Friday Flashback #302

As beach season begins — and the newly retro-named Old Mill Grocery prepares to reopen — it’s time to look at Old Mill Beach, back in the day.

Seth Schachter sent a fascinating postcard, from his vast collection. Click on or hover over to enlarge:

There is so much to see here: the meadow (foreground), where homes now stand.

The channel (now filled in) that runs from Sherwood Mill Pond toward a pair of homes (or sheds?), long ago demolished or destroyed by storms.

Old Mill Beach itself — back then, just rocks or grass.

The handsome stand of trees.

The narrow strip of land on the north side of Old Mill Road. Were the houses there now built on landfill?

I wonder too who took this “bird’s-eye view” — and how? Was it from Compo Hill, or a low-flying airplane?

So much has changed at Old Mill in the century or so since this photo was taken. But from the pedestrian bridge and the “grist mill” house , on out to Compo Cove, the scene seems timeless.

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Roundup: Parker Harding Driving, Burying Hill Jetty …

Sure, the traffic pattern in Parker Harding Plaza is odd. But it’s almost entirely one-way. There are signs, and the angles and directions of parked cars offer a pretty clue as to what direction to drive.

Not to everyone, though. Diane Lowman reports a recent epidemic of wrong-way drivers.

Several times this week, she has seen cars enter from Main Street by GG & Joe’s, and drive all the way — the wrong way — toward Starbucks.

Someone else drove the wrong way on the narrow road that hugs the river.

Just when you think you’ve seen or heard everything …

It’s kind of hard to drive the wrong way here. But people try. (The police in this file photo are responding to a different issue than that.)

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The Burying Hill jetty replacement project is nearing completion.

Final work must be done when the tide is low. The parking lot will need some attention too. But the ARPA job is looking good — just in time for summer.

(Photo/Peter Swift)

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Country/folk music comes to MoCA Westport this Saturday. A Tale of Two perform their songs of revenge, murder, stealing and drinking at 7 p.m. on the outdoor stage. Former Barrage8 violinist Kyle Pudenz joins the fun.

Guests should bring their own lawn chairs. Chicken, steak, shrimp and corn skewers will be available for purchase.

The next day (Sunday, June 26, 1 p.m.). A Tale of Two leads a free workshop, on how new artists can break into the music business. Click here to register.

A Tale of Two

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The Westport Library hosts noted artist Eric Chiang next Wednesday (June 29).

A 6:30 p.m. reception for “Musical Planet” — a selection of his paintings, will be followed at 7 p.m. by an interview on the Forum stage. Artists Collective of Westport co-founder Miggs Burroughs will lead the chat, as Eric’s artwork is projected on the large screen. Click here for more information.

“Coral Lyrics” — oil on canvas.(Eric Chiang)

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A memorial gathering for Dr. David Beck — the highly respected, longtime Westport Police Department physician — is set for this Sunday (June 26, 11 a.m., Beth Israel Chabad, 40 King Street, Norwalk). A full buffet brunch follows.

RSVP: info@bethisraelchabad.org.

Dr. David Beck

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The word is out: Old Mill Beach is the place to be.

At least, for a “Westport … Naturally” photo …

(Photo/Rick Benson)

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And finally … James Rado died Tuesday in New York. He was 90.

The New York Times described his legacy well: He “jolted Broadway into the Age of Aquarius as a co-creator of ‘Hair,’ the show, billed as an ‘American tribal love-rock musical’ that transfigured musical theater tradition with radical ’60s iconoclasm and rock ’n’ roll.” Click here for “Hair”‘s fascinating back story.

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“Gloria”: Singer’s Ode To An Oyster Boat

Chris Bousquet is a singer-songwriter. He led High Lonesome Plains, and has performed with Roger McGuinn, John Sebastian, Asleep at the Wheel, the Nields, the Turtles and J. Geils.

A decade or so ago, he read about Westport oysterman Alan Sterling, and his boat Gloria (named for an old girlfriend). Bousquet calls it “a profoundly moving story of grief, continual struggle, and the simple triumph of carrying on.”

Gloria (Photo/Bruce McFadden)

Having grown up in Clinton, Connecticut, Bousquet always found the sea to be “ethereal and transcendent.” Staring out at the water, he believes in the interconnectedness of all things. So when Sterling noted in the story that a gull might be Gloria watching over him, Bousquet understood.

