Tag Archives: Jazz at the Post

Roundup: Hamlet, Holiday Giving, Casa Me, Middle School Art …

The Planning & Zoning Commission held its final public hearing last night on the proposed text and map amendment change for The Hamlet at Saugatuck.

Scaled-down versions of the original plan show less density and height.

The commission has 65 days to render a decision. It will likely be discussed next at their December 5 work session.

An original design for The Hamlet at Saugautck …

… and a revised version.

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Just in time for the holidays: Westport’s Department of Human Services’ Giving Program is back.

Donations from community members are a huge help to Westport families facing financial hardship. One hundred families with school-aged children benefit each year from the program. 

This year, rising costs for food, housing and fuel has added strains to many local budgets.

Gift cards and cash donations are matched with families, who then purchase food and simple holiday gifts for their children. Beneficiaries are anonymous. 

The program enables parents to personalize their presents, and participate fully in the holiday season.

Residents and organizations can donate cash, checks or gift cards to the “Family to Family Seasonal Holiday Giving Program” online (click here). Contributions can also be dropped off at Town Hall, or mailed to the Department of Human Services c/o Town Hall, 110 Myrtle Avenue, Westport, CT 06880.

Westport residents facing financial difficulties can contact Human Services at 203-341-1050 or humansrv@westportct.gov for confidential assistance.

Questions? Email adaugelli@westportct.gov or call 203-341-1183.

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CTBites’ weekly blog leads with a story about Casa Me.

The story on the new restaurant in the longtime Sconset Square corner begins:

Casa Me elevates the local restaurant scene with its exceptional Northern Italian vacation-inspired cuisine.

For months Westporters and passersby wondered what was to become of the slightly rundown restaurant in Sconset Square in the midst of a massive renovation and remodel that seemed to take forever. Rumors began to circulate… a Mexican restaurant was coming to town (another?). A Spanish restaurant was moving in. (That’s across the street.) There was also some speculation that a new concept by restauranteur Mario Fontana, owner of the Bodega restaurants both in Fairfield and Darien was going to open.

Fontana was indeed opening a new restaurant, Casa Me, but the cuisine would be distinctly vacation-inspired Italian cuisine. This time he would be joined by his wife, the lovely Pina Ferlisi, who would take on the role of Creative Director after leaving a long and successful career as a fashion director for such esteemed brands as Henri Bendel and Alexander McQueen.

Click here for the full story. For the Casa Me website, click here.

A Casa Me collage, courtesy of CTBites.

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Big art is coming to Westport’s middle schools.

The Westport Public Art Collections’ new program will display large format artwork. loaned by local and regional artists.

The goal is to expand WestPAC’s mission of bringing original works to schools, to help stimulate discussion and connections with art and other curricula.

The middle school program was piloted last year when Coleytown reopened, with Eric Chiang’s “Are We Born Connected” and “History Civilizations.” 

Two artists are loaning works for the 2022-23 school year. Jay Petrow offers a large-scale canvas “So Sorry” for Bedford Middle School, while Liz Leggett’s 3 abstractions are at Coleytown.  

Both Westport artists have completed their installations. Throughout the school year they’ll speak to art classes, be interviewed by student newspapers and TV, and continue sharing their stories, experiences, and practices with students and staff.

Jay Petrow with “So Sorry.”

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A reminder: Staples High School Candlelight Concert tickets go “on sale” to the public — don’t worry, they’re still free! — on December 1.Performances are Friday, December 16 (8 p.m.) and Saturday, December 17 (3 and 8 p.m.).

The event combines 80 years of tradition with a modern holiday spirit. The Symphonic Orchestra, Symphonic Band and Choral Ensembles perform Candlelight favorites like “Sing We Noel” and “Hallelujah Chorus.” Also movements from Tchaikovsky’s “Nutcracker Suite,” music from “Home Alone” by John Williams, and the first movement of Dan Forrest’s “Jubilate Deo.”

Set your reminders. Candlelight tickets get gobbled up fast!

Oh, yeah. Here’s the (easy to remember) link is: www.StaplesMusic.org.

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The Westport Museum for History & Culture is teaming up with Verso Studios at the Westport Library for a new podcast.

“Buried in Our Past” focuses on the histories all around us, It offers a new way to look at the past, and rethink the present.

The monthly podcast is recorded at Verso Studios. It’s available on the Library’s YouTube channel, and through Apple and Spotify.

The debut episode (available now) features the true story of the first Thanksgiving with guest Greg Porretta, a Julliard-trained actor and Westport Museum board member. Click below to see:

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Last month, 5-year-old Daisy Jonas contracted RSV, the respiratory virus that is especially dangerous in young children. She spent 3 nights — including her birthday — at Stamford Hospital.

Her parents were grateful for the new toys given to her during her stay. Now it’s time to give back.

Daisy’s older brother — 9-year-old Levi — wants to join her in collecting toys from Westporters, for Stamford Hospital. New, unwrapped toys can be dropped off by December 18. Email biancablairjonas@gmail.com for the address; click here for an Amazon wish list.

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Westport resident Dr Jim Gadzik, Westporter — a trauma surgeon at Norwalk Hospital — has a life outside of the operating room.

He can cross off one bucket list item. He’s just written a play.

“Magic: A Ballroom Musical” will be staged at Norwalk’s Wall Street Theater this Saturday (November 26, 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.).

It’s an original, Christmas-themed, family-friendly show, featuring 30 songs and 7 ballroom dances.

Jim explains: “It is the story of Pam and Bob, 2 lonely people who find love in a ballroom studio on an enchanted Christmas weekend when they are offered free lessons as a holiday gift by an intriguing dance instructor. If you like Hallmark, Disney and happy endings, you’ll love ‘Magic.'”

Click here for tickets, as well as the livestream link.

 

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Speaking of doctors: Bob Altbaum is guest speaker at the Y’s Women’s next meeting (Monday, November 28, 11:30 a.m., Green’s Farms Church). The public is invited.

Dr. Altbaum retired last year from Internal Medicine Associates of Westport, where he spent his entire career. He joined them in 1978.

An exceptional diagnostician, he is also a Renaissance man. He teaches, hikes, snowshoes, plays tennis and pickleball, and is a keyboardist in the doctor-filled rock group DNR.  They play at places like the Levitt Pavilion, and fundraisers for pancreatic and breast cancer, Norwalk Hospital and ALS.

Dr. Robert Altbaum

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Jazz does not take a holiday.

In honor of Thanksgiving, the weekly “Jazz at the Post” series moves this week to Wednesday.

Well-known pianist Chris Coogan joins bassist Don Falzone and drummer Jim Royle for 7:30 and 8:45 p.m. sets at VFW Post 399 (465 Riverside Avenue).

There’s a $15 cover, with dinner starting at 7 p.m. Reservations are highly recommended: JazzatthePost@gmail.com.

Chris Coogan

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Yesterday’s “06880” Roundup included photos of 2 joyful soccer teams: Staples High School girls, and Greens Farms Academy boys.

Both won championships on Sunday: the “LL” state and New England Prep School titles, respectively.

Here’s another happy guy: Paul Marchese. He lives in Westport, but coaches the Ridgefield High School girls swim team.

Under his guidance, the Tigers captured this year’s FCIAC, state LL and state open championships.

