Category Archives: YMCA

Roundup: Porch Party, Post Road Fawns, Bicycle For 2 …

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In less than 2 months of operation, The Porch @ Christie’s has become an iconic part of Westport.

Besides a great breakfast-lunch-and-dinner menu, excellent coffee and a popular ice cream stand, there are sweeeeet baked goods from Sweet P Bakery.

That’s the business that Porch owners Bill and Andrea Pecoriello started 2 years ago. They instruct and employ 6 bakers — all with disabilities — along with 3 professional chefs.

Yesterday, the Pecoriellos hosted a party (appropriately, on the Porch’s porch) for the Sweet P staff. Some had never seen the place where so many customers love the products they make.

Hetty Marion said “I love this! It’s such a nice atmosphere.” Autumn Perry looked forward to watching people try her creations.

In case you’re wondering what to order: Autumn’s favorite is chocolate chip cookies. Hetty favors Whoopie Pies.

Autumn Perry (left) and Hetty Marion, at yesterday’s party with Porch owners Bill and Andrea Pecoriello.

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Tomorrow (Sunday, July 25, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.) marks Wakeman Town Farm’s first Sustainable Goods Eco Market.

Local vendors and artisans will be selling handwoven baskets and housewares; honey; handmade soaps, body butter and essential oils; skin and hair products for teens; candles; bags; clothing; honey and more.

There’s breakfast from The Granola Bar truck, and ice cream cones from Saugatuck Sweets too.

While adults shop green, youngsters can work on fun projects with WTF director of education Chryse Terrill, or visit with the animals. Expert Judy Panzer will answer animal questions for curious young minds.

Everyone can enjoy music by saxophonist Bobby Master, classical guitarist Jesse Balcom, steel pan and marimba player, and string quartet Vision Academy.

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Westport Animal Control and the Westport Police Department want you to know: 2 fawns have hunkered down in the grassy Post Road median in front of Splash Car Wash.

The mother thinks this is a safe spot for her little ones. Animal Control Officer Peter Reid asks people to not approach them — and when driving by, slow down!

Fawns in the median.

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SA couple considering a moving to Westport from New York would love to take the train here, and explore our town by bike.

They asked “06880” about rentals near the station. I don’t think there’s any such thing (though it might not be a bad sideline for a nearby business).

So how about it, “06880” readers: If there are no bike rentals around, does someone have a pair to lend? Maybe meet them at the station, give some tips (or even ride with them)? Or drop bikes off there, with combination locks?

Sure, it’s a long shot. But it’s also one way to help show off our amazing town — and the great people who live here.

I don’t think this is the type of bike ride our guests are looking for.

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The Hamptons? Cape Cod? LA?

Nope. The too-familiar scene yesterday afternoon, on Bridge Street:

(Photo/Patricia McMahon)

And, reports Patricia McMahon, it took her 20 minutes on South Compo to get to this mess. And a total of 64 minutes to get from the beach to the light by Bridge Square.

Part of the reason may have been an accident south of I-95 exit 19, which shut all 3 lanes for an hour. But that was a few miles away.

Yikes.

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On Thursday, State Senators Will Haskell and Tony Hwang were recognized for their bipartisan effort to pass SB 954. The bill will improve college safety, and is seen as a template for federal legislation, sponsored by Congressman Jim Himes. The goal is to increase transparency around college accidents and deaths in all US colleges.

The initiative comes from College911.net, an all-volunteer organization founded in the memory of Corey Hausman. The 2018 Staples High School graduate died from what started as a preventable accident on his college campus just 15 days into his freshman year. Corey’s was the third student death since the start of that semester.

Senators Will Haskell and Tony Hwang hold certificates presented by College 911.net. Also pictured: members of the 911 Young Adult Advisory Board (Brendan Carney, Rushil Marallapu, Kate Smith and William Bean), members of Corey Hausman’s family (Joel, Nanette and Lucas), and Jeff Mitchell, an ardent supporter.

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Blood donations are still down, compared to pre-COVID times.

The Red Cross is holding a blood drive this Thursday (July 29, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.) at VFW Joseph J. Clinton Post 399 (465 Riverside Avenue).

The VFW is holding an open house the same day, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

VFW Joseph Clinton Post 399.

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A large crowd filled Bedford Hall last night, for the Westport Woman’s Club annual “Sip and Savor” fundraiser.

Proceeds from ticket and wine sales benefit the organization’s many philanthropic and scholarship initiatives.

“It’s so nice to go out again,” one attendee said.

“Especially where there’s wine,” her friend agreed.

One of the 4 tasting stations at the Westport Woman’s Club “Sip & Savor” event. Wines came from around the world.

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The grounds of the Westport Weston Family YMCA always look gorgeous, thanks to Tony Palmer Landscaping.

Yesterday they were especially attractive. The Westport Garden Club chose the Mahackeno site for its annual #FridayFlowers display. They were created by Janet Wolgast, with help from new Y CEO Anjali McCormick.

One more reason to smile before — and after — your workout.

(Photo/Ed Simek)

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Andrew O’Brien spotted this recently at Compo Beach:

(Photo/Andrew O’Brien)

“We have many different points of view here in Westport,” he says. “But I can’t figure out where this individual stands.”

I don’t know either. But it’s clear where he sits: In the driver’s seat, without a real good look through his rear view mirror.

