Coronavirus Takes A Toll On The Merritt

Merritt Parkway, 1:40 p.m., March 29, 2020 (Photo/Jen Greely)

COVID-19 Roundup: Farmers’ Market Supports Vendors; Aid For Small Businesses; Videos, Art, And More

The Westport Farmers’ Market is between seasons. But they never stop helping their shoppers — or their farmers.

At a time when healthy, fresh food is especially important; when supermarket shopping carries risks, and purveyors — like all of us — have been rocked by COVID-19, the Farmers’ Market has a plan.

Just click here. Scroll down; click on a logo to select a vendor (there are 8: Calf & Clover Creamery, Seacoast Mushrooms, Wave Hill Breads, Farmers & Cooks, Two Guys from Woodbridge, Paul’s Custom Pet Food, Herbacious Catering and Ox Hollow Farm).

Place your order. Pay directly on their site, by Wednesday noon.  You’ll receive info about your scheduled pickup time by 8 a.m. Thursday. (Delivery is available too — but only in Westport.)

If you’re picking up, at the appropriate time head to the Winter Farmers’ Market site: Gilbertie’s Herb Gardens, 7 Sylvan Lane South. Your order will be bagged and waiting outside. Only the vendor and you will touch your bag.

Bring your own totes, if you’ve ordered several bags. “Bring your patience too,” the Farmers’ Market says. “We will figure this out together.”

Seems like the Farmers’ Market has already figured out most of it. Now all we have to do is order — and thank them, and their awesome farming partners.


Alert reader Marshall Kiev passes along a great summary of the relevant small business relief portion of the recently enacted CARES Act.

“This relief package should be an important  lifeline to many small businesses in Westport – coffee shops, butchers, hair salons, etc.,” he says. “Let’s get the word out to everyone. Many of these businesses are shut down, and owners may not be aware of the available funding.”

Click here to view — then forward far and wide!

Many shuttered Westport businesses can benefit from recent legislation. (Photo/Katherine Bruan)


I’ve written before about Cup of Sugar: the fantastic local group providing deliveries of food, medication and anything else for people in need. (Just click here, then click “Request a Delivery.”)

Nick Ribolla was ready to graduate this spring, from Columbia University. He’s finishing online, but wants to help his home town. He signed up with Cup of Sugar. Still, he is eager to do even more.

He has a lot to offer. He’s sharp, multi-talented, funny and fun. (He’s also got plenty of experience with kids, as a longtime camp counselor).

Nick can help youngsters via Zoom with humanities (“especially English and creative writing”), and Spanish. He’ll also help them manage their workloads. “Whatever I can do, I’ll do,” he says simply.

Call or text: 203-451-9453. And of course, say “gracias.”

Nick Ribolla


The Westport Police Department has put together some great videos. A variety of Westporters (see how many you know!) offer messages — “stay strong!” “keep your distance!” “keep buying local!” — via their Facebook page.

Just search on FB for “Westport Police Department.” Or click here for the latest (with a cameo by yours truly); click here for another, and click here for the first.


Once again, Dr. Scott Gottlieb appeared on a Sunday morning news show, direct from his Westport yard.

This morning, the former FDA commissioner told “Face the Nation” that coronavirus restrictions should remain in place ahead of a “difficult April,” and that the US might have “millions” of cases over the next few months.

Click here for the interview.


Coleytown Elementary School art teacher Deb Goldenberg is working with her colleagues around town to help every school share positive messages — through art, of course.

Students are drawing or making designs, then adding brief ideas like “Spread kindness and love.” They’re encouraged to experiment with patterns and fonts. Messages will be included with the school’s Morning News.


In today’s Persona interview, Jimmy Izzo discusses why shopping local is more important than ever. Click here for a clip, then download the app for the full Q&A.

Jimmy Izzo


And finally, if you’re missing a loved one — well, in a pandemic, just follow doctor’s orders.

PS: Sure, get up and dance. No one’s watching!

Photo Challenge #274

Every so often, a Photo Challenge sends readers all over town.

Yet seldom have the responses been as far afield as last week.

Howard Silver’s image showed 3 large, colorful figures stuck to trees in the back yard of a Hitchcock Lane home. But where did they hang originally? (Click here to see.)

Not in any of the schools, stores or even Starbucks readers mentioned. Not at the old Westport Arts Center. Nope, nope, nope.

