Tag Archives: Rick Benson

Roundup: Elsa, Jerky, Solar …

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Today’s storm did not do the damage that was feared.

Approximately 756 customers were without power at the peak of the storm. Most were restored quickly. Isolated individual outages remain.

Meanwhile, Valerie Ann Leff sent this photo of her furnace room, in her home on a hill off Hillspoint Road.

She says: “The water hasn’t reached the finished wood floor, but when we walk across it it sounds like we’re walking on a dock. Every cleanup company around has long waiting lists, so we’re just bailing with a bucket and a big pitcher.”

(Photo/Valerie Ann Leff)

Meanwhile, this was the scene at Compo Beach:

(Photo/June Rose Whittaker)

One more photo from today’s storm. This was on Bradley Lane:

(Photo/Diane Lowman)

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In 2018, Field Trip moved its headquarters from Brooklyn to Westport.

Their office — across the Post Road from Design Within Reach — was where they created and marketed an array of healthy, protein-rich jerky snacks. From beef, chicken, turkey and pork to jalapeño, cracked pepper and everything bagel, it all happened in Westport.

Next store to the office, they operated a low-key retail outlet. It wasn’t an afterthought exactly, but it wasn’t front-and-center either.

Now though, there are some good reasons to take a field trip to Field Trip.

The jerky outlet has been transformed into a “general store/pantry.” It’s filled with specialty items, curated from the owners’ relationships and knowledge of exciting new products.

In addition to Field Trip items, they’re selling:

  • Bourbon aged barrel maple syrup
  • Jalapeño bacon salsa
  • Habanero sea salt
  • Texas olive oil
  • Bacon brittle
  • Ugly dried fruit
  • Caramels, licorice and ChiChi chocolates
  • Doux south pickles and mustards
  • 1934 Bloody Mary mix
  • Coro salami
  • Bjorn corn
  • Bobby Sue’s nuts
  • Aina Kopi steak seasonings  and mango habanero hot sauce(this is the only US location)
  • FOGO charcoal (only place in Westport.

And that’s just for starters.

If you still have a jones for jerky: Starting next week, Field Trip is selling their newest flavor: Gochujang Korean-style BBQ beef jerky. It’s being introduced here first, before a national rollout.

But wait! There’s more! Field Trip offers a 20% discount code to anyone mentioning a Dan Woog/”06880″ callout during the month of July.

Best. Field trip. Ever.

Look what’s in store at the Field Trip store.

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Pippa Bell Ader uses solar power to heat and cool her home, heat her hot water pumps, and power her electric car.

Now the environmental advocate and Sustainable Westport member wants you to learn how.

This Tuesday (July 13, 3 to 6 p.m.), she invites everyone to her 62 Woodside Avenue home. She’ll show how you can make easy improvements yourself.

“In Connecticut, we have older homes — mine was built in 1929 — that use a lot of energy, especially for cooling and heating,” she says.

“The state has great incentives and financing for people who want to switch from fossil fuels to heat pumps. Pair heat pumps with solar to power and heat your entire home with clean energy. Driving an electric car powered by solar reduces our carbon footprint as well. I’m right on the cusp of being completely net zero.“

Learn all that — and more — on Tuesday. Plus there’s pizza. Made in a solar-powered oven, I’m sure.

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Like many organizations, Westport Volunteer Emergency Medical Services had to suspend some operations during COVID. Among the casualties: the EMR/ EMT classes that were an important pipeline for new members.

And for careers. At least 14 volunteers went on to medical school; others became nurses, paramedics and physician assistants.

Classes will begin again in the fall. The cost — $1250 per EMT student, $750 per EMR student — includes classes, books, stethoscope and BP cuff. Most classes are held on Tuesdays and Thursday evenings, with some Saturday days. The course begins September 21, and runs through January.

WVEM will reimburse for the cost of the class after members become part of the organization. Click here for more information.

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Arlene Benson — mother of longtime Westport civic volunteer Rick Benson — died peacefully in East Norwalk on July 1. She was 98.

A member of Wheaton College’s Class of 1944, the Buffalo native moved to Fort Riley, Kansas, then Southern California shortly after her 1943 wedding, then back to Buffalo when her husband deployed to World War II in North Africa and Europe.