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Longtime Westport resident Vivian Doak of Spring, Texas, died peacefully at home, surrounded by her immediate family, last Saturday. She was 91 years.

The oldest of 5 children, Vivian graduated from high school in Ridgefield Park, New Jersey. After secretarial school in New York, she held various positions. In 1952 she married Malcolm Robert Doak, an Air Force pilot. Following stints in Memphis, Japan, Long Island and Poughkeepsie, the couple settled in Westport in 1964, where they raised their family. In 2009 Vivian and her husband retired to Lake Conroe, Texas, and finally settled in Spring, Texas, at The Village at Gleannloch Farms.

While in Westport Vivian was a mother, housewife, business professional and real estate agent. She served many roles, from Cub Scout and Girl Scout leader to PTA organizer; from church deacon to leading the local Women’s Council of Realtors.

Vivian enjoyed traveling the world with her corporate pilot husband, as well as cultural jaunts with her children. The Doak home was a welcoming place for neighborhood kids, and a great environment for their children’s friends to hang out, be fed delicious meals, and be appreciated. Many still recall her warm smile and generous laugh.

Vivian possessed an ambitious, artistic talent that influenced everything she did. She was an excellent cook and skilled seamstress, skills she passed on to her children, grandchildren and beyond.

She enjoyed dancing, and studied tap and other forms. A painter from early on, she later enjoyed the hands-on hard work of building, refinishing and reupholstering furniture. She brought a creative eye to numerous heirloom quilts made for family members.

Vivian reveled in leading her grandchildren in holiday crafts, and created hand-painted curios for her children and their families. She also mastered a host of magic tricks, and juggled to entertain her grandchildren.

In retirement Doak mastered the art of theorem painting, studying at the Fletcher Farm School for the Arts in Vermont. While a member of the Wilton Presbyterian Church, Vivian designed and oversaw the construction of their on-site Memorial Garden.

Vivian will be remembered for her kindness, patience, loving manner, infectious laugh and bright smile, and as the matriarch of a strong, loving vital family.

Vivian is survived by her husband Malcolm and their 5 children: Kathi Doak of New York City; Lisa Lyne (James) of Spring, Texas; Ivy Doak (Timothy Montler) of Denton, Texas; Robin Neyrey of Spring TX, and Malcolm (Carole Ann) of Kirby, Vermont; 7 grandchildren; 3 great-grandchildren; numerous nieces, nephews, and cousins, and sister Marjorie Schoneboom of Long Island.

A memorial service was held at The Village at Gleannloch Farms. The family is appreciative of everyone there.

Vivian Doak

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Great blue herons are skittish — and very hard to photograph. Yet John Kantor captured this “Westport … Naturally” scene beautifully, at Sherwood Mill Pond.

(Photo/John Kantor)

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And finally … our “06880” plea for bicycle help (above) led of course to this song. I bet the couple wants to explore Westport on individual bikes. But just in case they don’t …

 

Roundup: Waste; Kendig & Colbert; Golf, Tennis & Basketball …

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Don’t just talk the environmental talk. Walk it.

And learn how this Monday (July 26, 7 p.m., Wakeman Town Farm). A panel discussion on “Attainable Sustainable: Simple Steps to Reducing Wasteful Everyday Habits” will give you the tools you need to create meaningful change.

The even is moderated by State Senator Will Haskell. Participants include Peter Boyd (Yale School of the Environment), Haley Schulman (Food Rescue US), Brad Kerner (“public health expert turned low-waster”), and Andrew Colabella (Westport RTM and Environment Committee member).

Click here for tickets.

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Westpor’s Emmy-nominated list keeps growing.

“The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” senior producer — and 2000 Staples High School graduate — Paige Kendig was part of the show’s nomination for “Outstanding Variety Talk Series,” while its live election special is up for an Emmy as “Outstanding Variety Special.”

Paige joins several other local nominees. Soon there will be a category for “American Town With Most Emmys.”

“Late Show with Stephen Colbert” senior producer Paige Kendig and the show’s star, as they interviewed President-Elect Joe Biden in December.

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The Westport Police Department is good neighbors with their across-Jesup-Road friends, the Gillespie Center.

On July 31 (10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Stop & Shop), the department will hold a food drive for the Center, and its umbrella organization Homes with Hope.

Items needed include canned meats, tuna, salmon, Spam, pasta and sauces, chili, hot and cold cereal, canned fruit, canned and dry soups, peanut butter, jelly, mac & cheese, granola bars, pancake mix, syrup and mayonnaise

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Congratulations to Manna Toast.

The popular Church Lane restaurant — which opened last year in the middle of the pandemic — hosted an outdoor dinner the other day, to celebrate its 1st birthday.

One of the guests is a very loyal customer: 118 visits!

Manna Toast’s anniversary dinner.

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Connecticut’s Summer at the Museum program is great. Anyone 18 and under, plus an accompanying adult, visit participating museums free of charge through September 6.

Among those museums: MoCA Westport.

The summer exhibition, Élan Vital, features 11 artists working in a range of mediums, including painting, drawing, prints, sculpture, ceramics and site-specific installation work There are 2 other exhibits too: “Unfit for Print” and “Love Wins,” plus high school works in the Congressional Art Competition. Click here for details.

