After a 2-year COVID-induced absence, Westport’s Independence Day fireworks — the biggest, best party in town — are back.
They’re a bit before the big day, though: June 30. That’s a Thursday. It’s a great way to blast off the holiday weekend. (July 4th is the following Monday.)
The event is a fundraiser for the Westport Police Athletic League. It’s run by our Parks & Recreation Department, with great help from the Westport Police and Fire Departments, and Emergency Medical Services.
The 2019 fireworks — the last time Westporters enjoyed the show. (Photo/David Squires)
Long time Westport residents Melissa and Doug Bernstein will once again sponsor and underwrite the fireworks. They say, “We’re beyond thrilled to partner again with PAL to bring this amazing celebration back to Westport. We can’t wait to see our incredible community celebrating together again at Compo Beach on June 30th!”
If you’ve been to the fireworks, you know what’s in store: thousands of people picnicking at Compo, and strolling from Soundview to South Beach; music, a marching band, and a “block party” with a great, neighborly vibe.
In a few hours, all those chairs will be filled with people. (Photo/Patricia McMahon)
If you’ve never been: Be sure to get a ticket. That’s the only way to park at Compo.
Ticket sales begin tomorrow (Friday, June 3, at Police headquarters (50 Jesup Road) and the Parks & Rec office at Longshore (near the 1st tee). The cost is $40 per vehicle.
Tickets are limited, and first-come, first-served. When they sell out, shuttle passes will be available from Longshore.
Westport PAL president Craig Bergamo (2nd from left) presents fireworks ticket #1 to Doug and Melissa Bernstein. Also shown (from left): Police Chief Foti Koskinas, 1st Selectwoman Jen Tooker, Parks & Recreation director Jennifer Fava, Deputy Police Chief Sam Arciola.
It was the dream summer job: working at the Compo Beach concession stand. Back in the day, it was run by Chubby Lane — an outpost of his Post Road hamburger restaurant.
The ramshackle shed — located where the volleyball courts are now — was the place to see and be seen. (You didn’t even need a sticker; you parked right in front.)
I flipped burgers, fried fries and poured sodas for a couple of teenage summers. Like I said, it was a dream job — except when Chubby’s kids wandered in at 7:59 p.m., seconds before closing, and ordered food as soon as we’d cleaned the grill.
It’s now a few several many years later. Chubby’s gave way to Arcudi’s, then another concessionaire no one remembers. Since 1989, Joey Romeo has run the place. He upgraded it from a stand to a restaurant. He added menu items, lengthened the hours, stretched out the calendar.
But some things never change. Something about eating at the beach still makes food taste special. It’s still an insanely weather-dependent business.
And it’s still a great job for high school and college students.
Joey Romeo, by the shore.
Joey comes by his burger chops naturally. His father ran the food concessions at Cummings Beach and Cole Island in Stamford; his uncle spent many years as the concessionaire at Greenwich’s Tod’s Point.
Growing up, Joey worked at the beaches — and loved it.
He became the 1st tenant after the town of Westport renovated the old bathhouses, and moved the concession stand to its present location. So far, he’s the only one.
What’s kept him here? “I love the water. I love being here in the summer. I love Compo Beach!” he says.
And beach-goers love Joey.
For one thing, he’s got great food.
For another, he listens to those customers. Lobster rolls (now one of his most popular items), fish and chips, Boar’s Head cold cuts, portobello mozzarella sandwiches — those and many more selections resulted directly from requests.
To serve those customers, Joey’s now opens earlier (9 a.m.) and closes later (9 p.m.) each summer. He fires up the grill in late March, and is there on weekends through November — sometimes beyond.
Kelly Petropulos, Paul Van Zanten and Sam Reiner carry on the Compo concession tradition.
The concessionaire is a firm believer in “buy local.” When area resident Adrian Pace brought over Forte — a new healthy, high-protein gelato — Joey snapped it up.
There’s local art and photography on the walls, local T-shirts and postcards at the counter.
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