Category Archives: Westport life

This Halloween, Keep In Mind …

WestportMoms is our town’s go-to multi-platform destination for upcoming family and kid events, merchants and helping professional news, and and school and camp advice.

The head moms — Megan Rutstein and Melissa Post — always have every child in mind. They know “it takes a village,” and they always support ours.

The other day, they posted this advice. It comes from Dr. Ali Griffith, and is worth repeating for the (few) folks who don’t follow WestportMoms:

“Discover Westport” Online

Businesses thinking of starting in or relocating here can “Choose Westport.” That’s the town-sponsored website, with information on commercial space, demographics, lifestyle and more. The goal is to attract retailers, small firms and financial services.

Now there’s a site for everyone else. “Discover Westport” — — has just gone live.

Complementing the commercial-oriented website, this one is aimed at current residents, visitors, and anyone planning a move.

In other words: It’s the first comprehensive spot in cyberspace for anyone to “discover Westport.”

The “Discover Westport” home page. Several rotating images share the spotlight.

“Discover Westport” has been a year in the making. The Visual Brand — Randy Herbertson’s downtown creative agency — won an RFP to design and maintain the new site. (They created Choose Westport too.)

Randy didn’t realize how much goes on here until he tried to include it all in one self-contained place.

Over 200 merchants are listed — and that’s just one item, on one dropdown menu.

“Discover Westport”‘s 12 tabs include:

  • Arts, Culinary & Entertainment (Levitt Pavilion, MoCA, Westport Country Playhouse, Westport Farmers’ Market, etc.)
  • Beaches
  • Community (neighborhoods, downtown, Cockenoe Island …)
  • Food & Drink (over 90 restaurants, markets — and liquor stores)
  • Education (public and private schools, preschools, dance academies)
  • Move to Westport (realtors)
  • Nature & Parks (Winslow, Baron’s South, pocket parks, Earthplace …)
  • Outdoor Activities (Wakeman Town Farm, sports, pools, PAL ice rink, etc.)
  • Places of Worship
  • Salons & Services (several handfuls of nail salons — and Harding Funeral Home)
  • Shopping
  • Sports & Fitness (from A [Age of Reason] to almost Z [Winged Monkey]
  • Sports & Fitness (almost as many gyms as nail salons).

6 eateries, 1 market and 2 liquor stores. on the “Food & Drink” page.

“Discover Westport” also features the “Celebrate Westport Community Calendar.” It’s been available on — the town’s official website — but buried deep and hard to find.

Now, the Calendar has its own special tab.

The Community Calendar.

Other tabs include “Plan” (Getting Here, Parking, Stay, “For Businesses”) and “History” (which needs work).

“Discover Westport” had a soft launch recently. It launches officially this Monday (October 17, 5 to 7 p.m., Westport Library), with a special ceremony. Several restaurants will offer tastings.

The public is invited. All are invited too to discover — and then bookmark — “Discover Westport.”

(Like the new website, “06880” is all about Westport. Please click here to support your hyper-local blog.)

Roundup: Riverfront, Banned Books, Banned Dogs …

If you’ve lived here for more than 6 minutes, you’ve got some ideas about downtown.

Don’t keep them to yourself.

The master plan for downtown parking and pedestrian areas — called “Reconnecting the Riverfront” — has moved into the “public engagement” phase.

Click here to take a survey. The link also offers a “Comments” section, for various parts of the proposal.

The survey follows a “visioning charrette” last month. There will also be pop-up displays at downtown locations this fall.


Irony is not dead.

A lone protestor took to the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge yesterday. In what looks like a reference to Monday’s controversial Board of Education meeting about a banned books display at Staples High School, he urges the teaching of reading:

(Photo/Chris Grimm)


Speaking of the local controversy: Fox News has taken notice.

The network includes a story about the Westport Board of Ed meeting on its website. The piece is illustrated with video from a Southington Board of Education meeting about a “woke worksheet,” and 2 photos from a Virginia Board of Ed protest about Critical Race Theory.

Click here for the Fox News story.

Screen shot of the Fox News story.


The Westport Library and Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce are serious about democracy.

On October 18 (noon, Trefz Forum), they’ll sponsor an interactive candidate forum.