The sea can be warm and caressing, but also brutal. “Alan was well aware of the cold and raw, but it didn’t blind him to the beauty,” Bousquet says. Inspired, he reworked an old song into a new one: “Gloria.”

Bousquet never met Sterling in person. He thought about sharing the song with him, but felt it was presumptuous. Sterling died on July 4, 2014. Bousquet wishes he had told the oysterman what an inspiration he’d been.

“He made me appreciate my life — and my wife! — even more,” Bousquet says. “I don’t mean to sound trite. But he reminded me to head out on my proverbial boat, and sail on each day.”

Bousquet calls the song “my plywood skiff version of Alan’s oyster boat.”

Alan Sterling culling his oysters.

Gloria remained in Gray’s Creek after her owner’s death. For years it served as a memorial to Westporters: of a rugged individual, a centuries-old tradition, and our ties to the sea.

But over the past year, Gloria deteriorated. The old oyster boat is near collapse.

“Gloria, ” this spring. (Photo/Bruce McFadden)

Yet she — and Alan Sterling –live on.

Connecticut Public Television and PBS have produced a documentary called “Oyster Heaven.” It documents the history of oystering in our state’s waters, from Native American times through the industry’s collapse, and on to its current renaissance.

Screenshot from “Oyster Heaven.”

Much of the documentary focuses on Norm Bloom, and his Norwalk-based Copps Island Oysters.

The song “Gloria,” though, serves as the film’s theme. It’s the perfect choice.

Chris says, “I give this song with love and gratitude to the people of Westport — and Alan and Gloria.”

(To view “Oyster Heaven” — and hear “Gloria” — click here.) 

(Like PBS, “06880” relies on support from the public. Please click here to contribute whatever you can.)

Pic Of The Day #1893

Was Mick Jagger at the Compo Beach/Schlaet’s Point jetty? (Photo/Patricia McMahon)

Meet And Greet New Poet Laureate

Here’s news both bittersweet and great:
After 3 years, Westport has a new poet laureate.

Hopefully, she’s a better poet than I am.

Diane Lowman’s 3 years as Westport’s poet-in-residence ends June 30. She’ll pass the torch — or pen, or computer keyboard or whatever — next Wednesday (June 29), at a noontime Westport Library ceremony.

Our new poet laureate is Jessica Noyes McEntee. Her 2-year term begins July 1.

McEntee, her husband, 2 young children (now teenagers) and pets moved into a historic Westport house in 2013. She is active in the community, serving on the boards of the Westport Young Woman’s League and Save Westport Now.

She’s also a working poet. Her debut chapbook, Jackie O. Suffers Two Husbands & Other Poems, was published by Finishing Line Press in 2019. She’s taught at Westport Writers’ Workshop since 2015,

Poet laureate-designee Jessica Noyes McEntee.

Poet laureate is not a full-time gig. McEntee works in marketing for the Pequot Library in Southport. The Amherst College graduate was previously an editor at John Wiley & Sons.

The Westport Arts Advisory Committee oversaw the selection process of the new laureate. Applicants met with a selection committee that included members of the WAAC, Westport Public Schools and the Westport Library. McEntee was officially appointed by 1st Selectwoman Jen Tooker.

As Westport’s first poet laureate,  her predecessor Lowman enriched town meetings, collaborated with schools, and ran workshops for the Senior Center. She recited  original haikus at many local events, including the dedication of the reimagined Library in 2019.

Diane Lowman (Photo/Jane LaMotta)

Roundup: Mariangela Lisanti, Maserati, Staples Class of ’52 …

In 2001, Mariangela was a Staples High School rock star.

The senior won the national Siemens Westinghouse Science & Technology Competition. And the Intel Science Talent Search (where she met President Bush). Each came with a $100,000 scholarship (!).

But she did not stop there. Mariangela was captain of the Staples math team, founder and captain of the engineering team, concertmaster of the Chamber and Symphonic Orchestras, and the recipient of honors in Italian and Spanish (both of which she is fluent in.) Of course, she was valedictorian.

