Tag Archives: Fairfield County Hunt Club

“Day Of Champions” Will Be Quite An Experience

Westport is awash in organizations that benefit young people — here, in the rest of Fairfield County, the country and the world. It’s one of the strengths of our community.

Many throw fundraisers. Westporters support them generously, with time as well as money.

But most of these kid-focused groups’ events don’t actually involve young people themselves.

That’s why Experience Camp’s Day of Champions is so wonderful.

Not to mention unique, cool, and tons of fun.

Experience Camp is the Westport-based network of summer camps for youngsters who have lost a parent, sibling or primary caregiver. The program builds confidence, encourages laughter, and allows them to navigate grief through friendship, teamwork, sports and the common bond of loss.

This year, Experience Camps will serve 1,000 boys and girls, at 5 locations from Maine to California.

Of course, running such a life-changing program costs money: $1,000 for a week at camp.

For much of its first decade, Experience Camps — founded by Westporter Sara Deren — relied on gala fundraisers in big cities, and foundation grants.

In 2017 Deren asked fellow Westport resident Gery Grove to help raise funds here. She teamed with Melissa Post, who like Grove loved the idea of the camp.

They thought about the usual events, like cocktail parties. But they realized the best way to raise money for kids was to involve kids themselves.

Together with a hard-working committee, they launched the first Day of Champions in 2018.

Fun at Experience Camps’ Day of Champions …

Camp Mahackeno was the perfect venue for the camp-like color war/field day. Twenty teams of 10 to 15 people each (kindergarten through adult) competed in sponge races, an obstacle course, toothpick pickup contest with oven mitts, archery and others activities. Many wore costumes.

Points were awarded for spirit, fundraising, cheering and more. It was a joyful day — and it brought in over $150,000.

… and funny hair …

To participate, teams had to raise at least $1,000. Some were well over $25,000.

Organizers feared the first year might have been a fluke.

It wasn’t.

Last year’s Day of Champions brought in more than $225,000. Over the past 2 years, Westport’s Michelle Yanover — who lost her mom at 7 — has raised over $45,000. Working with his New York Life firm, Grove’s husband Matt added another $40,000-plus.

… and a tug-of-war …

This year’s 3rd annual event is Sunday, May 17 (8 to 11:30 a.m.). Due to construction at Mahackeno, it’s moved to another great location: Fairfield County Hunt Club.

Yet as fun and financially important as the Day of Champions is, there’s another element that makes it special.

… and more fun. (Photos/Stephen Dodd)

“It teaches kids a lot,” Grove says. “They learn there are other kids who need their support — kids who don’t have their entire family here anymore.

“Kids get a chance to raise money for a resonant cause. And they have the best time doing it. Our lives are busy, but families come and do this together. Kids, teachers, parents, town officials — everyone puts concerns and differences aside for the day. It’s a great time!”

(Click here to register a team. Spectators are welcome too.)

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Fairfield County Hunt Club earlier today, at the Victory Cup Polo and Lobster Fest. (Photo/Jack Krayson)

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Solar pathway lighting at Fairfield County Hunt Club (Photo/Robert Jacobs)

Huge Horse Show Gallops Into Town

It’s one of Westport’s oldest, longest-running events.

It’s one of the most exciting to see.

It’s one you’ve probably never heard of.

Fairfield County Hunt Club’s 96th annual June Benefit Horse Show opened yesterday. It runs through Saturday.

Part of yesterday’s action at the Fairfield County Hunt Club.

Over 3,000 international, national and local riders compete in world-class events, featuring hunter, jumper & equitation disciplines. Highlights include a $50,000 Grand Prix, and a $10,000 Welcome Stake.

The June Benefit Horse Show is open to the public, and free. Social activities include a Grand Prix Luncheon, Family Fun Day and shopping at the Paddock Boutique. For more information, click here.

There’s plenty of room at the Fairfield County Hunt Club show. (Photo/Diana Kuen)

The Fairfield County Hunt Club show benefits EQUUS Foundation — the national charity that protects America’s horses, and fosters the horse-human bond.

FUN FACTThis is one of the few remaining historic horse shows that still competes on grass.

The Exxon station at the Post Road and South Maple — around the corner from the Hunt Club — welcomed the stars of the show. (Photo/Diana Kuen)


Gruel, Britannia!

Growing up in London, Karen Hubrich hated traditional English food.

Fortunately, her Austrian mother and Hungarian father made sure she ate well.

When she was 21, she got a job serving meals at the prestigious Foreign Press Association, near Buckingham Palace. She looked at the first plate and thought, “This is diabolical.”

Soon — without any training whatsoever — she became the organization’s chef.

It was one more stop on a life that had already provided plenty of surprises. And would offer many more.

Four years earlier — just 17 years old — Karen had “escaped” to New York. She found work as a nanny. “It was a horror story,” she recalls. “I worked 12 hours a day, 6 days a week, and lived in a closet.”

The Foreign Press Association job was a step up. But Karen longed to return to New York. “I didn’t have a pot to piss in,” she says. But she came back, lived with friends in the West Village, and — after spotting an ad in the New York Times — landed a job as chef of the MetroTech faculty dining room in Brooklyn.

She had no green card. Back in the day, there was a simple solution: Her employer sponsored her.

She biked to work, had “bankers’ hours,” and weekends off.

After a couple of years though, she got the urge to move. Another Times ad led her to apply to be chef at the Williams Club.

The room was filled with “old fuddy-duddies in suits,” she says. They were there to be interviewed too. Karen was the only woman.