State Senate District 26 candidates Toni Boucher and Ceci Maher, State Representative District 136 hopefuls Alma Sarelli and Jonathan Steinberg, and State Rep District 143 nominees Nicole Hampton and Dominique Johnson will appear.

The debate will be moderated by Chamber director Matthew Mandell, and archived on Vimeo.


Two sides of the same coin:

An “06880” reader sent this photo of a new sign at Wakeman, the athletic fields adjacent to Bedford Middle School:

She writes:

“Many people feel it’s hard to have a dog in Westport. So many restrictions, especially during the warmer months. But now this new sign just went up in a few places at Wakeman.

“It was all the talk this morning with the moms and dads, where many walk their dogs, and bring them to weekend soccer, baseball and lacrosse games. It’s a shame our town can’t be more accommodating.”

But a youth sports coach had a different reaction.

“It’s about time,” he tells “06880.” “Now maybe I won’t have to walk the fields before practice every day, picking up poop.”


Frank Accardi writes that yesterday at 7:45 a.m. on Whitney Street, a woman driving a gray Volvo SUV began honking repeatedly as a school bus stopped to pick up children.

Several times, the driver attempted to pull into the opposite lane to pass the bus. Its lights were still flashing.

“If ever there was an instance of thumbing your nose at the community, this is it,” Frank says.

Sure, it’s a pain to be behind a school bus that stops every few feet.

But attempting to pass it, while children are getting on?

That’s worse than any Entitled Parking photo I’ve posted, for sure.

Those lights are there for a reason.


A proposal to restrict the use of gas-powered leaf blowers in Westport — scheduled for the October Representative Town Meeting — has been removed from that agenda. Discussion and a possible vote will be postponed to a future date.


Next week, the very local Westport Farmers’ Market will be the site of an effort for international aid.

Lawn signs supporting Ukraine in its war against Russian aggression will be on sale next Thursday (October 13, Imperial Avenue parking lot). 100% of all money raised will go to Ukraine Aid International, organized by Westport native Brian Mayer. UAI provides food and medicine to Ukrainians isolated near the Russian border.

Westporter Ken Bernhard and Weston Kiwanis Club member Amy Jenner have already raised $3,000. They have 200 signs left.

If you can’t get to the Farmers Market, email for details on purchasing a lawn sign.

Amy Jenner, Ken Bernhard and their Ukrainian lawn signs.


Congressman Jim Himes is featured at a “Rosé and Reproductive Rights” event (October 11, 7 p.m., Westport Woman’s Club). He’ll discuss the impact — both nationally and locally — of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision, and take questions from audience members.

In May, Congressman Jim Himes spoke at a Westport rally protesting the Supreme Court’s Roe vs. Wade ruling. Governor Lamont and Senator Blumenthal (left to right) spoke also. (Photo/Dan Woog)


Westport’s Unitarian Church hosts a potluck brunch Sunday (October 9, directly after the 10 a.m. Sunday service). The group will then carpool to Stamford, for a 2 p.m. Women’s march.

The Church invites everyone interested to attend. For more information, email

Unitarian Church members making signs for the women’s march.


Staples High School squash players were among a large crowd that packed Intensity Fitness yesterday.

They saw a great exhibition match between 2 top players. Paul Coll is ranked #1 in the world; Diego Elias is #4.

The Wreckers hope to duplicate some of that success soon, when their season begins.

Intense exhibition squash at Intensity. (Photo/Seth Schachter)


It’s osprey time again!

Today’s “Westport … Naturally” photo shows one of our favorite raptors, enjoying a meal in Ester Clanton’s neighbor’s yard.

(Photo/Ester Clanton)


And finally … today’s “06880” Roundup features a number of signs: on the Ruth Steikraus Cohen Bridge, Wakeman Fields, Farmers’ Market, and for reproductive rights and the women’s march.

So of course our featured song is …

Working Mothers Forge Post-COVID Bonds

Raising children in the suburbs during the pandemic is hard.

It’s especially difficult for women, who often bear the greatest burden.

Even women working in the mental health field have found themselves anxious, uncertain and alone.

Jessica Hill

Jessica Hill has spent her life bringing people together. Now she’s doing it again — specifically, for women in the maternal mental health space.

The other night, a group of mostly solo entrepreneurs and practitioners gathered at Nômade.