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Foursomes are still available for the Westport Weston Family YMCA’s fundraising golf tournament on August 2 (Aspetuck Valley Country Club, Weston).

There’s lunch at 11 a.m.; a shotgun start at noon, and a cocktail reception, dinner and awards at 4:30.

The event includes hole-in-one and putting contests, a $20 pro shop credit, gifts, prizes, and beverages.

Click here to register. Questions? Call 203-226-8981 ext. 104, or email bmarazzi@westporty.org.

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Speaking of sports: Congratulations to Tighe Brunetti of Staples High School. The rising senior — a member of the state champion Wreckers’ team — has been named USA Today’s state Boys  Tennis Player of the Year.

Tighe Brunetti

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Speaking still of sports: Yesterday’s “Roundup” gave a shoutout to Marc Lasry. The Westport hedge fund billionaire is co-owner of the Milwaukee Bucks, new National Basketball Association champions.

The team may play 1,000 from here. But — as Google’s aerial view shows — his Greens Farms property includes a full-size basketball court.

With the slogan all of Wisconsin (and now the NBA) knows well: “Fear the Deer”!

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Today’s “Westport … Naturally” photo proves there is life in even the most unlikely places.

(Photo/Diane Yormark)

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And finally … happy 48th birthday to Rufus Wainwright!

Roundup: Bike Lights, Jim Himes, Beechwood Arts …

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“06880” gave the wrong date yesterday for the 42nd annual Compo Beach Point to Point Swim. The correct date is Sunday, July 18.

The rest of the story was correct. Its a ton of fun — and a key fundraiser for the Westport Weston Family YMCA’s aquatics program.

There are awards for the top 3 male and female finishers, and t-shirts for all. To register, click here. For more information email jrojas@wesetporty.org, or call 203-226-8981, ext. 139.

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John Richers writes:

On Monday night I drove on Hillspoint Road, from the Post Road to the Mill Pond. Just before 10 p.m., I saw 3 separate groups of 2 or 3 teens (or “tweens”) on bikes with no lights heading north, probably from the beach.

It was scary! I want parents to know: Please set your kids’ bikes up with lights. A set of rechargeable white front headlight and red taillight can be ordered through Amazon for under $20. A priceless investment! (Most safety-conscious bicyclists use strobing lights in broad daylight to increase visibility and safety.)

Just a moment of driver inattention or distraction could have tragic consequences. Parents need to know the dangers their kids are facing!

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Got a question, complaint or (even) praise for Jim Himes? Tell him in person.

Our congressman holds a “town hall”-style meeting at the Westport Library on Saturday, July 17 (11 a.m. to 12:15 p.m.). Seating is limited; click here to register.

Congressman Jim Himes, at a previous “town hall” meeting at Bedford Middle School. (Photo/Dan Woog)

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Speaking of politics: As one of the youngest state politicians in the country, 2014 Staples High School graduate (and state senator) Will Haskell often gets calls from students and recent graduates. They ask how to run for office.

He doesn’t have all the answers. But he’s put his thoughts together in a new Simon & Schuster book. “100,000 First Bosses: My Unlikely Path as a 22-Year-Old Lawmaker” describes his 2018 campaign, and first year in the Connecticut Senate.

Haskell’s book goes on sale in January. It’s available for pre-sale now. Click here to order, and for more information.


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Beechwood Arts’ most popular annual event returns August 1 (2 to 6 p.m.).

The grounds at 52 Weston Road will be open. That’s fitting. This year’s theme is “Opening Up.” It’s Beechwood’s first full, in-person arts immersion experience since fall of 2019.

The event marks Beechwood’s 10th year. Favorite musical artists from the past will be on hand; there are special arts installations too, along with spontaneous community performances, an outdoor artist market and sculptures, all on Beechwood’s beautiful property.

Artists and performers are welcome to share their talents. Click here for tickets, and more information on how to take part.

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When the Westport Rotary Club and Westport Soccer Association partnered on a gently used uniform and equipment drive, they expected a few donations.

What they got was astonishing: over 200 pairs of cleats, 150 soccer balls, dozens of jerseys, backpacks, shin guards, cones, even referee equipment.

It will all be shipped to a club in Nicaragua, which will use all of it. Score a big win for Westport!

Leslie Roberts, former Westport Rotary Club president, with a small portion of the donated soccer gear.

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The Westport Police has joined the Gillespie Center food pantry drive.

Now through August, residents can drop items off at the Gillespie Center courtyard (behind Don Memo restaurant, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays), or the Westport Police Department lobby, across from the Gillespie Center men’s shelter on Jesup Road (any time, 24/7).

Non-perishable items needed include canned meats, tuna, salmon, Spam, pasta sauces, hot and cold cereals, canned fruits and soups, peanut butter, jelly, pasta, mac and cheese, paper goods and reusable bags.

Questions? Call 203-226-3426, or email info@hwhct.org.

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Maya Konig and Kathy Belzer met when their children were in Westport preschool. During the pandemic, they tried to think positively. Their combined love for exploring, experiencing and finding beauty in simple things led them to create Local Luxe Co.

It’s a “gift-giving company.” They source local products from artisans and “emerging makers” throughout the Northeast, and offer them online in seasonal collections. Options include real estate broker closing gifts, and corporate and special events.  

Products include environmentally friendly beach bags made from oyster traps, home accessories, eco-friendly wellness and beauty products for adults and tweens, and snacks and drinks.