She shared Ontario cottages for many summers with her sister, their boys, and her mother, enjoying the beach, swimming, sailing and golf. She and her husband purchased condominium homes in Florida. She moved to Connecticut in late 2017 at age 94 to be closer to her son and grandson.

A member of the Garrett Club, Cherry Hill Country Club, Buffalo Canoe Club, and the Country Club of Buffalo, Arlene loved to host parties, travel to Europe, take cruises, play golf and bridge, and be with her family.

She will be remembered as a loving, generous, caring person, always with a smile, always with something nice to say, and always concerned about others more than herself.

Her passing is the end of an era.  Her maternal grandfathers emigrated from Germany in 1905, started Mollenberg-Betz Machine Co, Inc. in 1910. Her husband joined the firm in 1946, rose to EVP and retired in 1986.  The commercial air conditioning, refrigeration and service company is still family owned and managed in Buffalo, but she is the last of her generation.

Arlene is survived by her son Richard and his wife, Totney of Westport, CT, and her grandson Richard Betz Benson II (RB) of New York City. She was predeceased by her first husband James M. Benson, her older son James M. Benson, Jr., her sister Janice Betz Dedecker, and her second husband Robert Eckis.

A celebration of life reception will be held on Thursday July 15 (4:30 to 6:30 p.m., Greens Farms Congregational Church).

A memorial service will be held on September 8 un Buffalo, with private interment preceding in the church memorial garden. Donations may be made in her memory to: Westminster Presbyterian Church 724 Delaware Ave., Buffalo, NY 14209 or the Westport Rotary Club Foundation, PO Box 741, Westport, CT 06881.

Arlene Benson

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“Westport … Naturally” features a fantastic female monarch butterfly.

It paused on several of the flowers in Wendy Crowther’s garden. She was glad to see it, as monarchs are in drastic decline. “The more we can do to avoid herbicide use and provide a welcome habitat, the more we can help,” Wendy says.

(Photo/Wendy Crowther)

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And finally … in honor of this monarch butterfly, and its declining population:

Memorial Day Photo Gallery: Part 2

Thanks to all who submitted photos of today’s Memorial Day parade and ceremony. I received hundreds, and can’t run them all.

Today meant a lot to Westporters. It touched our hearts. It made us think about who we are, and what we want to be. And it made us deeply proud of our neighbors, our community, and all who have sacrificed to make this day possible.

World War II veterans like Joe Schachter had a special place of honor … (Photo/Ted Horowitz)

… and there were several cars with them. (Photo/Molly Alger)

Navy veteran Rick Benson (Photo/Ted Horowitz)

Leonard Everett Fisher (Photo/Ted Horowitz)

Bill Vornkahl — a Korean War veteran — has organized over 65 Westport Memorial Day parades. (Photo/Dan Woog)

Boy Scouts honor the flag. (Photo/Ted Horowitz)

The Fire Department held its annual ceremony, honoring its members who have served. (Photo/Andrew Colabella)

1st Selectman Jim Marpe leads the political contingent … (Photo/Ted Horowitz)

… and the Blue Jays follow. (Photo/Whitney D’Angelo)

The Westport Paddle Club’s float echoed this year’s parade theme: Honoring Women in the Military. The WPC won “Most Creative Float” honors. (Photo/Robbie Guimond)

A Revolutionary War soldier (with sunglasses), aka Miggs Burroughs. One youngster — who really needs to learn history — asked, “Is he a pirate?” (Photo/Dan Woog)

Proud veterans, proud Westporters. (Photo/Dan Woog)

Besides publishing (and taking photos for) Westport Local Press and working as an educator Jaime Bairaktaris volunteers as an EMT. He marched proudly with them today — and wore out his shoes. (Photo/Dan Woog)

Remarkable Theater founder Doug Tirola (left) and Marine Corps veteran Michael Calise share a taste in shirt themes. (Photo/Dan Woog)

Photo Challenge #328

Last week’s Photo Challenge showed a close-up of a bit of the Compo Beach playground. It was kind of obvious, even though I cropped Patricia McMahon’s image as closely as I could. (Click here to see.)

But leave it to Rick Benson — who has forgotten more about Westport than I’ve ever known — to provide the back story:

This is a wheel from the original playground, taken down in April 1989 to make room for the first Robert Leathers Community Built playground.

When that wore out and the current one was built, this was relocated again to the “new playground.”

