is $250 per player, $900 for a foursome. You can form your own twosome or foursome, or be paired up.

Popup Bagels and Manny’s Ultimate Bloody Mary Mix are sponsoring food and drinks. Of course, there are prizes and giveaways.

For more information, email learning_community@yahoo.com or call 203-227-8394.

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Longtime Westport resident Judith Portner Sappern died peacefully on Saturday. She was 88 years old.

The Rumson, New Jersey native was an adventurer who, after serving as managing editor of her high school newspaper, took the unusual step at the time to go out of state for college. A

t the University of Connecticut she served as president of Alpha Epsilon Phi sorority, made lifelong friends and fell in love with Donald Sappern. Married shortly after graduation, they started a telephone answering service in Norwalk.  As Don’s career progressed and he became a successful insurance executive, Judy managed office operations and bookkeeping.

Judy Sappern

As the couple’s children grew, Judy helped with their studies and supported every interest, from the choir room and pool to the baseball diamond and the rock band that practiced in the basement. She fed generations of Staples High School students who used their nearby house on Wedgewood Lane as a home base throughout the day.

Judy pursued a master’s degree in social work, and volunteered at Norwalk Hospital. She loved helping others work through tough times, and passed that empathy on to her children. When not at the hospital or office, Judy worked on needlepoint, and played golf or bridge with friends. She also became a personal computer enthusiast and fanatical supporter of UConn basketball.

She was preceded in death by her husband of 63 years, Donald, and her older sister Joyce Cooper. Judy is survived by her children, Laurie Sappern Gaugler  (Dean), and Matthew (Rianne), both of Fairfield, and Adam (Margot)of Bethel, Vermont. Judy enjoyed frequent visits and calls with her 7 grandchildren: Billy, Chloe, Brian, Geoffrey, Rachel, Carly and Tobey. She is also survived by her beloved sister-in-law, Pietrina Sappern of Milford.

A memorial service will be held when travel and gathering is less limited. Memorial contributions in Judy’s memory can be made to the IGA Nephropathy Foundation, PO Box 1322, Wall, New Jersey 07727.

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And finally … sure, the IRS has extended this year’s filing deadline to May 17. But April 15 will always be, um, special.

 

“Heatwave” Hits Laredo

Richard Berler graduated from Staples in 1972. For the last 41 years — with the nickname “Heatwave” — he’s been chief meteorologist for KGNS-TV, the NBC affiliate in Laredo, Texas.

An entry level outpost for most, he remains there because Laredo is — literally — the hottest TV market in America. 

Richard first gained fame at Staples. He provided daily weather reports as part of the morning announcements. He was so trusted that when he predicted a snow day, no students did homework. 

He received the NOAA National Weather Service’s Jefferson Award for meritorious service. Since 2003 he has been a featured speaker at the American Meteorological Society’s annual conference on Broadcast Meteorology.

Berler’s brother Ron graduated from Staples 5 years earlier. A writer and editor. his work has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Wired, Outside and other publications. He is the author of “Raising the Curve: A Year Inside One of America’s 45,000* Failing Public Schools.”

In 2007, while a columnist with ESPN.com, Ron wrote this piece about his brother. The other day, he posted an updated version on Medium. Ron writes:

When my brother, Richard “Heatwave” Berler, met me at the Laredo airport in January some years ago, he was keyed up, distracted, as if spiking from a sugar high. He hustled me out of the terminal and into a desert swelter that left me gasping for air.

“I don’t want to get too excited,” the city’s number one-rated TV meteorologist said, trying to keep a lid on his emotions, “but this could be the first day of the year we reach 90 degrees.”

Richard “Heatwave” Berler

We climbed into his Toyota and sped toward KGNS-TV, the local NBC affiliate where he works, windows open, the immense heat washing over our faces. At the first red light, he pulled what looked to be a meat thermometer from his breast pocket and took a fresh reading. 88 degrees. A grin began to play on his face.

Staring at the bleak countryside — a tired stew of mesquite, scrub brush, tract houses and 7-Elevens — I struggled to share my brother’s enthusiasm. Though it was midday, the city looked abandoned.

Small wonder. In a typical year, the temperature will top 90 degrees 180 times, and 100 degrees 71 times. Other than my brother, nobody walks the streets of Laredo. At least, not since the advent of air conditioning.