He looks deservedly excited. But aren’t winning swim teams supposed to toss their coach into the pool? (Hat tip: Anne Pfeiffer)

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“The Laramie Project” — the Unitarian Church of Westport’s weekend play — was a simple but powerful production examining the aftermath of the 1998 murder of gay University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard.

It was also timely, coming on the same weekend a man killed 5 patrons of a gay club in Colorado Springs, and wounded many others.

After the actors took their bows, the audience remained for an insightful talkback.

“Laramie Project” talkback, at the Unitarian Church. (Hat tip and photo/Jill Johnson Mann)

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There have been a ton of seagulls recently at Sherwood Mill Pond.

Matt Murray snapped today’s “Westport … Naturally” photo yesterday, as they enjoyed breakfast.

(photo/Matt Murray)

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And finally … following up on his photo (above), Matt Murray offers today’s musical selection:

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Roundup: Another Hillspoint Home, ShoutOut LA, Church Organ …

Yesterday’s Roundup featured a $7.9 million house. It’s being built on one of the most famous spots in Westport: 233 Hillspoint Road, site of the former Positano restaurant.

Diagonally across the street, at 246 Hillspoint, there’s another well-known home. Built in 1930, it’s the last remaining bungalow on the increasingly modern (and pricey)  stretch of water-view road.

Of course you know it:

At 695 square feet, with 2 bedrooms and 1 bathroom on a 3,049-square foot lot, it could have been yours — for a mere $2 million.

But you had to act fast. Offers were due by Sunday

I don’t know a lot about real estate. But I’m guessing the buyer does not plan to live there as is.

So that $2 million is just a starting point. (Hat tip: John Richers)

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David Winther graduated from Staples High School in 2006. He went on to a career as a talent agent (focusing on music and arena touring. He works now in Los Angeles at Elite World Group as a director of global partnerships. He also owns Winther Agency, which strikes brand and licensing deals for content creators.

The other day, he was interviewed by ShoutOut LA. Asked who deserved credit for his success, he gave shout-outs to 2 people from his Westport past: his mother Lynn, and his mentor Jack Klinge.

David said:

My 2 sisters and I got to grow up in Westport, CT, an affluent town with great education systems that push kids academically, athletically etc. to excel. She worked 2 fulltime jobs to get us a “slot” in that town. Ma missed a lot of soccer games, football games, lacrosse games, band recitals to afford that town. I think there was a certain teenage angst I had where I didn’t understand it and actually grew distant from her for a while. Now, in my mid-30s I see what she did and what she keeps doing and how much she gave for her kids. I know she would do it again in a second.

Second, Jack Klinge. I didn’t have a father figure at all my entire life. The town of Westport has a great program that mentors kids who may not have the “typical” nuclear family… In my case I was a latchkey kid in a rich town. Jack and I met when I was in 2nd grade and we started off our first day by going outside and playing soccer against each other. The relationship was great. He became more like a grandfather figure who would give me sage advice and be at my games. He would be proud. I know he is proud, even though I thoroughly believe he still doesn’t understand what I do, haha!

Thank you Mom. Thank you Jack.

In a follow-up conversation, David told “06880”:

I owe everything I am as a person and a professional to my upbringing and my roots. My roots will always be with Westport. Without the strong leaders like Cathy Schager, Jack Klinge, John Dodig, David Roth and many many more, I wouldn’t be where I am today.

To any parent reading this: Please trust in Westport. There is a special love and care for its community to succeed in whatever they want to do in life.

Click here to read the full ShoutOut LA story.

David Winther (Photo courtesy of Steven Shutters/ShoutOut LA)

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Rick Tripodi was the beloved music director and organist at Green’s Farms Congregational Church.

That organ was close to Rick’s heart. As a teenager in 1965, he attended its  dedication.

Classically trained, with a master’s degree in organ performance from Juilliard, Rick designed the refurbishment of the Peragallo/Walker organ during the church’s recent renovation project.

Sadly, he died just 2 days before the instrument was reinstalled.

The organ will be re-dedicated this Sunday (November 20, 4 p.m.). Justin Bischof — known internationally for his improvisations — will play. His program will include themes submitted by the audience.

The public is invited. A reception will follow.

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More than 5 weeks ago, an “06880” Roundup featured a gaunt deer, whose entire face was entangled in a badminton net.

It was gaunt — probably because it could not see to eat.

The deer is still wandering around Westport. Yesterday, it was in Jilda Manikas’ yard.

The good news: The net no longer covers its eyes. It looks a bit healthier — though certainly not happier.

(Photo/Jilda Manikas)

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Pianist Brian Marsella returns to “Jazz at the Post” this Thursday (November 17; shows at 7:30 and 8:45 p.m.; dinner from 6:30 p.m.; VFW Post 399, 465 Riverside Avenue).

He’s joined by bassist Reid Taylor, drummer Brian Floody and the “Jazz Rabbi,” saxophonist Greg Wall.

The cover charge is $15. Reservations are highly recommended: JazzatthePost@gmail.com.

Brian Marsella

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George Billis Gallery hosts an opening reception for artists Elizabeth Higgins, Dean Fisher and Josephine Robinson.

It’s this Thursday (5 to 8 p.m.) at Billis’ new location: 180 Post Road East. New work is also available.

“Pear Tree” (Dean Fisher)

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The entrance to Burying Hill Beach teems with life.

Peter Gold captured today’s “Westport … Naturally” image at that often-overlooked site.

(Photo/Peter Gold)

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And finally … what will you see and hear if you visit Green’s Farms Church on Sunday, for the dedication of their new organ?

If you’re intrigued by the idea of an improvisational organist (story above), click below:

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Roundup: Election Day, Thanksgiving, Kristallnacht …

Pigs can’t vote.

But people can.

And everyone should. It’s the central tenet of democracy. Millions of people have marched, sacrificed, even given their lives for this country to ensure that right.

Billions of people around the world wish they had what we have.

Jolantha — Weston’s favorite pig — reminds “06880” readers, wherever in America they are, that today is Election Day.

If you live in Westport, click here for a sample ballot. (Thanks, Jeff Looby!)

If you live in Connecticut, click here to find your polling place. Then go there!

NOTE: Voters at Coleytown Middle School polling place should take the first entrance on North Avenue (the one right after Coleytown Elementary School), rather than the one at the top of the slight hill.

(Photo/Hans Wilhelm)

Turnout was light this morning. This was the scene at the Westport Library polling station.

(Photo/Dan Woog)

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Speaking of the election: It’s a bit late. And most voters have probably made up their minds.

But yesterday, Sustainable Westport said: “This year, in lieu of environmental debates (issues with scheduling), we provided candidates with questions on environmental issues and sustainability. They submitted answers at the end of last week.”

For candidates for State House District 143, click here. Candidates for District 136 did not respond. For candidates for State Senate District 26, click here.

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Saugatuck Congregational Church will not host their traditional community Thanksgiving feast this year.

However, Westport’s Department of Human Services will once again join with the Westport Housing Authority and Homes with Hope to provide food gift cards and meals to those in need.

Those organizations are working with Coleytown Elementary School, Coleytown Middle School and Temple Israel to continue their traditions of offering homemade cards, gifts and pies.