Among their local partners: The Two-Oh-Three, Allison Daniels Designs, Laurel & Vine and Rustic Ridge.

A portion of proceeds will be given to Breathe4ALS, the foundation started by Westporters Jonathan and Iris Greenfield. (Click here for the Local Luxe Co. website.)

Gift options from Local Luxe Co.

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Noted artist Barbara Bernstein died last month, from chronic myelomonocytic leukemia. She was 86.

A colorist whose work evokes the legacy of the French Impressionists, she produced landscapes and interiors in both oils and watercolors. She was a founding member of Art/Place Gallery.

Barbara participated in more than 200 group and national juried shows, and won more than 40 awards. She was a juried artists member of the Connecticut Watercolor Society, Connecticut Women Artists and the New Haven Paint and Clay Club. Her works are in the collections of General Electric Corp. the town of Westport and many others.

Passionate about art and education, she received two graduate degrees, in teaching and education. She taught art in the Westport school system for many years.

Barbara was also known for her commitment to social justice. She participated in the 1963 March on Washington, and protested the wars in Vietnam and Iraq in weekly vigils. She was arrested for civil disobedience while protesting the mining of Haiphong Harbor and escalation of the war in Vietnam.

Barbara was also passionate about travel, often bringing her sketchbooks and watercolors on diverse treks. She traveled extensively throughout Europe, Asia, Africa, Central America and New Zealand.

Barbara was preceded in death by her brother Albert and sister Alice. She is survived by her husband Joseph; children Eric, Sara and David; 2 nephews and many cousins.

Services are private. In lieu of flowers, please donate to Planned Parenthood or the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee. For information or to sign an online register, click here.

Barbara Bernstein

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“Naturally … Westport” offers up today’s beautiful image:

(Photo/June Rose Whittaker)

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And finally … on this day in 1889, the Wall Street Journal published its first issue.

Also today in 1932, the Dow Jones Industrial Average reached its lowest level of the Great Depression. It closed at 41.22.

Unsung Heroes #198

The recent horrifying collapse of a condo tower in Florida has people across the country wondering: “Could it happen here?”

In Westport, the answer is a pretty definitive “no.”

Steve Halstead has decades of experience with major Westport building projects — including the Westport Weston Family YMCA’s Phase 1 and 2 at Mahackeno, and the Staples High School modernization. He writes:

Westport is a better and safer place because the town has a well-defined “building process” staffed by building inspectors and fire marshals who are professional, tough, thorough and fair.

They care about what is best for Westport and its citizens, and insure compliance with state regulations.

Above all, they are value-added team members with the “OAG” teams — owner, architect and general contractor — used for large project management.

Massive buildings like Staples High School are safe in large part because of the diligence of Westport’s building inspectors and fire marshals.

These building officials work with “OAG” teams at all important steps throughout these large projects. Examples:

  • Detailed review of construction documents prior to building permit approval. Much of what happens in these reviews improves the project, and protects everyone.
  • Detailed on-site inspections of all aspects of the project during construction.
  • Final on-site “as built” inspections before issuance of a Certificate of Occupancy by the town.

All of this ensures that “as built” matches the approved and permitted construction documents.

“As built” documents can be complex. For the Y pool, that included excavation, installation of rebar, construction of the tank, concrete pour and testing, installation of proper electrical grounding of the pool and surrounds, installation of all electrical and mechanical work to support the pool and the locker rooms, and much more.

The Westport Weston Family YMCA pool, during construction.

Town building and fire departments were intimately involved in that, and many other projects. Their diligent, conscientious, ongoing work — with their attention to detail, and to everyone involved on all sides of those projects — make them this week’s Unsung Heroes.

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

Roundup: Lifeguard Save, Point To Point Swim, Art Show …

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Despite the urgent alert on cellphones, last night’s severe thunderstorms skirted Westport.

Other parts of the state  were not so lucky. Nearly 20,000 Eversource customers in central and northwestern Connecticut lost power; 81 roads were blocked.

The utility is now preparing for the remnants of Hurricane Elsa. We may get rain tomorrow, into Friday.

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Westport Public Works employee Don Saunders has always been proud of his daughter Morgan.

These days, the entire department is proud of her.

Last week, the 17-year-old Calf Pasture Beach lifeguard saved a 9-year-old from drowning. She spotted the child face down in the water, sounded an alert and raced to help.

When she found no pulse, Morgan began CPR. It worked. The girl started breathing on her own.

Morgan is a rising senior at Norwalk High School, and a member of the swim team. This is her first full year as a lifeguard.

She’s already proven she’s a pro.

(Click here for a CBS New York story on Morgan’s rescue. Hat tip: Liz Lyons)

Morgan Saunders

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What a combination! MoCA Westport and the Westport Farmers’ Market are collaborating on a new project. It culminates in an exhibition in late August.

“Between the Ground and the Sky” will feature photography from the “Who Grows Your Food” initiative, a photographic journey celebrating the farms and farmers associated with the WFM.

As part of the collaboration, a Family Day (Saturday, September 11) at MoCA includes art, food and music.

The centerpiece of “Between the Ground and the Sky” is over 50 large photographs of local farms by Anne Burmeister and Ashley Skatoff. They tell a compelling story of the importance of local farms and farmers.