How shall I describe Heatwave? My brother is like a hothouse plant. He once drove through Death Valley with the air conditioning off, to immerse himself in the stupefying swelter.

“I’ve seen him riding his bike in 110-degree weather,” marveled Richard Noriega, the station’s one-time news anchor. “He seems to draw energy from the heat.” Once in 1998 it shot up to 114 degrees, burning the leaves of the city’s banana trees like cigarette paper — a day my brother describes as one of the greatest of his life.

Ron Berler: “Heatwave”‘s proud older brother.

He chose Laredo because it is, quite literally, the hottest TV market in the country. He grew up in Connecticut and worked his first TV weather job in Duluth, Minn. The winters there just about killed him. He’d curl up in bed with a good meteorology book and dream about Senegal, the Amazon jungle…Laredo.

The day he left Duluth, 19 degrees was the high. His first week at KGNS, in February 1980, the temperature hit 99. On air he reported this with such passion, the rest of the news team stared at him in disbelief. “From now on,” he instructed the anchorman, “I want you to introduce me as ‘Heatwave.’” He’s been at the station 41 years, yet almost no one in the city knows his given name.

Back then, KGNS had the feel of a frontier outpost. Bats, tarantulas and scorpions called the newsroom home. There was a hole in the building’s foundation; one night a rattlesnake slithered around the studio while my brother and the rest of the Pro8News team delivered their reports.

Yet here in ranch country, where people treat weather seriously, the community has come to depend on him. During Hurricane Gilbert in 1988 he stayed on the job 3 straight days, tracking the storm and issuing weather advisories, grabbing rest when he could in a sleeping bag he’d brought to the station.

Now his fame is such that once, while riding his bicycle, the pilot of a low-flying border-patrol plane spotted him and called through his loudspeaker, “Hi, Heatwave!” Viewers complain to the station when he goes on vacation.

When former Laredo mayor Betty Flores heard I was doing a story on my brother, she insisted on speaking with me. “He is loved here,” she said. “He has changed the way we feel about our city. If he left town, people would take it personally.”

Its always hottest in Laredo.

He has in fact instilled in the city’s citizens a weird sort of community pride. Much as Detroit is Motor City, Laredo is now Heat City. Folks chart hot spells like old-time baseball fans followed Joe DiMaggio’s famous hit streak. In 2011, they will tell you, the temperature reached 100 degrees 35 straight days, 60 days out of 61, a grand total of 122 times. Heat has become their identity.

There was a time when my brother would tune to the number one San Antonio TV station and grow envious of all the technology available to its weather team. He’d wonder if he’d made the right choice, marrying himself to small-budget Laredo.

Then in 2005, as a kind of 25th anniversary gift, the station purchased his wish list of high-tech gadgetry. My brother called me to celebrate. “I couldn’t imagine a more perfect place to be,” he said. He hasn’t looked back since.

It’s 21 degrees in Connecticut as I write this. I’m thinking back to that January visit, when I looked on as Richard waded through a jungle of wind, temperature and barometric charts piled on his desk. “It’s going to get hotter,” he insisted that day. At 4:02 p.m., the temperature officially hit 90. He slapped me five and dashed outside to bask in the heat.

 

Roundup: Outdoor Dining, P&Z Records, Food Drive …

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Love outdoor dining? Think it’s too intrusive?

On Thursday, March 11, the Planning & Zoning Commission holds a public hearing. They’ll consider a text amendment that would continue outdoor dining for over 80 restaurants — which would otherwise expire March 31 — until further notice.

The text amendment would also be expanded to include certain retail businesses.

Click here for the full document. Click here for the retail portion

The March 11 meeting will be livestreamed at 6 p.m. on www.westportct.gov, Optimum channel 79 and Frontier channel 6020.

Comments can be emailed before the meeting to PandZ@westportct.gov, or during the meeting to PandZComments@westportct.gov. You can offer live testimony during the meeting if you request a link from maryyoung@westportct.gov by noon on March 11.

Romanacci’s Xpress was one of several Railroad Place restaurants with outdoor dining.

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Speaking of the P&Z: Did you know that Westport has digitized its back-office land use permit process?

Users can search for and view records — free! — by clicking here. It even comes with a handy how-to tutorial:

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The last Farmers’ Market of the winter is an important one.