The “original playground” Rick refers to was actually just a monkey bar, swing set and whirligig adjacent to the basketball courts.

The plan for the first Leathers playground created an enormous controversy.

Playground opponents — no, that’s not an oxymoron — feared a ruined beach vista. They worried the swings and ladders would be a magnet for out-of-towners, or taken over by beer-drinking, pot-smoking, sex-having teenagers.

The playground controversy brought the first — and only — death threat of 1st selectwoman Marty Hauhuth’s tenure.

Anti-playground activists obtained a court injunction. (They were not playing around.)

As soon as it was lifted, construction began. It was a magical weekend.

The playground quickly became one of Westport’s prime attractions. It did not ruin the view; it enhanced it. And the only problem now is that on beautiful days, too many people use it.

Congratulations to (besides Rick) Rich Stein, Totney Benson, Andrew Colabella, Evan Stein, John Richers and James Weisz.

All knew where to find last week’s Photo Challenge. Even if they didn’t all know as much about it as Rick does.

How about this week’s puzzle? If you know where in Westport you’d see this, click “Comments” below.

(Photo/Gene Borio)

No Bull! Westporters Run At Pamplona

Rick Benson, Jack Fanning, Drew Murphy and Rod Smith met in 1988. All had toddlers. They — the adults, that is — helped plan and build the Compo Beach playground.

It was dangerous work. Not the physical labor — just getting it approved was tough. There was significant opposition: It will ruin the vista! Teenagers will hang out there, drinking and having sex! It will attract out-of-towners!

But they — and others — persisted. Today the beach playground is one of our town’s great attractions.

The men have remained friends ever since. This year, they decided to do something even scarier than building that playground.

They would run with the bulls at Pamplona.

The bulls at Pamplona.

If you’ve been living under a rock all these years — or hanging out at a playground — and never heard of that bizarre ritual, it’s this:

Every year, for 9 days during the Feast of Saint Fermin, over 1,000 people join 6 bulls (and 6 herding steers) in the narrow, winding medieval streets of the Spanish town.

The men — and the runners are nearly all male (go figure) — try not to get gored or (yes) killed in the 2-minute race to a large bull ring. Once inside, there’s even more chasing — and being chased by — the bulls.

What could be more fun?!

RB and Rick Benson in the Plaza del Toro bull ring, Pamplona.

The Westporters were joined by others: Benson’s son RB, Fanning’s son Mikey and Smith’s son Tyler; Joey Laurita and his cousin Bryan.

All have Westport connections.

They spent 3 days in Pamplona. They watched one day from the balcony of La Perla — the same hotel where Ernest Hemingway stayed, when he wrote “The Sun Also Rises.” The 1926 novel lifted an obscure Spanish ritual into a worldwide phenomenon.

All ran at least one day with the bulls.

(From left): RB Benson, Joey Laurita, Mike Fanning, Joey’s cousin Bryan and Tyler Smith. They all look relieved — and alive.

“It’s not as scary as it’s sometimes portrayed,” Rick Benson reports.

However, he notes, “Some people are definitely less cautious than we were.”

The craziest folks are in front of the bulls, or near their horns. The Westport contingent ran alongside the 1,500-pound animals.

Which is why they’re back home today, able to tell this great tale.

(PS: Rick Benson does not know what everyone else’s next adventure is. But this fall, he heads to Africa. He’s spent the past months raising funds with Rotary Clubs throughout the state. In Kenya, he’ll help oversee a $135,000 school renovation. In Nigeria, it’s a $120,000 water sanitation project. Both are a long way from Pamplona — and the Compo Beach playground.)

Running with the bulls sure gives you an appetite. The Westport contingent dined well.

Rick Benson To The Rescue

Two days ago, I posted a piece about the missing Rotary Club sign on Wilton Road. I described Rick Benson — the member helping replace it — as “the guy you call on whenever something needs doing.”

I wasn’t kidding.

Almost instantly, I got an email from Claire England, operations director at Greens Farms Church.

She said:

Last week one of the 4 finials on the steeple blew down during that gusty wind.

Thanks to Rick, it’s now safe again. He removed the rotten finials. We’ll cap the spots where they stood while we consider whether/how to replace them. The church looks as beautiful as ever.

