Tag Archives: Downtown Merchants Association

How Our Gardens Grow

The 2 gardens at the eastern (Klaff’s/Starbucks) end of the Post Road bridge have gotten a bit grotty.

As “gateways” to Westport — among the 1st things you see as you enter downtown from the Merritt, I-95 or Post Road — they provide a poor 1st impression.  Built 20 years ago, they’re now weed-infested, overgrown and neglected.

The only people who care about them, it seemed, were folks who trampled over them putting up illegal signs, which stayed long after the events they advertised were done.

The 2 gardens were designed to be mirror images of each other.  Now all they share is decrepitude.

But if you want to see for yourself, you better hurry.  All that is about to change.

The town Beautification Committee is giving the “Gateway Gardens” an extreme makeover.

It hasn’t been easy.

Four months ago, a generous company agreed to pay for renovations.  The committee solicited plans.  Five local firms complied. 3 were selected — Laurel Rock, Daybreak and Geiger’s — and their proposals were passed on to the benefactor.

But the company reneged on its offer.  The Beautification Committee apologized to the 3 garden design firms, and wondered what to do next.

Nancy Carr and Angela Trucks at work, weeding a Gateway Garden.

A week later, Burton DeMarche called.  35 years ago his father founded Dickson DeMarche Landscape Architects in Westport.  Now called LaurelRock, after Burt — a horticulturist — joined DDLA,  it’s expanded to become one of Fairfield County’s leading sustainable design/build firms.

Though its headquarters are in Wilton, DeMarche wanted to do something for his hometown.  He offered to donate LaurelRock’s services — from planning and plantings to hardscape materials and installation — to bring the gardens back to life.

And to do it in time for this year’s Fine Arts Festival — July 16 and 17.

It’s a donation valued at over $35,000.  Beautification co-chair Angela Trucks calls LaurelRock “our heroes.”

LaurelRock also agreed to maintain the gardens through the fall.  Then the Downtown Merchants Association will take over.  The Beautification Committee will pay for water.  (No easy task — it must be trucked in.)

DeMarche has assigned one of his top landscape designers — Brian Westermeyer — to the project.  “We drew our inspiration from the bridge’s shape and structure, as well as the river,” he says.

He’s creating a garden that will blend in with both.  Plantings — including evergreen ground cover and hedges, perennials and flowering shrubs — will provide “an ever-changing palette of color, texture and pattern year-round.”

Trucks is thrilled by the new Gateway Gardens.  “With stress levels so high here, it’s important to ride through town and see beauty,” she says.  “This is such a pivotal spot, and to make it beautiful says a lot about Westport.”

She applauds the partnership between her committee, the DMA and town officials — and is thrilled at the generosity of LaurelRock.

“There are still a lot of giving people around,” she says.

And they’re giving downtown the gift of beauty.

(The dedication ceremony is scheduled for Sunday, July 17 at 1 p.m.)

One last look at a grungy Gateway Garden.

Cookin’ For A Cause

No one has ever confused bbq with health food.

But this month the Downtown Merchants Association invites Westporters to cook for a cause.  Teams of 2-4 backyard chefs can enter any of 3 categories — chicken, ribs and chef’s choice.   Winners receive a prizes — and the money raised from each team’s $100 entry fee is donated the Connecticut Food Bank.

blog - bbqThe event — set for the Levitt Pavilion — is part of the 2nd annual Blues Views and BBQ Festival.  “Cookin’ for a Cause” setup begins at 6 a.m. on Saturday, September 26.  Judging is at 3 p.m., leaving plenty of time to get the meat and sauce just right.  (Charcoal or wood heat sources only; no gas, electric grills or open pits.  And teams supply their own food.)

All day Saturday and Sunday there’s a craft beer showcase, activities for kids and families, a food court — and of course music.  What’s bbq without blues?

So forget the calories.  The hell with cholesterol.  It’s time to start cookin’ some meat for a cause.

(For more information, including an application form, click here.)

Takin’ It To The Street

It sounded like a good idea.

The Downtown Merchants Association figured a street fest could kick off summer.  So yesterday they blocked off Main Street, hired a  Jersey band, brought in street performers, threw in the Oscar’s  hot dog cart, added some non-profit booths, and waited for the crowds to come.

They never did.

The folks who were there — primarily young kids — had fun.  But numbers were low, and the buzz organizers were hoping for never got beyond a drone.

A clown engages part of the small crowd at the Westport Street Fest.

A clown engages part of the small crowd at the Westport Street Fest.

There were a few problems.  On a late May Thursday, nearly every Westporter’s evening is booked solid.

Promotion was spotty — and the target audience unclear.  Was it a family event?  For young kids only?  Did they want high school students, to make it cool?  No one knew.

And whoever handled weather messed up big-time.

Greg Sullivan mans Oscar's cart.

Greg Sullivan mans Oscar's cart.

The DMA is undaunted.  President Bob LaRose hopes for more Street Fests this summer.  Once school is out — and the word gets around — and this stupid cold rain leaves — the idea may take off. Main Street could pulse with life on warm, lazy nights.

Here’s another suggestion for putting a pulse into our moribund downtown:  Instead of hiring vendors to sell wine and beer on the sidewalk, figure out a way to bring back some of our old funky bars, dance clubs, coffee shops — and maybe a movie theater or two.

Every night could be a Street Fest.

Adam Winikoff, James Manning and Chris Tacopina dream of the day they're 15 feet tall too.

Adam Winikoff, James Manning and Chris Tacopina dream of the day they're 15 feet tall too.