On Thursday, March 11 (10 a.m. to 2 p.m.), the Market partners with Sustainable Westport to replenish 2 food pantries: Homes with Hope’s Gillespie Center, and  Christ & Holy Trinity Church. Both are running low.

Non-perishable items (canned goods, rice, beans, pasta, jams, sauces, etc.) can be dropped off at Farmers’ Market (Gilbertie’s Herbs & Garden Center, 7 Sylvan Road).

It’s rare to see canned food at the Westport Farmers’ Market. A week from tomorrow, it will be a very lovely sight.

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The other day, Positive Directions hosted Senator Chris Murphy, State Representative Jonathan Steinberg and 1st Selectman Jim Marpe.

They joined Westport Human Services, Kids in Crisis, Mid-Fairfield Child Guidance, NAMI and Fairfield Public Schools for a discussion on behavioral health needs during COVID and beyond.

Senator Murphy heard ideas he’ll bring to Washington. Other leaders shared best practices. Click here to learn more.

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Seth Van Beever is a proud son of Saugatuck.

Actually, a proud great-great-grandson. His great-great-grandfather, James Barnes Sr., was the first tender for what is now called the William F. Cribari Bridge.

Seth has followed the debate over the 133-year-old bridge’s future closely. So when he saw a photo of an innovative solution — a road in the Netherlands goes under the water, so boats can sail above it — he thought of us.

(Photo courtesy of @alic3lik)

That’s thinking waaaaay outside the bridge — er, the box.

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We dodged a bullet Monday.

High winds throughout Connecticut led to 18,000 power outages statewide. As of last night, there were still 4,600 Eversource customers without power.

Here in Westport, we had outages in only 3 scattered, small locations. As of last night, the only folks still without power here wee on Pheasant Lane, off Meeker Road.

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Nancy Vener took this photo from Saugatuck Shores. Stony Point is on the left; Longshore, on the right.

But what’s that blue light? She said it showed up on several photos, at different heights. If you know, click “Comments” below.

(Photo/Nancy Vener)

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Juanita Watson — a 30-year Westport Public Schools employee — died last Thursday. She most recently worked in Pupil Services.

Juanita Watson

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And finally … on this day in 1931, President Hoover signed a congressional act making “The Star Spangled Banner” our official national anthem.

For decades, it was sung the same way. During the 1968 World Series, our Weston neighbor Jose Feliciano broke tradition with this version.

The national anthem has never been the same.

 

0*6*Art*Art*0 — Week 49 Gallery

This week’s art gallery rocks!

As the pandemic nears its 1-year anniversary, our spirits rise. This week’s artists echo our optimism. Several make their “06880” debuts, offering a wide range of colors and styles.

Each week, we showcase your art — in whatever form you create it. You don’t have to be a pro, or even experienced. We want it all!

Art should be inspired by, relevant to, or somehow, in some way, connected to our current lives. Student submissions of all ages are especially welcome. So are artists who have not submitted before.

Email dwoog@optonline.net, to share your work with the world.

“Simple Treasures” (Lauri Weiser)

“Cooking Obsession in the Time of COVID” — oil on canvas (Paddy Duecy)

“Hope is the Thing With Feathers — Emily Dickinson” (Amy Schneider)

“Dunes Play” — oil on canvas (Kimberly Porio)

“Nature Sculpture” (Karen Weingarten)

Untitled — water flowing out of Sherwood Mill Pond at dead low tide (Wendy Crowther)

Untitled (Lawerence Weisman)

“Perspective” — low-flying aircraft or birds’ feet? (MaryLou Roels)

“Soon to be Released” — crocuses in snow (Elana Nasereddin)

“Snow Blanket at Compo” (Pam Kesselman)

“Lasting Impression” — rhododendron outside the kitchen window (John Gould)

“A Perfect Winter’s Day” (Karen Kramer)

Unsung Heroes #179

This hasn’t been the worst winter.

But it hasn’t been the best. We’ve had several snowfalls, with a decent number of inches.

Each time, we’ve been out and about quickly.

Thanks to our plow guys.

Some work for the state Department of Transportation, or Westport Public Works. Others are private — employed by landscaping or other companies, or completely on their own.

All are crucial.

We seldom see them. We’re inside, drinking cocoa. Or asleep.

There’s a real art to clearing roads and driveways, efficiently and quickly. I can’t imagine what a mess I’d make if I tried. Very quickly, I’d need to be plowed out myself.