Westport Farmers’ Market director Lori Cochran says, “This program embodies the essence of our organizations. Bringing together art, education, community and knowledge of agriculture, featuring the hands that tend the land, results in more than a fun event – it creates an impact that will last a lifetime.”

MoCA executive director Ruth Mannes adds, “We are thrilled to partner with the Westport Farmers’ Market to share this important aspect of our economy and our lives with the public.”

“Lost Ruby” by Ashley Skatoff — part of the Farmers’ Market/MoCA exhibit.

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Get your goggles on!

The 42nd annual Compo Beach Point to Point Swim is set for July 21  18 It’s a ton of fun — and a key fundraiser for the Westport Weston Family YMCA’s aquatics program.

There are awards for the top 3 male and female finishers, and t-shirts for all. To register, click here. For more information email jrojas@wesetporty.org, or call 203-226-8981, ext. 139.

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The Westport Library and Artists Collective of Westport are collaborating on their first live, all-member show since December 2019. The theme could not be more apt: “Community.”

The 2-part exhibit — on view from July 10 through September 28 — will occupy all 3 Library galleries.

“Piece by Piece” is a 5’ x 12’ installation created by 60 Artists Collective members. Each artist received a 12” x 12” blank panel, and a 6-inch square section randomly selected from an iconic painting.

Each artist thencreated an individual piece, replicating a part of the larger painting in their own style. They will not know what the final painting looks like until it is revealed when the exhibit opens.

Each 12” x 12” piece can be purchased online for $100. Proceeds support the Library and the artist. Click here to purchase, and for more information.

Along with the exhibits, there is an art trunk show in the lower parking lot this Sunday (11 a.m. to 4 p.m.).

Part of the Westport Library/Artists Collective show.

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The 59th annual event Westport PAL Golf Tournament — named for former Police Chief Samuel Luciano, a staunch PAL supporter — tees off on September 13, at Longshore. With the 4th of July fireworks canceled for a 2nd straight year, this is PAL’s biggest — and most important — fundraiser.

The day begins at 7 a.m. with a continental breakfast and putting contest. There are 2 tee times: 8 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.

There’s a shotgun start, scramble format; lunch; more golf, then dinner, raffles and prizes (hole-in-one, hula hoop, longest drive, closest to pin).

The cost is $175 per golfer, $700 per foursome. Sponsorships are available too, from $150 to $5,000 (largest sign at first tee, banner on dinner tent, complimentary foursome). Click here to register, sponsor — or just donate to PAL.

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And one more upcoming event: “Pitch Perfect,” at the  Remarkable Theater drive-in (Monday, July 12 9 p.m.; gates open for tailgating at 8 p.m.). Click here for tickets and more information.

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There have been some scintillating games at this year’s Euro 20 (the European soccer championship, postponed from last year).

Games are particularly great on a big screen. There’s no bigger screen than the one at Vivid-Tek. That’s Mark Motyl’s store a few doors from Fortuna’s. He sells 110-inch theater screens — which, with the tap of a button, hides in a customized credenza or bench when not in use.

Mark invited me over yesterday to watch the Spain-Italy semifinal. We were in Westport, not Wembley.

But it was hard to tell the difference.

Mark Motyl, minutes before the Euro 2020 semifinal.

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1st Selectman Jim Marpe says:

“It was with great sadness that I learned of the passing of Wally Meyer, former Westport 2nd Selectman and longtime member of the RTM.  He served with my predecessor, Marty Hauhuth from 1985 to 1989.

“Wally was also an active participant in making Westport a better place by helping found Project Return, and through his many years of service and leadership with the Westport Rotary Club.

“Wally was a special Westporter — always willing to share his opinion, but also willing to lend a helping hand.  He will be missed by all who knew him. My deepest condolences to his many friends and to his family.”

Wally Meyer

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Today’s “Naturally … Westport” photo shows a dog.

Not just any pooch, though. This one has great taste. He is first in line, waiting patiently for Joey’s by the Shore to open.

(Photo/Jeff Fiarman)

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And finally … on this day in 1992, the New York Court of Appeals ruled that women have the same right as men to go topless in public.

Y Project Earns State Honors

Building the “new” Westport Weston Family YMCA at the Mahackeno campus was an enormous undertaking.

Countless public hearings — and nearly 2 dozen lawsuits — delayed planning, groundbreaking and construction for years.

LANDTECH — the Westport-based civil engineering, site planning, project design, environmental and construction management firm — was there every step of the way. They worked with Robert A.M. Stern Architects and many others, completing the finished product — finally — in 2014.

Except it wasn’t finished. Phase 2 — 22,000 more square feet, including a gymnastics center and enhanced exercise, wellness and healthcare studios, along with a redesign and renovation of the adjacent Mahackeno  Outdoor Center — opened last year. Once again, there were challenges (like a global pandemic).

The Westport Weston Family YMCA’s Phase 2 project added a gymnastics center, and several studios.

But there were no lawsuits. The project came in under budget, and ahead of deadline.

Now the Y’s Phase 2 has been named Best Large Civic Project in the entire state.

The award comes from the Connecticut Building Congress, an association spanning every important trade group in the state.

“We worked with neighbors on the site plans and landscaping,” says LANDTECH principal (and Saugatuck native) Pete Romano. “There were no lawsuits at all. The process went very smoothly.”