Human Services director Elaine Daignault adds, “We are grateful to the Westport Woman’s Club. They provide grocery gift cards to distribute to food-insecure residents, and assist with the cost of specially catered meals from the Sherwood Diner for Westporters who receive home-delivered meals through the Senior Center.

For more information, contact Human Services by phone (203-341-1050) or email (humansrv@westportct.gov). “We are here to help!” Daignault says.

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With antisemitism on the rise in the nation, The Conservative Synagogue invites all Westporters to commemorate Kristallnacht — the Nazis’ “Night of Broken Glass” — this Saturday (November 12, 5:30 p.m., 30 Hillspoint Road).

The service includes Havdallah and hearing eyewitness testimony from Kristallnacht survivor Fred Behrend.

Click here to register.

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Saugatuck Rowing Club’s junior athletes won several medals at last month’s season-ending Head of the Schuylkill Regatta in Pennsylvania.

But they’re winners off the water too. The young rowers (and their parents) spent last weekend cleaning up the banks of the Saugatuck River, right by their home boathouse.

Thirty participants amassed over 300 pounds of trash. That’s 10 pounds of garbage per person.

Keep Norwalk Beautiful provided supplies. Jen and Adam Goldberg of Pop-Up Bagels donated nearly as many bagels as there were pounds of trash.

Saugatuck Rowing Club plans an encore this spring.

A small bit of the large amount of trash collected by Saugatuck Rowing Club volunteers.

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Speaking of Saugatuck: Slice of Saugatuck delivers. The September event raised $5,000 for Homes with Hope.

The 10th annual festival brought over 2,000 people to  experience, sample and taste their way through the neighborhood. To date, donations from the Slice to Homes with Hope, for use in their Gillespie Center Food Pantry, total over $40,000.

“The Festival is all about food — food for those who can afford it, and now food for those who can’t,” says Matthew Mandell, executive director of the Slice’s sponsor, the Westport Weston Chamber. “We are so pleased we have been able to make these donations each year to help ease food insecurity. It’s a win-win.”

From left: Bob O’Mahoney and Harry Brady Viva Zapata owners; Bill Rizzuto owner of Rizzuto’s; Helen McAlinden director of Homes with Hope; Matthew Mandell, Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce director; Robert Curwen, Chamber member.

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In 2010, former Red Sox pitcher John Trautwein lost his son Will to suicide. There was no sign or warning.

Trautwein and his family formed the “Will to Live Foundation.” The goal is to encourage teenagers and young adults to “talk about it,” and serve as “life teammates” for each other.

On November 17 (7:30 p.m., Town Hall), Trautwein will speak about this important topic. The event is sponsored by Westport Youth Services, the Police Athletic League, and the Teen Awareness Group.

Trautwein spoke to high school athletes in August, at the FCIAC leadership conference. His message was strong, and well received.

This program is aimed at parents, middle and high school students, coaches, and anyone who works with young people. Additional resources and counseling support will be available through Kids in Crisis and Positive Directions during and after the event.

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Why is a college transcript so crucial?

This Thursday (November 10, 7 p.m., online), Amy Chatterjee — senior college counselor from Collegewise, — discusses what a transcript actually is, how it can “show a love of learning through courses,” and why it’s the most important part of the college application.

Click here to register.

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Usually, it’s music teachers who watch their students perform on stage.

On November 20 (MoCA Westport, 4 p.m.), faculty members of the Westport School of Music will be on stage for a special concert. “Autumn Colors” will celebrate nature’s splendor, through piano, strings, flute, guitar and voice.

Highlights include “Autumn in New York,” “The Great Pumpkin Waltz” from “Charlie Brown,” and “Autumn” from “The Four Season of Buenos Aires.”

After the concert, guests can greet the musicians, and enjoy refreshments and drinks at the MoCA Bar.

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This week at Jazz at the Post: Spain’s “finest and most celebrated jazz pianist,”  Abé Rabade. Very popular throughout Europe, he’ll perform at VFW Joseph J. Clinton Post 399 this Thursday.

Rabade’s music blends classic Catalonian and Galician styles, along with the soulful and swinging “great jazz tradition.”

Joining in are Rale Micic (guitar), “Jazz Rabbi” Greg Wall (saxophone), David Richards (bass0 and Tim Horner (drums).

There are shows at 7:30 and 8:45 p.m., with dinner starting at 7. Tickets are just $15. Email Jazzatthepost@gmail.como for reservations.

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Longtime Westporter Joan Kahn died Saturday, in Norwalk Hospital. She would have been 98 next month.

Joan’s family described her as “feisty, independent, determined, brilliant and caring.:

A “founding mother” of modern Westport, she and her husband Ed moved to Westport in 1953 from New York City. They lived first on Charcoal Hill, then built a home on Coach Lane.

Joan’s family called her “a sounding board and encourager of husband Ed throughout his town leadership as he chaired the Representative Town Meeting, spearheaded efforts to save Cockenoe Island, positioned Westport as the first town meeting to vote against the war in Viet Nam, and was a part of the committee that bought Longshore.”

With a group of mothers, Joan started the Westport Cooperative Nursery School (now Westport Nursery School).

Joan was valedictorian of her high school class at Calhoun High School in
New York, graduated from Smith College, and earned her social work degree from Columbia University in 1952.

She was an early “career mother,” as a social worker at Norwalk Hospital, then Bridgeport Hospital, and finally in the Norwalk school system, from which she retired.

She was an avid follower of politics, curious world traveler, and consummate reader. She was also an active, loving, mother of 3 children. all of whom attended Westport schools: Karen, Shoshi
and Dan.

She also leaves 6 grandchildren — Ron, Edwina, Maya, Eli, Max  and Emma =- and 4 great-grandchildren.

Joan Kahn

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Wakeman Town Farm volunteer Thomas Schmidt stopped feeding breakfast to the animals just long enough to snap today’s “Westport … Naturally” photo:

(Photo/Thomas Schmidt)

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And finally … Alice Cooper wanted to be elected.

If you want your candidate to be elected too … head to the polls! They’re open until 8 p.m. tonight.

(Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, Greens, independents, Whigs, Know-Nothings, and everyone else: Vote with your wallets. Please click here to support “06880.”)

 

 

 

Roundup: Saugatuck Hamlet And Provisions, Halloween Treats …

The next step in the plan to create a new zoning district in Saugatuck — part of the proposed Hamlet at Saugatuck project — is a Westport Planning & Zoning Commission public hearing. It’s set for Wednesday (November 2, 7 p.m., Town Hall auditorium).

The P&Z will consider Text Amendment #819 and Map Amendment #820.  

It’s the third public hearing on the proposal, but the first that will be in person. The first two were held via Zoom.

The meeting will be live streamed on the “Watch Town Meetings” page. Click here for the meeting agenda. Click here for meeting materials. Written comments can be sent to PandZ@westportct.gov,

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Speaking of Saugatuck: “06880” announced a few days ago that Saugatuck Provisions will be moving into the former Fleishers Craft Butchery.

But our little morsel was nothing compared to the meal Stephanie Webster delivered.

Her CTBites — the go-to platform for all things foodie in the state — has a full report on the new venture.