The goal was to share lessons learned during COVID, network, forge partnerships — and realize that as they manage the many physical and emotional transitions of parenthood, they’re not alone.

Hill has the chops to do all that. A Massachusetts native and motherhood coach, she moved here with her husband and young children in 2013.

When her husband was transferred from London to New York, a colleague told him to check out Westport. “It’s a kid’s mecca,” the co-worker said.

The Hills were not disappointed. They drove from the airport to Compo Beach, fell in love with the playground, and never looked anywhere else.

In 2017 Hill started The Parent Collective. Its classes, support groups and coaching sessions support mothers at all stages.

Her latest venture — the result of a conversation with Dana Czuczka, a certified lactation consultant — drew about 15 women. Another dozen or so were interested, but (perhaps because they are working mothers) unavailable.

The group included OB/GYNs, a pelvic floor specialist, yoga teacher, acupuncture and wellness experts, and family, couples and sex therapists.

Jessica Hill’s group, at Nomade.

They described the loneliness of working alone, and the overwhelming feelings of parenthood. They discussed ways to work together holistically, through referrals and projects.

“There are mothers raising children who have never had playdates,” Hill says, referring to the coronavirus’ collateral damage. “But the mothers are isolated too. People just want to feel connected now.”

After the meeting, several participants said they’d hesitated to come. “They were tired. They just wanted to put on sweatpants and watch TV,” Hill says.

“But they all said they were glad they came. They met old friends, and made new ones. They felt energized.

“We’re all juggling lots of plates. It takes a lot to get motivated, and out the door. But this is really important.”

Hill says the group will meet quarterly. Several women have already offered to host meetings at their workplaces.

(For more information, email

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Cornhole Comes To Junamo

If you couldn’t make it to Cyndi Lauper, the Earthplace bash or Staples High School’s Class of 1971 reunion this past weekend, maybe you had fun at John Nunziato’s cornhole tournament.

Last year, amid COVID isolation, the Westporter created a small neighborhood :”Junamo” tournament. (The name combines Juniper and Caccamo Streets.)

This might be the only small gathering with a logo. Nunziato — whose day job is in design — branded the event. He created signage, and gave out swag to participants.

John Nunziato, with his branded sign.

A BBQ truck offered brisket and pulled pork. A bouncy castle and basketball games entertained kids, while a big screen TV for Sunday football and adult refreshments satisfied older folks.

With more than 40 cornhole players, and many more spouses and kids braving the cold, wet weather, a champion was crowned. Dave Frost took home the title this year (and a giant lion trophy that his wife is less than thrilled about).

Cornhole competitors.

It was a great day for the Junamo neighborhood (realtors: Take note of the name.) Meanwhile, Nunziato is already planning next year’s’ event. He hopes to include a charitable component. (Hat tip: Pam Long)

7th grader Caitlin Hand made cookies for the winner. (Photo/Pam Long)

Senior Center’s Huge Loss: Sue Pfister To Retire

Susan L. Pfister — the only director the Westport Center for Senior Activities has known at its Imperial Avenue home — has announced her retirement.

She leaves the post she has made an enormous mark on, effective January 1.

Sue Pfister

Pfister has spent 35 years with Westport’s Department of Human Services. She was hired in 1987, after graduating from Sacred Heart University with a bachelor’s in social work.

She earned a master’s in social work at Fordham University, and dedicated her career to supporting Westport senior citizens.

The Senior Center had humble beginnings, and no permanent home. It bounced between the YMCA, Greens Farms Elementary School, Longshore and Staples High School.

Pfister helped lead construction of the Imperial Avenue facility in 2004, ahead of schedule and under budget. She also oversaw the 2016 expansion.

Westport’s Senior Center serves hundreds of people daily, thanks in large part to Pfister’s expertise and administration. “Sue’s Café” is just one honor. It was named in recognition of her establishment of the daily congregate meal program, complete with its own chef.

Westporters of all ages — along with town officials, and her colleagues around the state — admire Pfister’s creativity, resourcefulness and inclusive vision.

Sue Pfister (seated, right), at her beloved Senior Center.

She says:

I’m honored to have had the opportunity to spend my entire career with the Town of Westport. Westport truly values and recognizes the important role seniors play in the community.