LANDTECH’s role was broad. They collaborated with SLAM Architects and permitting groups like Conservation and Planning & Zoning, and closed out the project for a certificate of occupancy. Getting Mahackeno open last summer — when so many other camps were closed — was crucial for many youngsters and their families.

The Mahackeno Outdoor Center pool.

“It was a group effort at a trying time,” Romano notes. “Town Hall offices were not open. People were working from home. But in the end, everyone rowed in the same direction.”

The CBC award honors every group that had a hand in the Y’s Phase 2, from the excavators and pavers to the pool and plate glass folks. Turner Construction — the firm that built Phase 1 — was involved again too.

Roundup: Staples Tennis, Wakeman Town Farm, Stop & Shop …

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Congratulations to the Staples High School boys and girls tennis teams! Both are state champions!

The boys of coach Kris Hrisovulos defeated Westhill 7-0 yesterday, clinching their 5th straight — yes, 5th (!) — state “LL” (extra large schools) championship. They finished the season 22-1, shutting out all 4 state tournament opponents. Their only loss was to Darien, in the FCIAC final.

Singles winners yesterday were Tighe Brunetti, Robbie Daus, Brandon Felcher and Lucas Haymes. Doubles victors were Bradley Sheppard/Luke Brodsky, Alex Miller/Jack Motyl, and Matthew Chiang/Josh Suggs.

The 2021 state champion boys tennis team.

The girls of coach Paco Fabian beat Amity 4-3, for their 3rd straight title. Jenna Kornbluth’s 6-4, 6-1 victory at #4 singles clinched the match, after everyone else had finished.

Other victors for Staples: Karenna Birns (singles) and Elle Tesoriero/Audrey Kercher, and Carine Geijerstam/Maya Farber (doubles).

The 2021 state champion girls tennis team (Photo courtesy of The Ruden Report)=======================================================

Work continued on Railroad Place this morning.

During repaving, all the restaurant structures were removed. That’s done, and now all 3 restaurants — Harvest, Tarantino’s and Romanacci will be open this weekend.

In related news, Romanacci has taken over the former Commuter Coffee location It’s now a full restaurant, with bar.

Outdoors or in, Railroad Place is the place to be. And with reduced train travel, there’s plenty of parking nearby!

(Photo/Matthew Mandell)

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Your kid may not be a career farmer. But Wakeman Town Farm’s 2-week summer service program for 6th through 9th graders is a great outdoor, hands-on opportunity to learn about the land. And become more self-reliant and independent in the process.

Participants plant, water and harvest vegetables to be donated to local food pantries. Representatives from those agencies visit WTF, and discuss food insecurity in the area.

Teens and chefs also cook a nutritious meal for the Gillespie Center, using  the Farm’s organic produce. They also run their own farm stand.

Students get to know the rabbits, ducks, chicken, sheep, goats and alpacas. They learn about animal care, feeding and halter training.

The program also explores environmental topics like composting, pollinator gardens and the Zero Waste initiative.

There are 4 sessions, each 2 weeks long. For more information, click here. To register, click here.

Who can resist a summer program like this?

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Mark Mathias spotted this at Stop & Shop yesterday:

(Photo/Mark Mathias)

Actually, the photo shows something that is not there.

Look closely. The supermarket has removed all those one-way directional arrows, which no one has followed for at least the past 10 months (if they ever did).

Stop & Shop is not the only place getting back to the pre-pandemic normal. Trader Joe’s shoppers no longer have to queue up, and be directed to a cashier; we’re now free to find our own, just as we did before March 2020.

And the Westport Weston Family YMCA has removed the absurd red tape on the stairs, demarcating the up and down sides. The staircase is way too narrow to have any effect.

What have you seen? Click “Comments” below.

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Tomorrow’s “Songs for a Summer Evening: Music that Made Movies Magical” YouTube video benefits the Norwalk Sister City Project, a non-profit doing incredible community development work in a poor Nicaragua barrio.

But there’s a heavy Westport presence n the video. Broadway icon Kelli O’Hara, Staples Players stars Jamie Mann and Bridget Looby, and Emily Rabon Hall and her dad Bill Hall all join together to share the magic of music from the movies. Tom Kretsch is president of NSCP, and has worked with Bill Hall to create the video.

Click here for the link to the 7:30 video (and to donate), or click the link below:

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The Westport Library’s Summer Reading Challenge is underway.

The 5th annual program — designed for adults — includes 25 categories of books. After reading one, submit it on a special web page. Then track your progress on the leaderboard.

Chalk up those categories. NOTE: Each book can be used for only one category. Click here for details.

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Rae Suba’s family owns the Post Road storefront near Tiffany. She runs the Child’s Play occupational therapy center on the 2nd floor. Currently, the ground floor is vacant.

But now — just in time for tomorrow’s Pride rally, and at one of the most visible spots in town — she’s decorated it with rainbows.

She says, “It is my humble honor as a forever LGBTQIA+ ally to create this window display, in an effort to rise to the Westport Pride words: ‘Elevate. Educate. Empower.’

“These children, teens and adults deserve visibility, respect, hope, inspiration and kindness. Happy Pride Month Everyone! 🌈🌈LOVE WINS🌈🌈Compassion and empathy will save humanity. Namaste. 🙏🏼

“My clinic will always be a safe space for children, teens and young adults who are LGBTQIA+. Thank you to my family for letting me use the building display window.”