She describes the “culinary power team” of Chef (and Staples High School graduate) Matt Storch and Susan McConnell — both of the highly regarded Match Burger Lobster and  Match — along with Jimmy Bloom (Copps Island Oysters) and butcher Paul Nessel (well known from his Craft Butchery days across Riverside Avenue).

Stephanie calls Saugatuck Provisions “a new concept offering customers a curated selection of the very best ingredients from the land, sea and grocery, enabling guests to create beautiful restaurant quality meals at home.”

Click here for the full CTBites story.

And lick your lips.

Paul Nessel at work. (Photo courtesy of CTBites)

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Tom Scarice is a hands-on schools superintendent.

He doesn’t hide in his office. He loves getting out, and into schools.

But sometimes he doesn’t want everyone to know who he is.

Yesterday was a perfect chance for the boss to pop into a Long Lots Elementary classroom, incognito.

Take a look below. Can you guess which person in the photo is in charge of 8 schools, hundreds of employees and 5,000 students?

(Hint: He’s not wearing his usual jacket and tie.)

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“06880” got tons of Halloween photos yesterday.

This tied with the one above as our favorite. It’s from 23 Juniper Road:

(Photo/Pamela Long)

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Back in the day, women accused of witchcraft would be thrown into water. If they sank, they were innocent. If they stayed on the surface, they were guilty.

Looks like we had a couple of real witches in the water off Compo Beach yesterday!

(Photo/Karen Como)

Meanwhile, few hours later, and a few yards away, there was this:

(Photo/Sunil Hirani)

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More from Halloween 2022:

The photo below looks like 2 dads, dressed up for trick-or-treating (with, hopefully, their kids):

(Photo/Max Orland)

But, Max Orland says: The 2 men did not coordinate their “Teen Wolf” costumes.

They didn’t even know each other.

Mark Silverstein was giving out candy near Compo Beach, when the other dude — Danny — wandered by.

What are the odds? Cue the “Twilight Zone” theme …

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The Town Clerk’s office will be open this Saturday (November 5, 9 a.m. noon),  9to issue absentee ballots for Tuesday’s election.

Absentee ballots will continue to be available through Monday (November 7) at 4:30 p.m.

All absentee ballots must be returned to the Town Clerk’s office no later than 8 p.m. on Tuesday, November 8.

The Town Clerk’s office is located in Room 105 of Town Hall.

NOTE: Besides elected officials, voters are asked whether to amend the state constitution to allow early voting.

Don’t neglect the question in the upper right corner of the ballot!

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MoCA Westport has carved out a niche for showcasing thought-provoking, impressive art, from a wide variety of artists.

Now, it’s teens’ time.

All high school students are invited to submit works for a High School Student Art Exhibition. It will run from January 13 to February 26.

Submissions should express the theme of “Who Are You When You Are Dreaming.” The open-ended concept was created by the Teens at MoCA council.

The guidelines:

  • All high school students may submit 1 work, and all works will be accepted. Participation is not limited to a specific town or region.
  • Art may be a drawing, painting, digital/graphic image, photograph, sculpture or video.
  • All 2-dimensional work must be framed and ready to hang.
  • Work may not exceed a maximum of 30 inches in either height or width.
  • Submissions are due by midnight on Sunday, December 18, 2022.

The fee is $10 per entry. Funding to waive this fee is available; email liz@mocawestport.org. For more information, click here.

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“06880” was honored this summer to tell the story of Wynston Browne. The non-speaking autistic Staples High School student had made spectacular progress in just a few months, using a spelling board — a low-tech communication device.

Three months later, Wynston continues his astonishing growth. Now Westport Lifestyle magazine has taken notice.

For the latest on Wynston, click here. It should be must-reading for everyone, everywhere.

Wynston Browne and his communication partner, Elisa Feinman, He chatted with customers at The Porch.

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Most “moon shots” on “06880” include some recognizable part of Westport.

This one doesn’t (though — trust me — it was taken at Compo Beach).

But it’s sure not a normal moon image.

(Photo/James Doan)

Photographer James Doan took it with a telescope and an attachment that houses his phone.

He’s a Staples High School junior, taking an astronomy class this year. I give him an A+ for this!

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The Westport Weston Family YMCA Water Rats swim team are winners in the pool.

And out of it too.

This Saturday (November 5, 8 a.m. to noon), they’ll help neighbors in need. The Water Rats are sponsoring a food drive (plus non-perishable items) for the Bridgeport Rescue Mission.

the Water Rats Swim Team in their food drive benefiting the Bridgeport Rescue Mission. The need is great: Pantry requests are double what they were last year.

You don’t even have to get out of your car. Just pull into the YMCA loop, and swimmers will take your donations.  See below for suggested items.

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This week’s Jazz at the Post show is “the most ambitious program so far” at the VFW location (Thursday, November 3, 465 Riverside Avenue; shows at 7:30 and 8:45 p.m.; dinner at 7 p.m.).

Grammy nominees Antonio Hart and Mike Mossman join veteran jazz warriors and recording artists pianist David Morgan, Ron Carter’s personal bassist Boots Maleson, drum master Tim Horner and the “Jazz Rabbi,” saxophonist Greg Wall,  for 2 sets of jazz classics. Sextet arrangements are by Michael Mossman.

The repertoire features tunes by Miles Davis, Jimmy Heath, Duke Ellington and Duke Jordan.

Reservations are strongly suggested: Jazzatthepost@gmail.com

Antonio Hart

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This year’s fall foliage is the finest in years. Consider this Halloween-colored beauty on Cross Highway — perfect for today’s post-Halloween “Westport … Naturally feature:

(Photo/Mark Yurkiw)

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And finally … in honor of James Doan’s stunning astronomical photo above:

(Even once in a blue moon, consider supporting “06880.” Please click here to donate.)

Roundup: Saugatuck Provisions, Real Housewives, Drugs …

Coming soon to Saugatuck: Original Craft Butchery co-owner Paul Nessel will reopen — with a new business — in the former Fleishers Craft Butchery space on Riverside Avenue, across from Saugatuck Sweets.

The target date for “Saugatuck Provisions” is a few weeks. (Hat tip: JD Dworkow)

Paul Nessel (Photo courtesy of Modern Farmer magazine)

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Somehow I missed last week’s Bravocon video of Christian Siriano judging the looks of “Real Housewives” cast members.

But Stephanie Ostroff caught it.

She sent a link to “06880.” Click below to watch — particularly at the 4:30 mark, when he talks about Westport, his new store here, and the possibility of a “Real Housewives of Westport.”

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Yesterday was a big day for Rick Benson

The longtime Westporter and always-eager civic volunteer celebrated his 75th birthday. It was also the 77th anniversary of the signing of the United Nations Charter — an organization supported from the start by Rotary International, of which Benson is a proud, active and long-serving member.

Throughout his 33 years in Rotary, he has taken on many roles. He and his wife Totney have also given generously.

So generously, that they are one of only 3 couples from Connecticut to achieve membership in Rotary’s Arch Klumph Society. They’re in the Trustee’s Circle, for gifts of $250,000 to $499,999.

Oh, yeah: yesterday was also the 34th anniversary of a promise Rotary made to the children of the world: to eradicate wild polio. In that time, the disease has gone from 350,000 cases globally to only 29 cases this year, in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Happy birthday, Rick. And thanks, Rick and Totney, for all you do, in Westport and around the planet. (Hat tip: Mark Mathias)

Rick and Totney Benson, with Rotary officials in Kampala, Uganda.