Cheryl McKenna knew, though. She remembered them from the tallest building on Main Street: the one we now know as The Gap.

Back in the day — after the furniture store at that site burned to the ground — a new 3-story structure arose. It was filled with small stores and offices.

It never worked. Westporters were not used to shopping vertically. (The Gap is a different story — it’s just one store.)

Those dancing figures hung in the atrium. Cheryl knew the artist too: Elise Black. She even remembered the original owner of the building: the Senie family.

Truly impressive.

Now it’s on to this week’s Photo Challenge. If you know where in Westport you’d see this, click “Comments” below.

(Photo/Bob Weingarten)

US Census Counts On You!

Stuck at home? Nothing to do?

Fill out your census form!

By now, you should have received information (by mail) about completing the 2020 count. There are 3 ways to do it: online (click here), by phone (844-330-2020) or mail.

The census is important for many reasons. Two are critical: the number of seats each state is allotted in Congress (we went from 6 representatives to 5 after the 2000 census), and billions of dollars in federal funding for schools, healthcare, transportation and social services.

So how are we (and you) doing?

Click here for a map. You can check how Connecticut is doing, compared to the nation as a whole (a tad above average), and how Westport compares to the rest of the state (decently above average).

Respond today. Then check tomorrow. The map is updated every day at 3 p.m.

(For more information on the 2020 census — and to respond — click here.)

But wait! There’s more!

The census can be a family affair — and earn a $500 prize. Well, your high school student can, anyway.

Norwalk2Bridgeport is sponsoring a “2020 Census Throwdown.” High schoolers in Westport, Norwalk, Fairfield and Bridgeport are invited to submit lyrics “expressing vital information about the census via original Instagram videos.”

Lyrics — in any musical style — will be judged on creativity, and how clearly students express their info.

Judges are notable celebrities with local roots, including Oscar, Grammy and Tony-winning Staples graduate Justin Paul.

Upload videos to Instagram with the hashtag #N2Bcensusthrowdown, and tag @norwalk2bridgeport. Profiles must be public during the submission period.

The deadline is April 15.

Livio Sanchez’s “American Portrait”

Last month, Westport’s Livio Sanchez was chosen to be part of an elite team.

As part of its 50th anniversary, PBS selected 100 videographers and photographers from around the country — 2 per state — to help define what it means to be an American today. The “American Portrait” project will focus on the beliefs, traditions and experiences that make up this vast nation.

Little did Sanchez — or anyone else — know that soon, life in America would abruptly change.

Livio Sanchez

Sanchez — an award-winning editor, producer and director who has worked with top ad agencies, Google, Microsoft, Amazon Studios, Netflix, Nike, GM and the New York Times — quickly shifted gears.

He’d already done 3 stories. Now he’s documenting life during the coronavirus crisis.

PBS has pivoted too. They’re planning a special broadcast. Sanchez’s subjects are being considered as possible leads.

The videos are short, but compelling. Subjects include Stephen “Doc” Parsons and Griffin Anthony. Sanchez met both while playing men’s baseball for the Westport Cardinals.

Also included: Saugatuck Congregational Church Rev. Alison Patton. Sanchez met her and her husband Craig when their sons played on the same Little League team.

A screenshot from one of Livio Sanchez’s PBS videos.

Click below for links to several videos. As we all grapple with COVID-19, these clips provide compelling looks into American life, yesterday and today.

Stephen “Doc” Parsons

Griffin Anthony

(In addition to pros like Sanchez, the PBS series will include submissions from the public. Click here to see the trailer for PBS’ “American Portrait.”)

Pics Of The Day #1076

Westport in the coronavirus crisis: scenes from yesterday and today.

Empty chairs at Longshore (Photo/Sandy Rothernberg)

Social distancing at the beach (Photo/Bob Weingarten)

Empty Compo Beach pavilion (Photo/Sarah Menninger)

One of the final days for dogs on the beach (Photo/Sophie Pollman)

With drive-thru service only, Starbucks’ line was long (Photo/Robert Hauck)

A plea for help (Photo/Jen Kobetitsch)

Westport’s Unitarian Church (Photo/David Vita)

COVID-19 Roundup: Winslow Park Rules; Virtual Bingo Helps Non-Profits; Keep Your Distance!; Restaurant, Retail News; More

As of yesterday, there were 89 positive cases of COVID-19 in Westport — the smallest daily increase here since the spread was first reported. Norwalk has passed Westport for the most cases in Connecticut (105).