I was very glad to see Rick and the crew working with him safely back on the ground at the end of it. Definitive proof that being a church trustee is not just a desk job.

Rick Benson (right) in action.

That’s not the first time the steeple needed attention. In the mid-1800s — when the church was already 150 years old — it fell.

In 1950, a hurricane that killed 2 Westporters toppled it again. The steeple spent 2 months on the front lawn, before being hoisted back into place.

Of course, back then Rick Benson was not around to help.

Then again, there was no YouTube either:

(Hat tip: Kara Sullivan)

Have You Seen The Rotary Club Sign?

For as long as the Red Barn has been on Wilton Road — maybe longer — a sign for the Rotary Club of Westport stood on the side of the road.

Made of handsome cast iron, with a blue background, it noted when and where the club met.

Rick Benson — longtime Rotary member, and the guy you call on whenever something needs doing — had the chains replaced in 1994, and the sign repainted.

The Rotary Club sign. (Photo and artwork/Lynn U. Miller)

The club is ready to put up new signs at 7 prominent gateways to Westport. One will be at the (former) Red Barn site.

Much to their surprise, members discovered recently that the old sign is gone. All that’s left is a vine-encrusted metal post.

Rick canvassed club members. He called a few folks who might have picked it up for themselves. He checked with the Westport Historical Society.

Because he’s that kind of guy, he even had the area scanned with a metal detector.

Nada.

The missing sign, on Wilton Road.

So he’s asking “06880” for help. If you — or anyone you know — has intel on the whereabouts of the Rotary Club’s old sign, email Rick: ben3rb@aol.com.

Or — for complete confidentiality — contact “06880” (dwoog@optonline.net). I’ll get the sign back to Rick, no questions asked.

FUN FACT: The Westport Rotary Club turns 100 on March 7, 2024. That makes it more than a decade older than the Merritt Parkway, whose Exit 41 is near the old (and new) sign.

Lobster Fest!

A lovely late-summer day.

Beer and wine. Music. A huge crowd of friendly, sociable people, ready to mix, mingle, kick back and chill.

And of course about 3,000 lobsters, shipped in yesterday from Nova Scotia.

Those were the ingredients for today’s Lobster Fest.

In just 5 years, the Rotary Club event has become a major highlight on the Westport calendar.

It’s the biggest block party in town. It’s Compo and community at its best.

And — best of all — it raises about $75,000, which the Rotary Club plows right back into good causes locally, nationally and abroad.

If you weren’t there, you missed a fantastic party.

And some really amazing lobsters.

lobsterfest-fresh-lobsters

The stars of the show.

Rotary Board member Rick Benson claws State Representative Gail Lavielle.

Rotary Board member Rick Benson claws State Representative Gail Lavielle.

Homes With Hope CEO and Lobster Fest volunteer Jeff Wieser pours a beer for 1-year-old Andy Wolf. Her dad, Jim, looks on amused.

Homes With Hope CEO and Lobster Fest volunteer Jeff Wieser pours a beer for 1-year-old Andy Wolf. Her dad, Jim, looks on amused.

Nearby, a slightly older youngster explored the Beaver Beer car.

Nearby, a slightly older youngster explored the Beaver Beer car.

First Selectman Jim Marpe and his wife Mary Ellen were also Lobster Fest volunteers.

First Selectman Jim Marpe and his wife Mary Ellen were Lobster Fest volunteers.

As the sun set on Lobster Fest, no one wanted to leave.

The sun set on Lobster Fest, but no one wanted to leave.

At the end, not much remained of the 3,000 lobsters.

At the end, not much remained of the 3,000 lobsters.

Psssst … Anyone Want A Dock?

Alert “06880” reader Rick Benson spotted this 20′ x 4′ section of dock last weekend, washed up on Old Mill Beach:

Dock

As of this morning, Rick says, it was still there. Be sure to check your waterfront, to see if you are missing a dock.

Barn Raising

Last winter, many Westporters — including “06880” — worried that the demolition of the North Avenue barn near the corner of Long Lots meant that one more town icon had bitten the dust.

Rick Benson didn’t let that happen.

Carefully and lovingly, the local builder is recreating the old barn.  It looks the same — if not better — on the outside.  Inside, there are plenty of improvements.

The new North Avenue barn.

Thanks, Rick, for proving that not every old structure must give way to a bigger, more bloated one.