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For more than 2 decades, the US Drug Enforcement Administration has run a  “Drug Take Back Day” program. Over 16 million pounds of prescription medicines have been removed from circulation.

This Saturday (October 29, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.), Westport Police Department again partners in this effort. Medications can be dropped off at the Senior Center, on Imperial Avenue. The event is free, and anonymous; no questions are asked.

Liquids or needles cannot be accepted; only pills or patches. Vape pens are accepted if the batteries are removed.

A year-round collection bin is available in the lobby of police headquarters on Jesup Road. For more information, click here.

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This week’s “Jazz at the Post” features guitarist Bob DeVos. He’s joined by Dan Kostelnik on bass, drummer Steve Johns, and of course Greg Wall, Westport’s own “Jazz Rabbi” saxophonist.

There are 2 sets on Thursday (October 27, VFW Post 399, 465 Riverside Avenue): 7:30 and 8:40 p.m. Dinner is available from 7 p.m. on. For reservations, email jazzatthepost@gmail.com.

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This past weekend’s Staples High School boys basketball fundraiser was a great success. Kids of all ages participated, helping raise funds for a players’ lounge, video equipment and pre-season camp.

The second part of the fundraiser — a virtual silent auction — runs through this coming Friday (October 28). Items include Knicks, Broadway and Stephen Colbert tickets; autographed basketballs; a lesson with a varsity player, and more. Click here for details, and bids.

Taking a break during the Staples basketball fundraiser: Nicholas Fey, Jackson Shapiro and Ryder Shapiro,

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Speaking of hoops: 2015 Staples graduate Bailey Claffey sang the national anthem before last night’s Knicks game, at Madison Square Garden.

She earned the honor by sending in a demo tape. (Hat tip: Julie Whamond)

Bailey Claffin, at Madison Square Garden.

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Former Westporter John Preston died earlier this month, at 75.

The Michigan native met his future wife Janet at the University of Michigan. They married in 1970. 

He attended the Department of Defense Language Institute, and earned an MBA from Harvard Business School in 1975.

He and his family lived in Westport for nearly 2 decades. They raised 3 children and had many friends here.

John spent 21 years at The Seagram Company, rising to senior vice president and treasurer. In 2004 he and Janet moved to Miami where he spent 14 years at Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits as vice president of finance and administration. She died in 2016.

He moved in 2020 to Portland, Oregon to be closer to his son and daughter, and their families. He moved to Wilmette, Illinois, shortly before his death.

John was an avid golfer, voracious reader and lifelong lover of speaking Spanish..

John is survived by his three children Regan, Lilly and Wells; their spouses Jordan, Nik, and Chrissy; granddaughters, Maylin, Marlowe, Daphne, Oona and June; and siblings Susan Root, Thomas Preston and Sarah Linthicum. 

A memorial will be held December 3 in Wilmette, Illinois. Click here for details. 

John Preston

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A little kid, a large tree and fall foliage highlight today’s “Westport … Naturally” photo.

It’s from Blind Brook Road. But colors like this can be seen — for a few more days, anyway — all over town.

(Photo/Ellie Magnuson)

And finally … this may be offensive to some people. So if you don’t like the word “a–hole,” stop reading.

If you think there are a lot of a–holes on I-95 though*, click on August Campbell’s video below. It’s 7 years old, but I’d never heard of it (or him).

At any rate: Enjoy!

*There are.

(Don’t be an a–hole. Contribute to “06880.” Please click here!)

Roundup: Bolsheviks, CTBites, Blue Sunday …

An “06880” reader was intrigued by an item in yesterday’s “Roundup.” It previewed a November 1 discussion at the Westport Library on “How Public Policy is Putting Our Children at Risk.” The session will be led by CD Media’s chief investigative correspondent and senior editor Christine Dolan.

Hoping to learn more about Dolan the reader found a piece she wrote last year.

Headlined “Idyllic Westport, CT Is Ground Zero for CRT Infiltration by America’s Bolsheviks,” it begins:

The yellow and red leaves are drifting down quietly as they have for millennia in Westport , CT as the historic New England town sleeps towards a tipping point, one it may never recover from if the coming elections go the wrong way and vote in a continuation of its current path.

The Minuteman statue guards at Compo Beach where a ragtag group of American rebels fought the global tyranny of the once monolithic British empire, but Westport residents seem to want to forget this honorable history and welcome with open arms global tyranny of a different name — the Maoist doctrine of Critical Race Theory, or CRT.

Essentially, the agenda of the CRT movement is to teach young children their country is evil, that they themselves are racists and bad if they are white.  The ideology is racist, it is divisive, and is on purpose.  The doctrine is just a gateway drug to a more pernicious evil, re-imagining Westport schools.  In the CRT future, gone will be AP classes, music excellence.  Gone will be the gateway to Ivy league schools, replaced with a dumbed-down redistribution of educational wealth and excellence.

Along with this educational decline, property values will plummet as zoning laws are also changed to forever alter the nature of the community.  Physical safety will disappear.  Crime will increase.

Click here to read the full story.

Westport’s Minute Man, on guard against Bolsheviks and/or Maoists. (Photo/John Videler for Videler Photography)

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If you like to dine out — and, this being Westport, that means everyone — then CTbites is essential reading. Published by our town’s Stephanie Webster, it’s a weekly guide to new restaurants, special culinary events, food trucks, catering and more.

I always learn something from the site. But — until yesterday — I’d never actually laughed while reading it.

“Connecticut Restaurant Confidential: Strange Stories, Odd Orders & Twisted Tales in the Industry” is a collection of jaw-dropping tales, from owners, chefs, bartenders and wait staff.

It’s an insider’s look at what gets told after hours — about diners (hopefully un)like you and me.

They come from all over the state. Including our own Winfield Deli. Click here to read.

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Texas blues/New Orleans funk band Otis & the Hurricanes headlines the next “Blue Sunday” at the Westport Library (October 23, 2:30 p.m., Trefz Forum).

The free event is curated by Mark Naftalin. The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame keyboardist will be there of course, with his Blue Sunday Band of all-stars: Westport/internationally known saxophonist Crispin Cioe, guitarists JD Seem and Paul Gabriel, and special guest Chance Browne.

Lat month’s Blue Sunday — the first in the series — drew a large crowd, and plenty of raves.

And this one could make that seem like just a warmup.

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From jazz to blues:

This week week’s “Jazz at the Post” features pianist Michael Cochrane, drummer to the stars Steve Johns, and fiery young bassist Jason Clotter in concert with the Jazz Rabbi, Greg Wall.

There are 2 shows — 7:30 and 8:45 p.m. — on Thursday (October 6) at VFW Post 399 (465 Riverside Avenue). There’s a $10 cover. Food service starts at 6:30.

Reservations are strongly suggested. Email JazzatThePost@gmail.com.

Michael Cochrane

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This is an active weekend in Westport. Among the highlights: Westport Moms’ 2nd annual Fall Family Festival. It’s Saturday, October 15 (10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Greens Farms Academy; $20 per family).

The event includes food, crafts, games and fun (bouncy houses, ninja course, music, art projects, DJ, pumpkin and cookie decorating, face painting, hair extensions, glitter tattoos, magic, STEM activities and more).