I send heartfelt appreciation and thanks to the various administrations, boards and commissions, town departments and staff, instructors and volunteers, and most importantly, my staff for supporting me throughout my career. I will always call Westport my home away from home.

The Westport Senior Center.

First Selectwoman Jen Tooker adds:

Westport residents, and in particular our seniors and their families and caregivers, have been blessed with Sue’s presence. Through her due diligence and oversight, the Senior Center has become a crown jewel of Westport, offering comprehensive programs that enhance the lives of seniors and create countless opportunities for seniors and volunteers to enjoy friendships and daily enrichment.

Sue always has the best interests of those she cared for at the forefront. Her considerate nature and calm demeanor, coupled with a no-nonsense management style has been an enormous asset to this community.

On a personal level, when my mom and dad moved to town, my dad became enamored of the Center and its many activities. It was Sue and her staff who were sincerely welcoming and hands-on in helping with a difficult life transition for him.

I know she is the same with all her beloved seniors. Sue took the lead without fanfare – she just did it – and with a smile on her face. Of course, Sue will be sorely missed as the Senior Center director. But I also know that she will continue to be in service to others as she enters a new chapter in her life. We wish her only health and happiness in her retirement.

Carl Frey blew out birthday candles with (from right) his wife Iris, and Senior Center director Sue Pfister.

Human Services director Elaine Daignault notes:

Sue has a penchant for quick-thinking, organization, and collaboration, playing a critical role in the town’s emergency response efforts through countless storms and public health emergencies. She and her team offered essential respite and support by feeding, housing, and comforting emergency workers and residents during significant nor’easter storm events like Hurricanes Sandy, Irene and Isais, and the COVID19 pandemic.

Sue’s energy and dedication are inspirational. Her drive and compassion for others have been a tremendous source of reassurance to me, and those that she has helped along the way.

I am very grateful for her camaraderie and friendship, and I wish her a well-deserved retirement where she’ll continue to spread light and hope to others.

COVID And Divorce: Carole Orland Splits The Difference

The crucible of COVID drew many couples together.

Spending much more time than usual together, sharing parenting and household and professional duties like never before, they found strength and bonds that may have frayed over the years.

But the pandemic also caused many marriages to founder.

Stuck at home, without the usual distractions of offices and friends, some couples grew apart. Partners magnified their spouses’ flaws — real or imagined. Add in kid issues, mental health challenges and more, and the stresses mounted.

Maybe they had talked about divorce before the virus. Maybe not.

Either way, Carole Orland says, they’re talking about it now.

She should know. A partner at Westport-based Broder Orland Murray & DeMattie, she — and the firm — specialize in family law.

Which often means “divorce.”

Carole Orland

It sounds like a difficult specialty. But, the Worcester native and longtime Westport resident says, it is “an opportunity to help people who are in a bad way. It’s rewarding to see the process. By the end they feel better about themselves and their circumstances. They’re ready for their lives to really take off.”

Orland also likes the chance to be involved in other areas of law, like trusts and estates, and torts. She has a wide range of clients — in finance, business, sports, entertainment and blue-collar jobs — and learns something new in every case.

She learns about law. And she learns about human nature.

Is it depressing?

“That’s not the right word,” she counters. “It’s sad, sometimes. You see emotions, afflictions, addictions, abuse — bad stuff. My challenge is to get them to a better place. It’s not just about the divorce itself. We don’t just drop them off at the end.”

COVID shut down her office in March 2020, as it did many others. But they reopened in mid-May. Courts were closed; remote proceedings had not yet begun.

But the floodgates opened. And she has been busy ever since.

The pandemic changed how divorce looks, Orland says. As more fathers work and spend time at home, child custody arrangements evolve.

Employment is different too. COVID caused some people to reassess their work. “High flyers may not be in jobs that are as lucrative now,” Orland notes. “And other people lost their jobs.”

At the same time, people used the pandemic to move to higher-paying careers. Others found themselves in industries, like real estate, which boomed.

All of those situations force new looks at divorce settlements already in place. That’s even more work for Orland.

Not all of her job involves splits. She also arranges pre-nuptials. Marriages declined during the worst months of COVID. Now there’s a rush to the altar — and more clients.

“We were crazy busy before,” Orland says. “Now it’s really insane.”

