Tag Archives: Fairfield County Hunt Club

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Early morning, Fairfield County Hunt Club (Photo/Beth Krane)

Roundup: Sidewalk Sales, jUNe Day, Hunt Club …

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It’s gonna be quite a weekend in Westport.

Sidewalk sales are set for Saturday (June 26, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.). The day includes live music, food and drinks.

For the first time in Sidewalk Sale history, Main and Elm Streets will be closed to vehicles. There’s plenty of parking nearby — including Town Hall, 2 minutes away.

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This Saturday is also jUNe Day. The United Nations Association of Southwestern Connecticut and town of Westport host 100 UN guests.

Everyone is invited to the opening ceremony (Jesup Green, 10:30 a.m.). Guest of honor Christian Saunders, Assistant Secretary General, will read a special message from Secretary General Antonio Guterres.

The 56th annual event brings UN staff and representatives, and their families, to town. They’ll head to Compo Beach and Longshore to swim, golf and play tennis, to Earthplace — and of course the Sidewalk Sale.

As always, flags of many of the 193 UN countries will fly on the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge this weekend.

To volunteer, call Andrea Dostal (203-526-3275) or email  Andreasusa@yahoo.com. For more information, call Bill Hass: 203-454-7685.

jUNe Day flags on the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge. (Photo/Jeff Simon)

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If you’ve ever driven by the Fairfield County Hunt Club, and wondered what goes on there — particularly recently, and seen tents and jumping fences and more — now is your chance.

The 96th Fairfield County Hunt Club June Benefit Horse Show — that right, it’s been happening since 1926 — is underway. It runs now through Saturday (June 26), and includes everything from children’s ponies to Saturday’s Olympic-style $30,000 Grand Prix.

The public is invited. Questions? Email info@huntclubonline.org.

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Today’s “Westport … Naturally” image is one we all relate to. Sometimes even man’s best friend needs another friend.

(Photo/Dan Aron)

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And finally … On this day in 1887, Banff became Canada’s first national park. It’s one of the most spectacular places I’ve ever seen.

Remembering Dr. Horace Laffaye

Dr. Horace Laffaye died on May 31, in Durango, Colorado. A prominent Westport physician, he suffered from Alzheimer’s disease. He was 86.

Dr. Horace Laffaye

After a long association with a private practice at The Willows, Dr. Laffaye served as chief of surgery at Norwalk Hospital for 22 years. He organized annual symposia for his colleagues, where surgeons shared their professional expertise and socialized at places like Lake George and Bretton Woods, New Hampshire. Golf and tennis competitions were often included. He retired in 2005.

He was president of the New England Surgical Society and the Surgeons’ Travel Club. For several years he mentored physicians’ assistants, as a Yale University professor.

Serendipitously, a patient sought treatment for a polo injury. That reignited a passion for a favorite endeavor back in his native Argentina. For 2 decades Dr. Laffaye played polo at the Fairfield County Hunt Club in Westport, and other venues throughout the Northeast.

After his playing days ended, Dr. Laffaye combined his love of history and passion for polo by reinventing himself as a scholar and author. He authored or edited 9 books and innumerable articles on polo in Spanish and English, adding significantly to the historical record of the sport.

In 2010 he served as a Daniels Fellow at the National Sporting Museum and Library in Middleburg, Virginia. His research led to his  publication “Polo in the United States: A History.”

After retiring to Wellington, Florida Dr. Laffaye assisted the Polo Museum and Hall of Fame in many ways, including adding to the collections of books, art and memorabilia, and serving on the board of directors and chair of the Hall of Fame Nominating Committee.

Dr. Laffaye was comfortable conversing with CEOs, ambassadors, grooms and other staff. He bonded with many through their shared love of polo.

He also loved golf. In his youth he both played and refereed rugby, and met his future wife after a match.

Dr. Laffaye was honored with a lifetime membership in the Sports Car Club of America, after competing in rallies for decades. Late in life he told caregivers “You drive like Fangio,” a reference to an Argentine car-racing idol.

Dr. Laffaye was predeceased by his wife Martha, sister María Teresa and brother Roberto. He is survived by his daughter Gisele Laffaye Pansze (Trent) of Durango, Colorado and their children; son Patrick of Norwalk, and former daughter-in-law Ann Kovarik Laffaye of Phoenix, and their sons; his loving companion in his later years, Mary Boykin of Palm Beach, and numerous nieces and nephews and their families in Argentina.

When he gathered his family for an Alaskan cruise he said, “After I die, my grandkids won’t remember that I was a surgeon or an author. But they will remember that I took them to Alaska.” He was generous, thoughtful and gracious. Even toward the end, his sense of humor and his laughter would emerged at unexpected moments.

A celebration of his life will be held July 24 (noon, Greenwich Polo Club).

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in Dr. Laffaye’s honor for Alzheimer’s research and support programs to Memory Matters, PO Box 22330, Hilton Head Island, SC 29925.

“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)