Many businesses will show off their products and services — all with activities for kids.

Organizers Megan Rutstein and Melissa Post ask attendees to bring gently worn jackets, for donations to a local non-profit.

A scene from last year’s Fall Family Festival.

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Sunday’s Westport Weston Family YMCA Fall Festival drew a large crowd.

There was music, gymnastics exhibitions, bounces houses and s’mores. The weather was perfect for an outdoor event.

Best of all: You didn’t have to be a kid to have a great time.

Westport Board of Assessment Appeals member Ifeseyi Gaylel (left) and Westport Weston Family YMCA CEO Anjali McCormick take a break during the Y’s Family Festival.

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The Norwalk Symphony Orchestra takes center stage at the Y’s Women’s October 24 meeting (Green’s Farms Church, 10:45 a.m.). Jonathan Yates and Sandra Miklave will talk about the group’s long history, and share visions for the future.

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Today’s “Westport … Naturally” photo is striking.

Even more impressive: this Montauk daisy — on the Bonnie Brook/Silver Brook Road corner — was taken by 13-year-old Emae Forman. What an eye!

(Photo/Emae Forman)

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And finally … if you’ve never heard Otis & the Hurricanes (see story above)  — well, click below, and you will:

Roundup: Scholars, Cyndi Lauper, Universe …

Twelve Staples High School seniors have qualified as National Merit Scholarship semifinalists.

Congratulations to Aalok Bhattacharya, James Cao, Sharmila Green, Emma Losonczy, Colin Morgeson, Gavin Thomas Rothenberg, Katharine Shackelford, Matthew Shackelford, Tegh Singh, Lucia Wang, Lilly Weisz, Tom Zhang   

Nationwide, 16,000 semifinalists — fewer than 1 percent of the over 1.5 million students who took the 2021 PSAT/NMSQT qualifying exam –will compete for 7,250 National Merit Scholarships, worth more than $28 million.

From left: Aalok Bhattacharya, Tom Zhang, Colin Morgeson, Sharmila Green, Lilly Weisz, Emma Losonczy,


From left: Lucia Wang, Gavin Thomas Rothenberg, James Cao, Matthew Shackelford, Katharine Shackelford. Missing: Tegh Singh.

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A sold-out crowd loved Cyndi Lauper’s Friday night benefit concert at the Levitt Pavilion.

And she loved Westport.

That’s not just “06880” speculation. The legendary singer/actress posted “thanks” on both her Facebook and Instagram pages.

She put on a great show. It was clear the girl just wanted to have fun.

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There’s a true hometown flavor to this week’s Jazz at the Post.

“Jazz Rabbi” Greg Wall will be joined by Westport’s own Melissa Newman.

She’s had a long career singing jingles for companies like AT&T and Chevrolet. Neighbors know her from performances at Blue Lemon, Tengda and Harvest.

There are 2 shows — 7:30 and 8:45 p.m. — on Thursday (October 6) at VFW Post 399 (465 Riverside Avenue). There’s a $10 cover. Food service starts at 6:30.

Guitarist Tony Lombardozzi, bassist Phil Bowler and drummer Matt Moadel will join Greg and Melissa.

Reservations are strongly suggested. Email JazzatThePost@gmail.com.

Melissa Newman

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For thousands of years, humans have wondered about the universe: How big is it? How did it start? How will it end?

Only in the last few decades have we had the space tools to begin to find answers.

Marty Yellin has special insights. With a doctorate in biomedical engineering, he worked at PerkinElmer on a top secret program to design and build the largest spy satellite ever. Then he helped design and manage the Hubble Space Telescope.

On October 20 (10 a.m., Westport Library Trefz Forum and Zoom), he offers an overview of the fascinating, often mindboggling discoveries made by modern  telescopes. Click here for the Zoom link.

Just an infinitely small portion of the universe. Can you see where we are?

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Need another reason (besides great books) to go the Westport Book Shop this month?

How about Susan Lloyd’s shells?

The longtime Westporter exhibits an assortment of 2-dimensional shell art works, including mirrors and mosaics.

Over 15 years, her work has evolved to include skulls (plastic reproductions), old dolls and Saints (for their stories, not religious reasons). Colors, shapes, textures and shell varieties are all important elements n her designs.

Her work is on display through October 31, and is available for purchase. To see more of her art, click here.

Susan Lloyd at the Westport Book Shop, with shell art.

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The 13th annual Push Against Cancer is coming soon. And a group of Westport dads is pushing hard, to raise money for campers and their families at The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp.

Founded in 1988 by Paul Newman, it offers fun, friendship and a healthy dose of mischief to seriously ill children at its great facility in upstate Connecticut, plus  outreach to hospitals, clinics and communities across the Northeast. All services are free.

The event is Sunday, October 16 (10 a.m., Staples High School). Andy Berman and Adam Vengrow are spearheading the dads’ effort. Click here to help.

Adam Vengrow (far left), Andy Berman (far right) and friends get ready for the Push Against Cancer.

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It’s still early October. But Al’s Angels is getting ready for the holidays.

This year’s goal is to provide toys to over 20,000 children suffering from cancer, rare blood diseases and financial hardship.

They’ll do it by providing an Amazon wish list. Just click here; purchase as many needed items as you wish, and have them shipped to: Al’s Angels, 342 Greens Farms Road, Westport, CT 06880.

You can also make a cash donation; click here.

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Date clarification: Westport Moms’ 2nd annual Fall Family Festival is next weekend — not the coming one. It’s Saturday, October 15 (10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Greens Farms Academy; $20 per family).

The event includes food, crafts, games and fun (bouncy houses, ninja course, music, art projects, DJ, pumpkin and cookie decorating, face painting, hair extensions, glitter tattoos, magic, STEM activities and more).

Many businesses will show off their products and services — all with activities for kids.

Organizers Megan Rutstein and Melissa Post ask attendees to bring gently worn jackets, for donations to a local non-profit.

A scene from last year’s Fall Family Festival.

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Today’s “Westport … Naturally” feature is one of the happiest ever.

And why not? Junior, Winston and Frank are thrilled to be back (legally) at Compo Beach.

(Photo/Nicola Sharian)

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And finally … in honor of the upcoming Westport Astronomical Society lecture (story above):

 

Roundup: Capital Projects, Rosh Hashana, Elon Musk …

As Westport plans major capital projects — a renovation or new Long Lots Elementary School, reimagining of Longshore and others — the Board of Finance does not want to reinvent the wheel.

A special meeting on October 3 (7:30 p.m., Town Hall Room 201/201A) has only one agenda item: “Preparation workshop for the upcoming School and Town Building Program.'”

The board will listen to and question former Finance Board members, and officials who served Westport during the most recent major Westport building program (1998-2008, including Staples High and Bedford Middle Schools).

The public is invited. If there is time, they can ask questions.

Other workshops will be scheduled at later dates.

Westport has begun planning next steps for Long Lots Elementary School. (Drone photo/Brandon Malin)

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Storm clouds did not detract from yesterday evening’s Tashlich ceremony, at Compo Beach.

Members of The Conservative Synagogue gathered for the traditional rite. On the first day of Rosh Hashana, Jews symbolically casting away sins by tossing pieces of bread in the water.