Then, at the Intel International Science & Engineering Fair in San Jose, California, the Harvard-bound graduate was awarded the Glenn Seaborg Nobel Prize Visit Award — earning a trip to the Nobel ceremony in Stockholm.

So what is Mariangela up to these days?

She earned a Ph.D. from Stanford in 2010, then completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the Princeton Center for Theoretical Science. She’s been on the physics faculty at Princeton University since then.

A theoretical particle physicist by training, her research focuses on the nature of dark matter. Mariangela’s interdisciplinary work incorporates ideas from astrophysics and data science. Currently, she’s focusing on how variations of the Cold Dark Matter paradigm affect galactic and sub-galactic scale observables.

So why today’s “06880” shout-out?

She’s just been named a Simons Foundation Investigator. This too is a very big deal.

The Simons Investigators program supports outstanding theoretical scientists in their most productive years, when they are establishing creative new research directions, providing leadership and mentoring junior scientists.

Simons Investigators are appointed for 5 years, renewable for another 5. Each Investigator receives research support of $100,000 per year. An additional $10,000 per year is provided to the Investigator’s department

Congratulations, Mariangela. You continue to make Staples, and Westport, proud.

Keep rockin’ the world! (Hat tip: Steve Stein)

Mariangela Lisanti

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Speaking of Staples: Sunday’s “06880” Roundup gave a shout-out to the Class of 1962. They celebrated their 60th year reunion at the Ned Dimes Marina.

But they’re mere children, compared to the Class of ’52. Let’s hear it for them!

Nine alums just enjoyed their 70th (!) reunion at Rive Bistro — not far from their old high school, on Riverside Avenue. (Today it’s Saugatuck Elementary).

Ed Backus — a 1948 graduate — joined them, making them feel very young.

The class has met every 5 years since graduation day: Friday the 13th, 1952. “Our Staples ties are strong!” says Jess Thompson Huberty.

They are indeed. Hail, Staples! Hail, Class of ’52!

Staples High School Class of 1952 at Rive Bistro: Seated (from left):Lu List Morris, Susan Stokes. Middle row: Roxanne Gette Martin, Barbara Hendricks Chamberlain, Jess Thompson Huberty, Sonja Messelt Ziluca, Don Switter, Ed Backus. Rear: Bill Gault. Sending regrets: Bev Breault, Lynn Lucke Lutkin, Steven Miller, Concetta Palazzo Fedak, Mary Ellen Kottgen McKenna.

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The Maserati owner figured he’d be okay on Sunday. His car stuck just a yard or two past the “No Parking” sign on Hillspoint Road, coming from Compo Beach toward Old Mill.

The sign is there for a reason. It’s a dangerous spot. This happened next:

(Photos/Jerry Kuyper)

But that’s not the end of the story.

As of yesterday afternoon — 72 hours later — the very expensive convertible was still there.

(Photo/John Richers)

And debris from its body still littered the road.

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Speaking of parking, how about this trifecta near Gaetano’s?

The driver is:

  1. Facing the wrong way
  2. Next to a “No Parking” sign, which is right by a …
  3. Fire hydrant.

Must have been a deli emergency!

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The Westport Journal has a new executive editor. Thane Grauel succeeds Jarret Liotta in the top post at the year-old online news site July 1. Liotta will focus on photography and video projects.

Grauel has been a reporter at the Westport News, managing editor at the Westport Minuteman and editor of The Hour, among other publications.

“The news business is so different now,” he told “06880.” “At the Westport News we had 5 guys covering Town Hall, plus sports, business, entertainment and real estate. The chains have gobbled everything up. People are not being served like before.”

However, Grauel says, “Westport is one of the best-covered towns in Connecticut, online. People here are really engaged. They want to know what’s going on.”

Grauel is a 4th-generation Westporter, though after Kings Highway Elementary School his family moved to Milford. He graduated from the University of Connecticut, and is a Navy veteran.

Thane Grauel (Photo courtesy of Westport Journal)

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Speaking of writing:

Bilingual journalist and writer Camila Vallejo earns the first-ever Writer-in-Residence prize from Fairfield County Story Lab, the shared workspace in Saugatuck for creative types.

Vallejo covers housing and social justice issues for Connecticut Public Radio and WNPR, and is a member of Report for America. She has been a part-time producer for All Things Considered (read and hear some of her stories here).