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Westfair Village: Westport’s Hidden Neighborhood Gem

In 2010, Anna and Shawn Rycenga went house hunting. She was the land use director in Oxford, Connecticut; he worked in New York City.

Westport was in between. It had all the amenities: excellent schools, great children’s activities, beaches. But something else attracted the couple too.

As they drove through Westfair Village, they saw kids riding bikes, and adults walking dogs. It had a true neighborhood feel.

The Rycengas bought a home on Westfair Drive. Twelve years later, they’re still there.

And still very happy.

Westfair Village — nestled between Post Road East and North Bulkley Avenue — is little known outside of the area. Its profile is as low-key as the Westfair Center strip mall it sits behind, across the Post Road from Stop & Shop.

A home on Fairport Drive.

But with over 100 homes, a couple hundred children, and a year-long calendar of fun events, it’s one of Westport’s last true “neighborhoods,” in all the community-minded, hometown senses of the word.

It’s had a long time to create traditions. Westfair Village was built right after World War II by developer B.V. Brooks Sr., for beneficiaries of the GI bill.

Located on an old onion farm, the circular streets featured modest Capes on 1/3-acre lots. He named the roads “Westfair” and “Fairport” (combinations of Westport and nearby Fairfield) as well as “Dexter” (the nickname of his son, B.V. Jr.) and “Brook” (presumably short for his own last name). It’s not clear what the 5th street — Hunting Lane — is named for.

In the nearly 80 years since then, Westfair Village has seen many changes. Homeowners added 2nd floors to the original Capes, rebuilt their interiors, and enlarged their small houses. Some became teardowns, replaced by bigger homes. Large trees provide shade, on once-open lots.

Anna Rycenga estimates 14 or 15 original homes remain.

This home in Westfair Village started out as a Cape. The 2nd floor was added later, and the floor plan — the same in every home — was reworked.

As younger families like hers moved in, Anna wanted to make sure they felt welcome. She created a neighborhood directory.

That made organizing a block party easy. The first, in 2013, included a live band. Anna — who loves to cook — provided the food. It’s now become one of the highlights of the year.

Tables laden with food sit on lawns. People dance in the streets.

The block party has become an annual end-of-September tradition.

Westfair girls …  (Photo/Anna Rycenga)

But the block party is just one part of a full year of fun. There are holiday parties, chili cook-offs, Easter egg hunts.

On the first day of school, mothers enjoy a “MOMosa” bar. On the last day, dozens of boys and girls ride their bikes to Long Lots Elementary.

… and guys. (Photo/Anna Rycenga)

Friday ice cream trucks are a much-loved new tradition. Westport’s Police and Fire Departments and Emergency Medical Services are all invited (and eat free). Children clamber in and out of police cars and fire trucks.

If Stevan Dohanos was alive, he’d paint the scene for the Saturday Evening Post (if it was alive too).

Friday ice cream: a neighborhood tradition. (Photo/Anna Rycenga)

The pandemic accelerated the influx of families with young children.

It also made social connections harder. But parents organized a socially distant Halloween parade. And people set out lawn chairs by their driveways, and chatted with their neighbors and passersby.

“I feel blessed to live in Westport as a town, and in this neighborhood especially,” Anna Rycenga says.

Police and kids hang together. (Photo/Anna Rycenga)

Peggy Lehn agrees. She’s lived there for 30 years. She’s thrilled at the energy and sense of community the young families have brought.

“”I was sad to see some of the older residents move on,” Peggy says. “But the new residents have embraced this wonderful neighborhood. There is a real sense of community here: kids riding bikes, people walking dogs.

“And always, a wave and a smile.”

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Dave Smith Guides Dads’ Survival

Wherever men gather — on the sidelines of their kids’ games, at a Compo cookout, by the transfer station — the conversations are the same.

“How’s it goin’?”

“Good. Kids, wife, work — all good.”

Then it’s on to the next topic: the coach, the meat, the trash.

Much of the time, of course, it’s not “all good.” Far from it.

The kids are acting up. The marriage is rocky. The job is stressful.

Most men don’t talk about that stuff.

Dave Smith does.

The Madison native — a baseball player at Trinity College, and graduate of Harvard Business School — his wife Jeanne and their 2 children moved to Westport in 2008.