Gathering together … (Photo/Fred Cantor)

… and casting sins away. (Photo/Diane Yormark)

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Also last night: Another rainbow appeared over Westport.

This one was seen on Weston Road.

(Photo/Stephanie Webster)

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We’re lucky indeed. We’re getting much-needed rain. And gorgeous rainbows that follow.

Saturday was special in Stamford — and in Staples Players’ history.

The award-winning high school troupe added another professional page to their overflowing scrapbook. They performed at a benefit concert for Orchestra Lumos (formerly the Stamford Symphony) at the Palace Theater.

Well, not just “performed.” Players shared the stage with actor/director Mari Friedman, who paid tribute to 3 great composers: Marvin Hamlisch, Stephen Sondheim and Michel Legrand.

Staples Players perform “I Hope I Get It” from “A Chorus Line” …

Friedman spent several hours rehearsing with the high schoolers. “She was fantastic with them, and they loved her,” says Players co-director David Roth.

… and dance to “I Hope I Get It” at the Orchestra Lumos benefit.

The invitation came from Halmisch’s widow Terre Blair. She saw a Players production of “A Chorus Line” — her husband’s work — and was “blown away.”

Maria Friedman thanks the audience, with Staples Players behind her.

Also starring on Saturday: vocalists Ross Lekites (“The Tina Turner Musical”), Lewis Cleale (“The Book of Mormon”) — and Players alumni Camille Foisie and Nick Rossi,

From left: Lewis Cleale, Ros Lekites, Maria Friedman, Camille Foisie, Nick Rossi. (All photos/Kerry Long)

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DJ Sixsmith cut his teeth — and honed his voice — at WWPT-FM. You can still hear the 2011 Staples High graduate giving the school station’s call letters at the top of every hour.

He’s now first senior manager for digital and social media at CNBC. Last week, he headed to California to interview Jay Leno — in the TV host’s iconic garage.

That makes sense. They were on YouTube Live, promoting Leno’s exclusive tour of SpaceX with Elon Musk — on the web series “Jay Leno’s Garage.”

Sixsmith gave fans the chance to ask Leno questions directly, and peek behind the curtain about the episode.

It went viral, when Musk himself commented on the video, on Twitter.

Sixsmith said on LinkedIn: “I love working for a company that is willing to let me run with new social and digital ideas like this one.”

Click below, for the full YouTube Live. (Hat tip: Mark Lassoff)

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This week’s Jazz at the Post features Serbian guitar master Rale Micic; bassist Steve LaSpina and drummer Steve Johns; of course the Jazz Rabbi, Greg Wall — and new start times for the 2 sets (7:30 and 8:45 p.m.; Thursday, September 29, VFW Joseph J Clinton Post 399, 465 Riverside Avenue). Dinner service begins at 7 p.m.

There is a $10 cover. Reservations are strongly suggested: JazzatthePost@gmail.com.

Rale Micic

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This is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. On Friday (September 30, 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Westport Library), the Westport Prevention Coalition offers a free “Suicide Prevention Lunch and Learn.” It’s open to all residents, plus town employees, elected officials, commissioners and volunteers.

An RSVP is required. Click here to register.

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The Traveling School offers girls and non-binary students ages 15-18 a chance to see the world, build leadership skills, and grow personally. The semester-long program travels to Africa, South America and around the western US. 

It’s nearly 20 years old, and boasts 450 alums. Students receive academic credit from their home schools, and stay on track to graduate. Nearly 60 percent receive financial support.

They host an open house on October 12 (6:30 p.m., Rowayton). For more information, click here or email admissions@travelingschool.com.

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Longtime Wesetporter Salvatore Mastromatteo passed away peacefully earlier this month. He was 90 years old.

He worked many years for Arnold Bakery. Sal enjoyed time off by going to New York City, the movies, walking at the mall, and spending time with his family.  

Sal is survived by nieces Claudia Bradley fiancé William Thomas) of Tamarac, Florida and Tammy (Vinny) Guarente of Beacon Falls; great-niece Angela Guarente (Joe Darrah); great-nephew Joe (Megan) Guarente, and great-great nieces Michaela Darrah and Izabella Guarente.

He was predeceased by his sister Annamay Bradley, with whom he shared a home with after the death of their mother.

His family thanks June Richardson (conservator), and the staff at the Westport Rehabilitation Complex and Long Ridge Acute Care, for taking great care of Sal.

Private services were held at Assumption-Greens Farms Cemetery.

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Very appropriately, Jilda Manikas sent this “Westport … Naturally” photo of this insect on a screen door yesterday — Rosh Hashana, one of the Jewish High Holy Days.

It’s a praying mantis.

(Photo/Jilda Manikas)

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And finally … Jim Post died earlier this month in Iowa, of congestive heart failure. He was 82.

He and his then-wife Cathy Conn were Friend & Lover — one-hit wonders in 1968 with the song “Reach Out of the Darkness.”

Although — as this New York Times obituary explains —  his lyrics “reach out in the darkness” suggest a very different message.

(I think it’s so groovy that people want to contribute to “06880.” Please click here to support this hyper-local blog.)

Roundup: Ned Lamont, Emergency Prep, Queen Elizabeth …

Last week, the Y’s Men of Westport and Weston hosted gubernatorial candidate Bob Stefanowski at the Westport Library.

Yesterday, it was Ned Lamont’s turn.

Former 1st Selectman Jim Marpe moderated the discussion. Asked about affordable housing, the Democratic incumbent said that local communities need to take the lead.

Traffic is a problem in the state, Lamont said — and entrance/exit ramps on highways are the source of the greatest congestion. He also noted that train bridges were not build for high-speed rail traffic, and cause slowdowns.

With unemployment very low in Connecticut, Lamont said there is a job for everyone who wants one. Though recession headwinds are ahead, he said, the state is in good shape.

The governor also noted that Connecticut has the largest unfunded pension debt in the country. However, he said, his administration has reduced interest debt, saving $400 million in interest payments.

Lamont also recalled that he met his wife Annie in Westport. (Reporting by Dave Matlow)

Governor Ned Lamont and former 1st Selectman Jim Marpe, at yesterday’s Y’s Men event at the Westport Library. (Photo/Dave Matlow)

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Last night’s storm knocked out power to 239 customers in the Old Mill Beach area. This morning, Eversource’s map showed no outages remaining.

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Dozens of rescue vehicles — helicopters, tanks, ambulances, you name it — converged on Sherwood Island State Park yesterday.

Fortunately, it was just a drill.

Local and regional authorities and incident management teams shared knowledge, and demonstrated technology for Connecticut politicians and other services. The event was organized by the state Division of Emergency Management and Homeland Security, for the 14-town area.

!st Selectwoman Jen Tooker and Deputy Fire Chief Nick Marsan represented Westport.

Among the activities:

This bomb squad robot has X-ray vision, and can shoot projectiles.

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There was plenty of pomp yesterday, when Queen Elizabeth II was laid to rest.

There was also plenty of music.

Staples High School Class of 1966 graduate Paul Gambaccini is a longtime music journalist. Based in London, he also hosts of “Her Majesty’s Music” on the BBC.

Gambaccini was interviewed by NPR, about the songs that “inspired and defined” the late queen. Click here to listen. (Hat tip: Mary Ann Meyer)

Paul Gambaccini

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Pumpkin spice lattes and muffins have been here since around Independence Day.