46 Main Street

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Around the corner on Jesup Green from Tiffany and Rae Suba’s rainbow storefront, Westport Book Shop has become one of Westport’s hottest destinations — and not just for used books.

Every month, a different artist is featured at the Drew Friedman Community Arts wall in the back. For June, the artist is Holly Hawthorn.

Her porcelain sculptures reflect her love of the ocean and beaches, and incorporate seashells gathered over many years of walks on beaches from Maine to Greece.

Holly is a sculptor, printmaker ceramic artist and former teacher. She studied art in the US, Italy and Greece.

The exhibit is open during the Book Shop’s business hours:  Tuesdays through Fridays 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturdays 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sundays noon to 5 p.m.

Holly Hawthorn, with her Westport Book Shop art.

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Speaking of art: George Billis Gallery hosts an opening reception on Friday, June 18 (146 Main Street, 4 to 7 p.m.).

New artists include Westport-based Jarvis Wilcox. The gallery says: “His lush still life paintings are poetic with much emotional connections stimulating the viewer. Wilcox brings delight and insight as he discovers seeing and then making his works of art.”

Also in the exhibit: watercolorists Derek Buckner Paul Pitsker, still life artist Julian Cardinal and ceramicist Alice Federico.

“Cherries with Silver Cup” (Jarvis WIlcox)

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Bill Taibe is branching out.

The owner of 3 very popular Westport restaurants — Don Memo, Kawa Ni and The Whelk — is opening a cafe in the new Norwalk Art Space (455 West Avenue). The breakfast and lunch menu includes flour water salt and Idylwild breads, Riverbank Farm kimchee, and barbecue smoked turkey.

Bill Taibe and staff at the Norwalk Art Space.

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Suzuki Music Schools is back to in-person learning. To celebrate, they’re hosting a free concert in the Colonial Green parking lot (246 Post Road East).

The program next Tuesday (June 8) includes great music — and food vendors.

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And finally … the Suzuki concert (above) sounds great. Hopefully, the young musicians will sound almost as good as this.

Unsung Heroes #193

When COVID struck in March 2020, the Westport Weston Family YMCA shut down.

It reopened — very tentatively — 3 months later. Every area and program — fitness center, yoga, gymnastics, childcare — had rules. The staff followed them diligently.

The strictest regulations were in the pool. Swimmers had to sign up online 3 days ahead of time. Slots were limited to 45 minutes or an hour; there were restrictions too on the number of swimmers per lane.

In between each 45- or 60-minute session, surfaces — benches, hooks for towels, even handrails — had to be wiped down.

I’m a swimmer. For the past year, those daily workouts have been my physical — and mental — salvation.

I’ve watched the Y lifeguard in action, every day. They’ve been outstanding.

They’re diligent with their cleaning. They’re warm and welcoming to every swimmer. They’ve been patient, kind and helpful.

They helped create a nice community at the pool, at a time we desperately needed one.

A small part of the big Westport Y pool. The lifeguards have it all covered.

Yesterday, the swimming restrictions were lifted. The pool is (almost) back to normal.

Today, I give a shoutout to the Westport Y lifeguards. To Brian and his crew: Thank you. You’re “06880”‘s Heroes of the Week.

And you earned it without having to save anyone.

SPECIAL CITATION: Here’s a shout-out to the Y’s member services team too. Whether greeting guests at the front desk, working behind the scenes to solve a problem (the reservations system was sometimes glitchy), or helping someone make sense of the constantly changing regulations, they’ve been outstanding too.

And they never stopped smiling.

(Do you know an Unsung Hero? Email dwoog@optonline.net)

Anjali’s Long Journey To The Westport Y

YMCA once stood for “Young Men’s Christian Association.

The name Anjali is Indian. It means “devotion to God.”

Those 2 worlds — different religions, thousands of miles apart — are now one. Anjali Rao McCormick is the new CEO of the Westport Weston Family YMCA. Her path began in Calcutta; it now takes her to the Mahackeno campus, by Merritt Parkway Exit 41.

Anjali Rao McCormick

It seems almost foreordained.

Anjali’s family left India in 1984 for Long Island, where her father had a sibling. The oldest of 4 girls, she was suddenly thrust from an all-girls Catholic school into 11th grade at a public high school. “It was like walking onto the set of ‘Grease,'” she says.

As a government major at Harvard University, she thought about entering the diplomatic corps. But after graduating cum laude she pivoted to New York University’s Stern School of Business, for an MBA.

When her third child entered school, McCormick re-entered the workforce. She spent 10 years in a variety of positions with the Summit Area YMCA, rising to senior vice president, chief operations officer.

With her youngest daughter about to graduate from high school, the move to Westport seems right. She is looking for new challenges and growth opportunities.

The selection committee was impressed with her management style, and results at the 4-branch New Jersey Y. She’s been called a “transformational” leader, with “community focus, talent, and vision.”

And — though she did not know it until she applied for the Westport position — her Y ties go back far longer than her decade with the Summit Area Y.

McCormick’s father told her recently that after her grandfather left India by boat in 1927, landed in San Francisco and took a train to the University of Kansas, he found friends at the local Y.

“He was a brown man in white middle America,” McCormick says. “But the Y gave him a community. He felt he belonged.”