The FC Story Lab’s Writer-in-Residence prize is for early-career writers. Vallejo’s residency will enable her to work for free at the Story Lab in Saugatuck. The Lab will install a new media suite, so she can record radio pieces there. While she reports statewide — including pieces on housing disparities in Fairfield County — she often files stories from a closet at home.

“Unfortunately, this isn’t unusual today,” says FC Story Lab co-founder Carol Dannhauser.

“Many media companies have trimmed their newsrooms and all but eliminated their bureaus. This means that young reporters, especially, can’t experience the alchemy that happens in a newsroom, where people bounce ideas off of each other and offer suggestions when stories hit a dead-end.”

During her 6-month residency, Vallejo will host 2 events for students and recent graduates interested in a career in journalism or media.

Camila Vallejo

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So how many jellybeans were in the Staples Tuition Grants contest?

41,330. The winning guess of 41,472 — off by just 142 — was by Emerson Watkins. In second place (41,501) was Sean Wagner. Both will receive gift certificates to their favorite Westport restaurant.

Hundreds of people entered the contest. Guesses ranged from 540 to 751,000.

STG plans to continue the contest next year. It’s another great (and fun) way to help raise some of the $400,000 that was given in scholarships to Staples seniors and alumni this year.

As you can see, there were 41,472 jellybeans here.

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Last summer, dozens of Fleishers Craft Butchery employees at 4 locations walked off the job after CEO John Adams removed Black Lives Matter and LGBTQ Pride signs that workers had put in windows at the Westport store.

Though they had been there for months, a customer had only recently complained.

After the walkout, most employees quit. The shops remained closed until March, when one in Brooklyn reopened. Now it — the final store in what was once hailed as “the mecca of the good-meat movement,” with “rock star butchers” — has closed too.

New York magazine says that after the Westport incident — and the effects of COVID on, particularly, the Upper East Side location — “Fleishers never again found its footing.” Though owner Rob Rosania apologized and offered employees raises to return, the company was cooked.

With the final closing, you can put a fork in Fleishers. (Click here for the full New York magazine story. Hat tip: Tom Prince)

The Fleishers signs. (Photo courtesy of Chloe Sorvino, for Forbes)

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One store closes, another opens: Westport’s newest business is Wash The Dog. Angela Koza’s “self-service dog wash” just opened at 375 Post Road West.

There are 6 stainless steel tubs, so people can wash — and blow dry — their dogs. Full service grooming also available.

The grand opening is this Saturday (June 25). Arf!

Wash the Dog!

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Speaking of creatures, Dave Lowrie writes:

“I’ve been waiting to capture the right ‘Westport … Naturally’ photo. I think I have it: an early visitor to my compost pile.”

Bingo!

(Photo/Dave Lowrie)

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And finally … in honor of Mariangela’s galactic work (story above):

(Across the universe — well, across “06880” — readers contribute to keep us going. Please click here to help.)

Title IX: 50 Years Of Girls Sports Progress

In 1964, coach Jinny Parker’s 440 relay team– Joy Wassell, Mary Gail Horelick, Susan Tefft and Donna Jackson — set a national record: 53.7 seconds.

They were all Staples High School students. But they were a club team, not a varsity sport. Back then, the only official track team was for boys.

Girls had just 3 interscholastic options: field hockey in fall, basketball in winter (6-vs.-6; 3 players on each side of the court, to minimize running and sweating), softball in the spring.

Staples’ 1954-55 girls basketball team.

That’s ancient history, it seems. Today, Staples fields more girls teams than boys. Many — including soccer and field hockey — are perennial state title contenders. They draw large crowds, including proud fathers and young girls who aspire to one day be Wreckers themselves.

Staples’ girls soccer team is the defending state champion. (Photo/JC Martin)

But the growth of girls sports is relatively new. It was kick-started exactly 50 years ago — on June 23, 1972 — when President Nixon signed into law Title IX.*

The federal civil rights statute — really, just 37 words tucked inside much broader education legislation — prohibits sex-based discrimination in any school or other education program that receives funding from the federal government.

(Interestingly, the words “sports,” “athletics” and “physical education” appear nowhere in the text.)