Now it’s time for “Fall Pumpkin Centerpieces.”

That’s the title of a session at Wakeman Town Farm (October 4, 6:30 p.m.). Chryse Terrill will instruct attendees on how to create a fall harvest centerpiece inside a pumpkin. Some materials will be harvested from WTF’s gardens.

Of course, everyone can take home their work of art. Click here to register.

A pumpkin centerpiece.

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This Thursday’s Jazz at the Post (September 22, 7 and 8:30 p.m. shows, 6:30 p.m. dinner, 465 Riverside Avenue, $10 cover) is a feast for local music lovers.

“Jazz Rabbi” Greg Wall brings world-class Gospel pianist, choir director, bandleader — and local legend — Chris Coogan to VFW Joseph J. Clinton Post 399.

The musicians met almost 10 years ago. They share a deep spiritual attachment to American music that digs deep into its roots, and extends up from there.

Joining in are John Mobilio and Jim Royle, both longtime rhythm-mates of Coogans.

Reservations are strongly suggested: JazzatthePost@gmail.com.

Greg Wall and Chris Coogan

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Saturday’s Westport Country Playhouse gala — the first in-person benefit in 3 years — lived up to its hype.

Broadway star Renée Elise Goldsberry (Angelica Schuyler in “Hamilton”) headlined the event, with a high-energy concert of Broadway pop and soul music, backed by a 7-piece band.

Attendees also enjoyed a pre-show cocktail party, live auction and after-party with a DJ and dancing.

Renee Elise Goldsberry and her band, at the Playhouse. (Photo/Coppola Photography)

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The other day, Peter Marks complained about “visual pollution” in Westport.

Yesterday, he sent along this example, at the Compo Road South/Post Road traffic island:

(Photo/Peter Marks)

He’s particularly concerned about signs advertising upcoming events that stay up long after they’re over.

Of course, the political season has just begun. We’ll see more — not fewer — signs everywhere, in the weeks ahead.

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Former Westporter Ellen Wisser died Friday in Norwalk. She was 92.

The Brooklyn native attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts with classmates and friends Grace Kelly and Vince Edwards. At Brooklyn College she met her future husband and lifetime love, Allen Wisser, who had already performed with the Broadway show “Showboat”‘s national tour.

After they married Ellen taught at James Madison High School in Brooklyn.

Ellen and Allen moved their young family to Westport in 1960. Ellen continued commuting to Brooklyn, then began teaching English, speech and drama at Harding High School in Bridgeport. She also produced and directed the annual school play, influencing the lives of many teachers and students, who continued to stay in touch for decades.

Ellen was active in the Bridgeport, Connecticut and National Educational Associations. She ran for the NEA presidency in 1976.  She was an advocate of the women’s liberation movement at the local and national levels.

Ellen changed careers in her 50’s, attending Bridgeport Law (now the Quinnipiac School of Law). She then practiced family and worker’s compensation law until age 88. Ellen recently survived 3 different types of cancer, forcing her retirement, and defeated unbeatable odds.

She was predeceased by her husband, grandson Tyler Wisser and brother Marvin Borenstein. She is survived by her children, Dr. Jamie R. Wisser (Natalie), Kerry M. Wisser (Debbie), R. Ilise Gold (Fritz Heilbron); grandchildren Davin Gold, Alanna Dayton, Evan Wisser, Caitlyn Wisser, Ryan Wisser; great grandchildren Jack, Sam and Beck Dayton, Claire and Penelope Wisser; sister-in-law Gladys Floch, many nieces, nephews and cousins.

Funeral services will be held today (Tuesday, September 20, 1 p.m., Abraham L. Green & Son Funeral Home, Fairfield), with interment following at Temple Israel Cemetery in Norwalk.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Connecticut Education Foundation – Children’s Fund.

Ellen Wisser

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Roger Ratchford died earlier this month, at 88. He was a teacher, golf coach, and advocate for people with disabilities.

The Norwalk native was raised mostly by his mother, with the help of the large Hungarian side of his family. Though she died when he was 13, Roger went on to become valedictorian of his class at Fairfield Prep. To supplement a tuition scholarship to the College of the Holy Cross, he worked afternoon shifts at Worcester Quilting Company.

After graduating he returned to Prep to teach Latin, classical Greek, French and English, and coach the golf team for 40 years. He was inducted into the Prep Athletic Hall of Fame, was named National High School Golf Coach of the Year, and held a national record for wins.

Roger was also one of the first to bring American high school students to the French Alps for homestays with French families. He strongly felt that immersion was the best way to master a language.

Until the end of his life, heh could recite by memory passages from Homer’s “Odyssey” — in the original Greek. He was proud of his work helping the nuns at the Convent of St. Birgitta in the proper pronunciation of Latin chants.

But Roger felt his greatest legacy was improving opportunities for people with disabilities. Inspired by his son Mike, he and his wife Gail became actively involved in the growth of STAR, Inc.

He lobbied for the closure of Mansfield Training Center in 1993, and advocated for a shift to group homes and the full integration of people with disabilities into the community. Two-time president of STAR, he was named Volunteer of the Year by the ARC of CT in 1988.

He was a walking encyclopedia of Norwalk history, and was proud of the Ratchfords’ long legacy in this town, from the Ratchford Hotel & Saloon in the first part of the 20th century, to his Aunt Helen’s tenure as a teacher at Norwalk High.

Roger was predeceased by his wife. He is survived by 3 children and 1 grandchild. His family is indebted to Dorrean, Sharon Mack, and her staff for their loving care during hospice. 

A funeral mass will be held on Thursday (September 22, 2 pm, St. Mary’s Church, Norwalk. A Celebration of Life will be held at Fairfield Prep some time in October. In lieu of flowers, please send donations to STAR Lighting the Way.

Gail and Roger Ratchford

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Michael Szeto describes today’s “Westport … Naturally”photo:

“We are infested with deer in Westport, since they lack natural predators and we are not allowed to hunt them. A herd of 5 or 6 deer constantly roams through my backyard.

“But yesterday was a first for me. I saw 2 bucks butting heads in my back yard, apparently fighting for territorial dominance. They don’t seem to realize that I own the land, not them.”

(Photo/Michael Szeto)

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And finally … to honor the Queen (and Paul Gambaccini — story above), here is the quintessential British song:

 

“06880” Podcast: “Jazz Rabbi” Greg Wall

Westport is filled with very intriguing people, doing very interesting things.

At the top of any list is Greg Wall. The “Jazz Rabbi” leads the Beit Chaverim modern Orthodox congregation. His side gig: He’s an internationally known jazz saxophonist.

From a shul in the East Village to Carnegie Hall; from the Torah to Miles Davis, and (of course) from his synagogue on Friday nights to jazz at the VFW Post on Thursdays, the Jazz Rabbi does it all.

The other day, we sat on the Westport Library Verso Studios’ stage. He talked about his journey from suburban Boston (spoiler alert: he was not observant) to suburban Westport, plus all the religious and musical stops in between.

I asked about the intersections, challenges and joys of his 2 lives. I also asked about his other interests (spoiler alert: he’s a sailor too).

Click below for our fascinating conversation.