Social distancing appears to be working. Governor Lamont emphasized that again, restricting all social and recreational gatherings to no more than 5 people.

The Parks and Recreation Department institutes these rules at Winslow Park:

  • No off leash areas. All dogs must be kept on leash.
  • Pets must be kept close to the handler.
  • The 6-foot physical distancing protocol is to be followed for people and pets. 

These protocols should be followed everywhere in town, including Longshore. Park.


Reader Stan Witkow reports that a group of Westporters has started a virtual bingo night every Thursday. The winner chooses a non-profit to get the buy-in pot. This week’s beneficiary is Westport EMS.

Over 20 people played last week, from as far as Florida and California. Most met 20 years ago at New Neighbors, Temple Israel and parents’ night at Bedford Middle School.

Even more signed up for this Thursday. Bingo!


A reader writes:

My wife and I walk on our sidewalks and roads. We’re mindful of the 6-foot distancing recommendation, so we’re distressed to encounter people who seem oblivious or apathetic. Young folks seem most careless, though some are mindful. Some older folks are careless too.

Yesterday, a young man running and breathing heavily came up from behind and nearly brushed my shoulder. That single encounter could easily have spread the virus. Unfortunately it was not our only close call.

A reminder: The virus is in the community. We all must avoid spreading it.

Be careful out there!


Nefaire, JoyRide and Haus of Pretty have teamed up on a “self-care bundle.” It  includes a facial, cycling class and blowout.

15% of proceeds go to retail employees across the 3 businesses: estheticians, therapists, cycling instructors, front desk hourly staff and hair stylists.

The bundle can be purchased at www.westportisstrong.com.


In restaurant news, Bartaco is donating 100% of all gift card sales to an employee fund.

And although Bobby Q’s moved from Westport to Norwalk, its heart is still here. They always contribute generously to town causes, like Christ & Holy Trinity Preschool. A reminder: Their smoker is open now, with curbside and delivery service.


Last month, “06880” profiled Ben Saxon. The bright, creative Staples High School 9th grader had just launched a math, robotics and coding tutoring service  for 6- to 14-year-olds.

Schools closed, but Ben hasn’t. He now offers weekly LEGO building, Kano Star Wars programming and Makeblock robotics courses, for 2-3 students each. They’re 1 hour a day, 5 days long, starting on Mondays, all via Zoom Video Conferencing. For details, click here.


The Berniker family has had a tough time during this crisis. Jen is now recovered from a bout with COVID-19. Her husband Eric is at home after an encouraging chest X-ray.

The other day, Jen Berniker interviewed her 6-year-old son Max about the ups and downs of family isolation.

That’s today’s Persona interview (below). Download the Persona mobile app to share your own stories, by interviewing family members and answering questions we’ll be sending around. Tag “6880 Dan Woog” in the interviewee field.


Finally, this has absolutely nothing to do with COVID-19. But it has everything to do with the idea that everything we do matters. Bruce Springsteen took a chance and invited a kid onstage. Look what happened next. So cool!

 

0*6*Art*Art*0 — Week 2 Gallery

Last week, “06880” debuted “0*6*Art*Art*0.”

Every Saturday, we’ll share readers’ artwork. Professional, amateur, old, young  — send us your painting, collage, sketch, photo, sculpture, chalkwork, cartoon, whatever.

The only rule is it must be inspired by, reflective of, or otherwise related to the times we’re going through. We’re all experiencing tons of emotions, and art is a wonderful way to express (and share) them. Email your submission to dwoog@optonline.net.

Here is today’s gallery.

Keep the submissions coming. If yours is not posted yet, be patient. There will be more next Saturday. And, unfortunately, for some time to come.

Joanie Landau’s “Hope” was inspired by Robert Indiana’s “Love.”

Brandon Malin’s medium is photography. The Staples High School senior’s drone shot of downtown Westport — empty at night, in the midst of the pandemic — is striking.