She got the job.

She also moved to Westport. She knew the town well: Her stepfather lived here, and she visited him often each summer.

She commuted to work by train. She had one son, then got pregnant again. The Williams Club offered her a great severance package. She took it.

Her next gigs were closer to home: Food for Thought, the health food place on the Post Road near Norwalk, then 5 years as chef at the Fairfield County Hunt Club.

For the third time though, Karen found a new job through the New York Times. This time it was at the Times — they were looking for an executive chef for their dining room.

So it was back to commuting. She soon ran the the entire food service. It was a great job, in the Times’ historic old building.

But when the paper moved to its new office, an outside firm came in to handle the food. Karen was soon “a single mom with 2 kids, unemployed, and stressed out.”

Even while working other jobs, Karen Hubrich had a catering business.

Fairfield County Hunt Club hired her back. She was there for another 5 years, until Pequot Yacht Club came calling.

Oh, yeah: In between was another 5-year stint, as the personal chef for Michael Bolton and his family.

“He was a great guy — very pleasant to work with,” Karen says. He lived right down the street, in her Old Hill neighborhood.

And she also did catering, and prepared meals to go. Plus all the prepared meals at Double L Farm Stand (which she still does).

These days, Karen is 62. Naturally, she’s on to her next project.

In mid-May, Karen opened a restaurant — her first ever. It’s at 2217 Post Road in Fairfield, just before South Pine Creek.

Warm and cozy, she designed it herself. It’s called Gruel Britannia.

Gruel Britannia, in Fairfield.

In a nod toward the way life can take unexpected turns, she specializes in English cuisine. The same food Karen loathed as a girl.

Now she makes shepherd’s pie, fish and chips, bangers and mash, Yorkshire pudding, mushy peas — all simple, classical, with her own special twist.

Karen serves breakfast too: English bacon spread with butter and HP sauce, scones, and coffee — specially roasted by her son Lucas.

The Gruel Britannia pastry case, and menu.

“The food in London is now unbelievable,” she says of her decision to feature a cuisine she once called “diabolical.”

That’s jolly good.

(Gruel Brittania also offers prepared foods, soups, baked items and frozen selectons. Click here for more information. Hat tip: Darcy Sledge)

Gruel Britannia’s loo.

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On Saturday, Fairfield County Hunt Club held its annual Father-Daughter dance. The outdoors photo opp was chilly. As soon as it was done, the girls raced inside. (Photo/Diana Kuen)

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Last night’s sunset, at the Fairfield County Hunt Club (Photo/Lynn Untermeyer Miller)

Photo Challenge #211

Our 1st-ever “4-fer” Photo Challenge showed a quartet of ads. All were shot in the 1950s and ’60s by photographer Bill Bell — longtime Westporter Bobbi Liepolt’s father — for the Dunbar furniture campaign. (Click here to see.)

The photos showed, in order:

  • Kathleen Laycock School on Beachside Avenue (now Greens Farms Academy)
  • Fairfield County Hunt Club
  • Nyala Farm, off Greens Farms Road
  • The Stony Point home of Leopold Godowsky (a concert violinist who helped develop Kodacolor and Ektachrome) and his wife, Frankie Gershwin (George and Ira’s younger sister, and a noted painter).

The first 3 sites are all still in Westport, in more or less the same condition (despite, in Nyala Farms’ case, the construction of a massive office building for Stauffer Chemicals’ world headquarters).

The Godowsky home was torn down in 2009, to make way for a larger, more modern home.

No one got all 4 right. The school was the easiest; Andrew Colabella, Dana Brownell, Barbara Sherburne, Rick Leonard and Bob Grant all quickly identified the iconic, Ivy League-looking main building.

The Hunt Club seemed to be the second easiest. Fred Cantor and Rick Leonard got that one.

It took a while to identify Nyala Farm and Stony Point — but Evan Stein got ’em both. Congrats to all!

This week, we “welcome” old and new readers with this Photo Challenge:

(Photo/Seth Schachter)

If you know where in Westport you’d see this, click “Comments” below.

Polo Rivalry Comes To Westport — And You Can Win

There are many great sports rivalries: Yankees-Red Sox. Michigan-Ohio State. Man U-Man City.

Let’s not forget Gold’s Dragoons vs. Squadron A.

That’s a classic polo match-up. And local residents can watch the two sides battle it out Sunday, August 26 (1 p.m.) — right here at Westport’s Fairfield County Hunt Club.

Exciting polo action comes to Westport.

The full day of fun includes family activities, a polo skills demonstration, music by Green Eyed Lady, plus prizes for best ladies’ hat (a day of pampering at Kate Burton Spa) and best tailgate (a horse weathervane and cupola from Good Directions).

A great VIP lounge features cocktails, beer, a traditional Argentine asado buffet — and “06880” readers can win 2 tickets for full VIP access.

Just click “Comments” below. Pick your team; then respond in 50 words or fewer: “I’m rooting for Gold’s Dragoons (or Squadron A) because…” The deadline is 12 noon this Monday (August 20).

Decision of the judges (Dan Woog and Diana Kuen) is final. Let the games begin!

(The polo event benefits the Bridgeport Hospital Foundation’s REACH Program, an outpatient psychiatric program for children and adults. For more information and tickets, click here.)

Some people dress up to watch polo. But you can come as casually as you like.

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Fairfield County Hunt Club. Their prestigious June Horse Show ends Saturday. There’s competition all day (and great food), with the Grand Prix starting at 1:30 p.m. Admission is free. (Photo/Greenshotz Photography)