We never know how much we need our plow guys, until we do.

Thanks to all, for all you do, for all of us.

I just hope we don’t see you again until 2022.

PS: Want to give your own favorite snow plower a personal shout-out? Click “Comments” below.

(To recommend an Unsung Hero, email dwoog@optonline.net)

 (Photo/Larry Untermeyer)

 

Pics Of The Day #1405

Enjoying Saugatuck Island ,,, (Photo/Bobbi Essagof)

… and Cooper at Compo (Photo/Dan Kahn)

Roundup: Albert Pizzirusso, Sidewalks, Optimum,

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Albert Pizzirusso, a longtime Westport resident and owner of A&S Fine Foods in Westport and Stamford, died Sunday. He was 46

The Yonkers, New York native graduated from The Culinary Institute of America at Hyde Park. He became chef at legendary restaurants, including the Rainbow Room, the Ritz-Carlton Hotel and others. 

At the Rainbow Room he impressed Julia Child with his dedication. He was the only person in the kitchen who did not stop working when she entered. She noted that that commitment and focus proved he had what takes to go into business for himself. She was right.

Albert combined his love of Italian culture, great food and old school “let me make you an espresso” traditional service in his businesses, with quality of service and offerings from a bygone era.

He added value to his community through great generosity to local charities and organizations.

He is survived by his wife Patricia, with whom he ran A&S Fine Foods for 2 decades; parents Agnes and Angelo; brothers Mario (his twin), and Michael; sister-in-law Laura; nephews Matthew and Eric, and his beloved Yorkie, Eddie.

Due to current restrictions, services will limited to family and close friends. A lover of celebrating just about anything, a Celebration of Life will be held in his honor in Westport this summer.

Memorial contributions may be made in his name to the Connecticut Humane Society in Westport.

Albert Pizzirusso

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On Sunday, Carole Schweid noted that the Treadwell/Riverside/Saugatuck Avenue intersection in front of Riverside Barber Shop had not been shoveled.

That spurred Robbie Guimond — owner of Bridgebrook Marina, across the street — into action. He was happy to help.

Ta-da! Here’s what the sidewalk looked like yesterday. Thanks, Robbie!

(Photo/Carole Schweid)

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For years, Optimum/Altice has had a monopoly on cablevision services throughout the area.

A new group — the Tristate Coalition for Fair Internet Service — is working on legal challenges through the New York State Attorney General’s office, and promoting alternate providers. They’re also collecting data on customer experiences with the longtime cable service.

Click here for details.

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Connect-Us Academy is a great Bridgeport-based after-school program that helps young people ages 16 to 21 cultivate professional business skills.

This Thursday (February 18, 4:30 p.m.), they welcome a new class. Students will share their experiences, and their excitement at what’s aheda.

Westporter Rich Eldh — co-founder emeritus of SiriusDecisions will deliver a keynote address. Click here to watch via Zoom.

Richard Eldh

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Valentine’s Day is gone. But love remains in the air.

And in cyberspace.

Play With Your Food’s performance of “Love Notes” — an evening of thought-provoking play readings and stories — is available online for a limited time.

Click here for the selections: “I Was Fine Until You Came Into the Room,” “My Life in France,” “Bar Mitzvah Boy,” “Love Poems for Married People” and “The Diaries of Adam and Eve,” followed by a talkback with the director and cast.

For more Play With Your Food information click here; follow on Facebook (@PWYFood) or Instagram (@playwithyourfoodct), or call 203-293-8729.

The Play With Your Food cast.

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As we slog through mid-February, Lou Weinberg provides a burst of color — and a reminder that spring is only 32 days away:

Female cardinal (Photo/Lou Weinberg)

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And finally … on this day in 1923, Howard Carter unsealed the burial chamber of Pharaoh Tutankhamun.

Roundup: Pauli’s Bagels, St. Paddy’s Catering, Sybil’s List, More

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Bagels are back in the mini-strip mall next to Five Guys and a nail salon.

Bagel Maven closed last winter. The space is now filled by Pauli’s Deli & Bagels. It’s the second Pauli’s; the original is in Norwalk.

In addition to bagels and deli sandwiches, Pauli’s serves plenty of breakfast items, and coffee.

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Is it too early to think about St. Patrick’s Day?

Not if you’re a caterer.