In 1970-71, coach Marianne Harrison’s girls basketball team played its first official FCIAC season. The rules had changed the previous year to be similar to the boys game — but they still wore bloomers.

Girls sports have evolved enormously over 5 decades. Staples now offers 19  interscholastic sports for girls, 18 for boys. Sailing is co-ed.

(Wrestling is listed as a boys sport, and competitive and sideline cheerleading for girls. Both genders are eligible to try out for those teams, though the number is small.)

There are nearly 2,000 students at Staples, in grades 9 through 12. More than half — 1,018 — played at least one interscholastic sport this year, at the varsity, junior varsity or reserve level.

There are more male athletes (573) than female (445). But that’s a lot more than the few dozen girls who competed when Title IX was enacted.

Staples’ Marisa Shorrock and a Greenwich High player fight for a loose ball in 2020. Coach Paco Fabian’s team had just won their state quarterfinal game, and were favorites to win the state title, when COVID ended the season.

So, “06880” wants to know: How has Title IX impacted your sports life?

Women: What opportunities has it offered you — or what did you miss?

Girls: Are there any differences between your sports experiences today, and those of your brothers and male friends?

Men: Are your daughters’ athletic careers any different from your sisters’, female friends — or mothers’?

Tell us your stories! Click “Comments” below.

And then raise a stein to Title IX.

You’ve come a long way, baby.

*The Watergate break-in took place on June 17, 1972 — just 6 days earlier. Less than a week separated one of the highs of President Nixon’s administration, and one of its lows.

Staples had very few girls sports before Title IX. But in the 1930s, they did have a girls rifle team. (The boys had one too.) This 1936 yearbook photo, with coach Walter Stevenson, called them “Annie Oakleys.”

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Pics Of The Day #1892

Clouds over Compo jetty … (Photo/June Rose Whittaker)

… and people walking on it. (Photo/Lorraine Tartaglia)

Unsung Hero #244

As an orthopedic physical therapist, David Curtis knows all about taking care of feet.

And as a longtime local resident, he knows that the best person to care for his own shoes is George Ouzounidis.

In his 40 years as owner of Westfair Shoe Repair opposite Stop & Shop, he’s developed a loyal clientele. They appreciate and admire his great work, attention to detail — and all the little things that make his small store such a warm, welcoming place.

“There’s always a smile on his face. He’s happy-go-lucky and jovial,” Curtis says. “If you’re having a bad day, by the time you leave you’re in a good mood.”

But George is also a dedicated, hardworking craftsman. He works on more than shoes. Boots, belts, all things leather; thick nylon, like collars and leashes — he fixes them all.

George Ouzounidis. in his Westfair Shoe Repair Shop. (Photo/David Curtis)

During his long career, George has worked on damaged or worn Louis Vuitton, Jimmy Choo, Chanel and Ferragamo items, worth thousands of dollars.

He’s spent as much time and care on items that are valuable only to customers, like a deceased dog’s collar or leash.

He works too on things that no one at all might care about, like stuff found in a trunk in a grandparent’s attic.

Whether it’s soccer shoes worn in a state championship match ro Army boots worn on the beaches of Normandy — George makes it look, feel and work like new.

With soft Greek music playing in the background, George’s go-to greeting is “my friend.”

“Whenever I walk in, the first thing I hear is ‘My friend, how have you been?'” Curtis notes.

“Whenever I leave, it’s ‘My friend. I will do the best I can. My friend, when do you need this?'”

And, Curtis adds, “He under-charges and over-delivers. He’s so honest.”

The other day, Curtis forgot his wallet. George — who accepts cash or checks only — said, “No worries, my friend. Pay me next time.’

“George is a town icon. A legend. A treasure. A dying breed,” praises Curtis. “He is vintage Westport.”

(I’m amazed George has never been nominated as an Unsung Hero before. Then again, his quiet concern, care and competence are the essence of what an Unsung Hero is.)

(To nominate an Unsung Hero, email 06880blog@gmail.com. To help support “06880” with a financial contribution, click here.)

Roundup: Remarkable Staples Video, WTF Food Rescue, WFM Young Shoots …

The Staples High School Class of 2022 is now part of history.

But tonight they live on — on the big screen.