As she settles into her new community of Westport — she’s commuting until her daughter graduates, but spends several nights a week at the Inn at Longshore — McCormick is focusing on what makes this Y strong.

And how she can make it even stronger.

The Westport Weston Family YMCA .

The Y — and all of Westport — enjoy “a rich, robust history,” she says. “This is an excellence-oriented community. People have high standards. That puts pressure on me. But it doesn’t scare me.”

Her job is to “find a way to serve all the different populations. How can we grow, along with other youth and senior organizations? What can we do with the Library, and the Community Garden? A rising tide lifts all boats.”

She knows that Westporters are passionate about many things — including the long debate, a decade ago, over the Y’s decision to leave its longtime downtown building for the Mahackeno property.

“I come in with a clean slate,” McCormick notes. “”I hear the voices. It’s my job to ask what we need to do to make sure the strongest community exists here.”

She’s getting to know the staff, and is impressed with what she’s seen. She wants to make sure they’re customer-oriented, and can deliver on the Y’s promises.

The Camp Mahackeno staff gets high marks for their involvement with campers.

McCormick takes over at an intriguing time. COVID regulations that hampered many non-profits — and shut down the Westport Y for 3 months — are easing. Yet bringing people back to the pool, fitness center and classes is not easy.

The Y’s revenues dropped significantly over the past year. That’s another yet challenge.

McCormick sees opportunity in the pandemic’s wake. More people moved to Westport than any other town in the state over the past year. Many are families, with young children. She’ll reach out to new residents, inviting them to see all that the Y offers. “Come, get healthy!” she says.

Newcomers — those families, like herself today and her grandfather nearly a century ago — are looking for community. The YMCA — no longer a “Young Men’s Christian Association,” but a place for all — can offer that.

Roundup: Black Bear, Private Ryan, Chad Knight …

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A black bear has been making its way south, from northern Fairfield County. On Saturday, it roamed around the Cranbury area of Norwalk.

Yesterday, the medium-sized mammal lumbered into Westport. Stella Wong spotted it in her Old Hill back yard, around 9 a.m.

“It looked healthy and beautiful,” she reports. Then it headed downhill, toward Wilton Road.

(Photo/Stella Wong)

Later yesterday, the bear was spotted at the Westport Weston Family YMCA, near Mahackeno.

No word on whether it had a membership pass.

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Last night’s Remarkable Theater showing of “Saving Private Ryan” was rained out.

It’s rescheduled for tomorrow (Tuesday, June 1, 8 p.m.). So you can extend your Memorial Day weekend one day.

Click here for ticket information, and future shows.

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Staples High School students raise funds for many worthy projects. They thank their donors, work hard — but in their busy day-to-day worlds, never share the results of their efforts.

Jackson Cregan remembers.

The 9th grader loves Sherwood Island. After raising funds for Friends of Sherwood Island, he sent along this update:

“100%  of your donations were used to purchase seagrass and jute erosion control cloth, trees and shrubs.

“In early April, I helped restore dunes. We planted 2,400 seagrass stems with 18 volunteers. In late April, we planted 125 trees and shrubs with 20 volunteers.

Jackson volunteers there nearly every week. He is learning from Michele Sorensen and other master gardeners. He helps with dune restoration, removing invasive species, tree planting, creating pollinator pathways, and maintenance.

Great work, Jackson! And thanks for letting all of us know what’s going on at our great state park.

Jackson Cregan, with Michele Sorenson.

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Congratulations to Chad Knight!

Yesterday the former Staples High School and Little League World Series star’s current team — Duke University — won the ACC championship, 1-0 over NC State. It was the Blue Devils’ 4th ACC baseball title — but first in 60 years.  

Knight — a 2-time state champion at Staples — batted .272, with 2 home runs, this year.

Chad Knight

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Memorial Day weekend’s rains meant a washout for many local businesses.

News12 sent a crew to Joey’s by the Shore. As expected, sales were slow. The popular deli/market had stocked up on supplies, expecting big crowds. But neighbors were stopping in. And the cameraman got some great shots, of Joey’s and Old Mill Beach.

Click here for the report.

Screenshot from yesterday’s News12 report.

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The Sunrise Rotary Club has missed 2 years’ worth of Great Duck Race fundraising efforts. Which means we haven’t seen Sunny the Duck bobbing in the Saugatuck River for 2 years either.

But the club is marching in today’s Memorial Day parade. And they’re marching with “Little Ralphie,” Sunny’s smaller counterpart.

Club members inflated Ralphie yesterday. They had a blast.

From left: Sunrise Rotary president George Masumian; members Jake Labate, Mark Mathias and Mike Hibbard. Little Ralphie is behind them. (Drone photo/Mark Mathias)

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Today’s “Westport … Naturally” photo includes this mommy and her 10 babies. Can you find them all?

(Photo/Molly Alger)

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And finally … B.J. Thomas died yesterday at his home near Dallas, of complications from lung cancer. He was 78.

Though best known for “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head” — the song from “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” which connected him forever with Westport’s Paul Newman and Weston’s Robert Redford — he had many other successes. Fifteen singles reached the Top 10, and he earned 5 Grammys.

I never liked “Raindrops.” But I sure did appreciate much of the rest of B.J. Thomas’ music. What a voice! (Click here for a full obituary.)