They’ve had 2 more since then. His career as a leadership coach has flourished.

Dave and Jeanne Smith, and their 4 children.

But his side gig — a weekly blog called “Dads’ Survival Guide” — sets him apart from the stereotypical suburban father.

“It’s always been secretive that being a dad is a struggle,” Smith says.

“If it’s a secret, you feel isolated. And that can lead to drinking, substance abuse, gambling — or worse.”

“Worse” includes suicide. Several years ago, a friend took his life.

“Dads who had known him well had no idea he was struggling,” Smith says. “It broke our heart to realize he had struggled alone.”

He organized a few “dad barbecues,” to get conversations going. Then COVID hit.

“Wow! If things were not hard enough for dads before …” Smith says.

He does not downplay the difficulties facing moms. But, he says, women are more socialized to talk things out, and seek support from friends. “Men put on an act. We never admit anything is wrong.”

In the early days of the pandemic, Smith began writing. His subjects were ideas that hit home: dealing with teenagers. Dealing with money. Dealing with emotions.

Screenshot from a “Dads’ Survival Guide” post.

He sent his stories to friends. They passed them to others. Dads are not big on writing back, he says, but occasionally he hears “Man! I’m going through the same thing!”

Smith says up front: “I don’t have the answers. I just try to put a voice to our struggles. I put it out there, that we’re all struggling with the same things. And it’s okay to talk about it.”

Simply hearing another man put words to feelings is a revelation to some men, Smith says.

His posts on marriage and parenting issues get the most response. He recently wrote about reactions when a child lies.

Kids’ emotional well-being is an important topic. So is the mental health of dads themselves.

“A lot of dads struggle with depression,” Smith says. “But there’s nowhere besides AA or rehab where you can talk about it.”

His goal is to continue to be “as open as possible. I want to put a voice to values and beliefs. Dads tend not to think about things like that.”

Dave’s “Dads’ Survival Guide” forces them to think.

So perhaps the next time one man asks another “How’s it goin’?” the answer may not be “all good.” Get ready for an answer that may be far more honest than that.

(To be added to the “Dads’ Survival Guide” distribution list, email 

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LobsterFest: Huge Town Party Needs Cooks, Crackers And More

It may be the biggest party in town.*

Tickets are going fast LobsterFest — the September 17 lobster/steak/ drinks/music/kids’ activities blowout at Compo Beach.

In fact, by the time this is posted it may already be sold out.

But you can still go. Just sign up to volunteer!

It takes many hands to put on the massive fundraiser. (Which raises massive funds. This year’s goal is $200,000, to help dozens of charitable projects in Fairfield County and around the world.)

Besides all those hard-working Rotarians, folks of all ages are needed to greet the 1,500 guests, crack lobsters, prep other food, cook, pour beer and wine, carry trays for seniors, sell raffle tickets, etc. etc., etc. haul trash

And of course, help set up and clean up.

LobsterFest volunteers

It’s a true community-wide event. And besides giving much-needed aid, volunteers can enjoy it too. They get a burger or hot dog, a drink ticket, a cool t-shirt — and share in the camaraderie of a fun, truly feel-good day.

The Rotary Club has thought of everything, to make LobsterFest sizzle. The mid-September date ensures that the lobsters have finished shedding their old shells, so they’re especially big.

Texas Roadhouse returns to cook the steaks, to perfection. There are several great beer vendors, and non-alcoholic drinks.

The Rotary Club takes sustainability seriously. Lobster shells are recycled (after de-banding); bottles are recyclable, and there’s plenty of composting.

There are more tents than ever, and — for those worried about COVID — a drive-thru option, to pick up your surf-and-turf.

The band HRMB will play its popular classic rock. Youngsters will love Daisy Mae and Mr. Bumbles — noted entertainers on the kids’ circuit.

Chowing down at last year’s LobsterFest.

But, Rotary officials emphasize: It can’t happen without volunteer help.

Many hands make light work.

And 3,000 lobsters broil.

(LobsterFest is Saturday, September 17, from 3 to 7 p.m. Click here to volunteer. Click here for tickets, if available. There are still spots for sponsors, too. Email for more information.)

*Besides the June 30th fireworks.

(Like LobsterFest, “06880” relies on community support. Please click here to help.)