Untitled, Beth DeVoll

Artwork by Merri Mueller’s young Fillow Street neighbors Addie and Nora (ages 4 and 6)

“Compassion” (Miggs Burroughs)

Ellen Greenberg made “The Birds and the Bees” for a friend’s first baby shower (postponed now until after the birth). She dropped it in a sealed bag at her friend’s house. The expectant mom is a beekeeper. “I want her to remember their joy, and the love of all their friends during these challenging times,” Ellen says.

Amy Schneider’s collage expresses how she feels these days.

“Peaceful Valley” (Laura Loffredo, age 8)

“The Low Hum of Anxiety” (Jennifer Sabella)

“Comforting” (Lawrence Weisman)

Julie Van Norden painted this last year. “Prophetic about social distancing,” she says.

Emma Nordberg, age 15, took this photo during the first week of quarantine. “Despite the virus, it’s a beautiful spring,” she says.

Science Olympians Confront Virus

The Staples High School girls and boys basketball teams — both enjoying their best seasons in decades — saw their state tournament hopes suddenly end. No one knows what will happen to spring sports, though that season seems increasingly unlikely.

But Westport athletes were not the only ones whose seasons came to a brutal end, thanks to the coronavirus.

At Bedford Middle School and Staples High, dozens of students were preparing for the state — and hopefully national — Science Olympiad competitions. They, their teachers and advisors had spent hundreds of hours since August researching, designing and studying.

Building on last year’s success — both teams represented Connecticut at the national tourney at Cornell University (for Bedford, the 3rd trip in 5 years) — the squads felt confident.

Last year’s Bedford Science Olympians …

Science Olympians don’t get the publicity or prestige — and certainly not the crowds — of basketball players. But in the highly competitive world of science contests, the Westporters are superstars.

The Bedford program began 9 years ago. Engineering and design teacher Art Ellis is the driving force — the Geno Auriemma of Science Olympiads. He’s assisted by Dr. Daniel Cortright, a BMS science teacher.

This year — with Coleytown students attending Bedford — the middle school teams merged. CMS engineering and design teacher Keenan Grace brought his students on board, with great success.

… and the Coleytown squad.

Science Olympiads consist of 23 events. Each team — usually 15 students — competes in all 23. (This year’s BMS squad included about 75 youngsters. Including various invitational meets, 50 or so got actual competitive experience.)

The events range from building a structure, vehicle or flying object, to tests in areas like geology, meteorology and anatomy, to hybrid, chemistry lab-style activities.

There are activities too like “Crime Busters,” for forensic analysis.

Then there is “Disease Detectives.”

Developed long before COVID-19 spread across the globe, this Science Olympiad event asks students to examine — and solve — disease outbreaks.

At the national high school tournament, the CDC gives an award to the winner of this event — plus an expense-paid trip to its headquarters in Washington, DC.

Many of the middle school Disease Detectives questions have revolved around food-borne illnesses. They’re fairly straightforward to analyze, Cortright says.

From left: Middle school teachers and Science Olympiad coaches Dan Cortright, Kat Nicholas and Art Ellis.

Not long ago, he and Ellis talked about possible tournament questions. They guessed there would be some about pathogens like COVID-19. They started preparing their team for them.

But before they could solve the problem — or at least, address it — the state and national tournaments were canceled.

The Westport Public Schools have moved to distance learning. Activities like Science Olympiad are on hold.

But if anyone can figure out how to adapt to our new reality — and (who knows?) come up with a way to solve or even prevent future disease outbreaks — it’s these young superstars.


In related Science Olympiad news, 4 members of Staples’ team were also involved in the M3Mathworks Math Modeling Challenge.

Formerly called Moody’s Math Challenge, it’s certainly challenging. Teams of 5 students represent their schools, using math to solve a real world problem.

They meet outside of school, download the problem, then work together continuously for 14 hours. The winning solution earns a large cash prize for the school.

Staples’ team — including those 4 Special Olympians — worked together on the problem before social distancing began.

This year’s involved electric trucks. Specifically, contestants had to make intelligent decisions about the necessary charging infrastructure is complex, and weigh economic and environmental implications for communities surrounding trucking corridors is essential. Over 750 teams competed.

The Staples Mathworks Challenge team, hard at work.

Click here to see the Staples team’s video — 14 hours compressed into 3 minutes — on Facebook. Click here for more information on the M3Mathworks Math Modeling Challenge.

Pic Of The Day #1075

(Photo/Amy Schneider)