The Remarkable Theatre screens a 60-minute film — created by the theater’s Staples interns — highlighting the graduating class.

There are interviews with nearly 2 dozen seniors, plus footage contributed by other students. It was produced over the past 2 weeks, so it is definitely timely.

Gates open at 8 p.m. tonight, for tailgating. The film begins at 8:45. Tickets are $20 per person or $50 per car, whichever is cheaper — with no limit on the number of passengers. Click here to purchase, and for more details.

Eamon Brannigan is one of the stars of the Class of 2022 Senior Night film.

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If you’re a good gardener, you grow your own food.

If you’re a very good (and lucky!) gardener, you’ve got way more than  you need.

But there’s only so much lettuce, peas and zucchini you can give to your friends.

So chew on this: Wakeman Town Farm has partnered with Westport Grow-a-Row and Food Rescue US-Fairfield County on a new produce donation drop off site.

Bring your abundance to WTF’s farm stand any Saturday, between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m.; coolers are set up there. Your fresh fruit, vegetables and herbs will help people struggling with food insecurity, throughout Fairfield County.

Questions? Email Haley@foodrescue.us. Follow @grow.a.row_westport on Instagram for updates.

The drop-off spot is hard to miss.

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And speaking of gardens:

Westport Farmers’ Market‘s 6th annual Young Shoots Photography Contest. Snap!

There are 3 age categories: 5-9 years old, 10-14 and 15-18. Any photo taken at one of the Thursday Farmers’ Markets is eligible. Judging is by a panel of local artists, and the public.

The contest runs from a week from this tomorrow (June 23) through July 31. Winners — who earn a $100 cash, WFM swag and a gift card for a MoCA Westport class — will be celebrated at Gilbertie’s Herbs & Garden Center, with catering by Sugar & Olives.

Ann Burmeister — Farmers’ Market board member and Who Grows Your Food photographer — will help youngsters as they take shots at the Market tomorrow. A WFM team member will be on hand throughout the contest to answer questions.

Click here to submit photos, and for more information.

“Starstem” by Calista Finkelstein was a previous “Young Shoots” winner in the 8-10 category.

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Yesterday’s obituary of longtime Westport volunteer Tom Hofstetter included incorrect information about a memorial service at Saugatuck Harbor Yacht Club. The family will hold a private burial only; there is no service.

ThomasHofstetter

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On June 30, nearly everyone in Westport will watch the July 4th fireworks. (I know, I know …)

But if pyrotechnics aren’t your thing, you’ve got an artistic option.

The opening reception for MoCA’s new exhibition — “Women Pulling at the Threads of Social Discourse” — is set for that night (6 to 8 p.m.; free).

The show explores how “female artists, utilizing textiles as their medium, subvert the social expectation of crafting by lambasting this soft medium with political and social awareness.”

It focuses on flags, as a symbol of solidarity for women of the suffrage movement, and an emblem of protest. Flags in “Women Pulling at the Threads of Social Discourse” were assembled using mixed media and the fiber arts to ignite positive social change.

So — with those flags — there is a connection to Independence Day after all.

The exhibition runs through September 4. Click here for more information.

The MoCA exhibition logo is based on the original colors of the suffragist movement.

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Another opening, another show:

Amy Simon Fine Art (123 Main Street), hosts an opening reception this Saturday (June 25, 3 to 5 p.m.) for the new “Visual Alchemy” show. Artists include Barry Katz, David Skillicorn and Louise P. Sloane.

Untitled #11– encaustic over plaster. (Barry Katz)

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It’s not true that Benjamin Franklin wanted a wild turkey — not an eagle — to be America’s national symbol.

The actual story: In a letter to his daughter, he criticized the original eagle design for the Great Seal, saying it looked like a turkey.

Well, after a long period away, wild turkeys have returned to Westport. The other day, Carol Cederbaum saw 3 of them roosting on her back deck. She got this shot a female, before they spotted her behind the window.

Is it a handsome “Westport … Naturally” subject, or not? You be the judge.

(Photo/Carol Cederbaum)

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And finally … in the past week we’ve given shout-outs to Staples grads, and Brian Wilson. Here’s one more — together — as the Class of 2022 gets ready for their “Senior Night” at the Remarkable Theater (story above):

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