Alison Milwe Grace — one of Fairfield County’s favorite chefs — has already planned her mid-March menu. She features tempting appetizers; corned beef and cabbage with roasted potatoes, roasted carrots and horseradish mustard, and Guinness Shepherd’s Pie.

For dessert: cupcakes with Irish cream frosting; Irish bread pudding with whiskey caramel sauce; Irish coffee crème brûlée, and Bailey’s chocolate mousse.

Of course, if it’s St. Paddy’s Day, Passover and Easter are not far behind.

Alison has menus for those too. Click here to see.

Alison Milwe Grace: catering, 2021-style.

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Carole Schweid appreciated a recent “06880” story about the law that business owners clear snow from their sidewalks.

But, she writes: “Riverside Barber Shop has done nothing to clear their sidewalks 

“It’s on the corner of Riverside, Treadwell and Saugatuck Avenues. There is nowhere to stand — except in the street.

“You cannot reach the button for the light to help cross the street, due to the snow. This is one of the most dangerous corners in Westport, where 3 busy streets merge.

“Every other business in the neighborhood — a place where people walk, due to the restaurants, etc. — has cleared their sidewalks.

“When I asked them to do something to make the corner safer by clearing a path, the woman who works there turned her back and walked away.”

The corner of Riverside, Treadwell and Saugatuck Avenues, at Riverside Barber Shop. (Photo/Carole Schweid)

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For years, Westporters have relied on Sybil Steinberg’s curated reading list.

It’s never more needed than during a pandemic.

Now, the longtime Westporter — a contributing editor and former book review section editor for Publishers Weekly — returns with ideas for winter reading.

Click here for Sybil’s exclusive recommendations, courtesy of the Westport Library.

Or click below, for the video version:

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Speaking of reading: Westport author Christian Hunter’s new book has just been published.

“Influence” is the story of a young woman’s journey from Venezuela to the United States, where she and her family come to grips with the disappearance of her father. Her mission is to find him, and become what she has always dreamed of: a celebrity.

Click below to learn more:

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Among the approvals at Thursday’s Planning & Zoning Commission meeting:

  • Conversion of the former Steinway piano store at 499 Post Road East (next to the fire station), to use by Bespoke Auto Hause for an automobile storage garage for privately owned cars.
  • Live music at Basso restaurant, on Jesup Road.

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And finally … Danny Ray died earlier this month in Georgia, at 85.

You may not have known his name. But if you saw James Brown perform, you probably saw “the hardest-working man in show business” being led away after putting everything into a song. Then he threw away his cape, returned to the stage, and gave the audience even more. Over and over again.

Danny Ray was that man. He was also the man who introduced the Godfather of Soul at his concerts.

When James Brown died in 2006, Danny Ray spoke at his funeral. “Ladies and gentlemen, are you ready for star time?” he asked. Then he draped a cape over the open coffin.

 

0*6*Art*Art*0 — Week 47 Gallery

We introduce 2 new artists this week. Both are Staples graduates. One still lives in Westport; the other is in California.

Both appreciate our weekly art gallery.

Actually, its your gallery. Send us your art — in whatever form you create it. You don’t have to be a pro, or even experienced. We want it all!

Art should be inspired by, relevant to, or somehow, in some way, connected to our current lives. Student submissions of all ages are especially welcome. So are artists who have not submitted before.

Email dwoog@optonline.net, to share your work with the world.

“The Dream.” Artist Tanya Michaela graduated from Staples High School in 1981.She credits Max’s Art Supplies and its amazing staff for supplying her creative young self with endless “toys” so she could experiment and flourish. After Parsons School of Design, she headed to Los Angeles where she now lives. Her main medium is college (torn, reclaimed paper on canvas. 

“Heart Stone,” surrounded by a light dusting of snow at Compo Beach. (Amy Schneider)

“With Gratitude and Prayers for our President’s Service” (Ellin Spadone)

“Snowy Maple” (Jamie Walsh)

Untitled. Staples graduate Eric Bosch recently retired. His wife and children gave him a watercolor class as a Christmas gift. He’s just beginning to paint, but COVID has left him lots of time for learning different techniques. He enjoys experimenting with colors.

“One Way to Deal With Pandemic Stress” (Lawrence Weisman)

“Sunset in the Snow” (Karen Weingarten)

 

Pic Of The Day #1395

Greens Farms Road, looking west (Photo/David Squires)