Last summer, 5 members of the Artists Collective of Westport — Susan Fehlinger, Jana Irejo, Day Moore, Dale Najarian and Tammy Winser — headed to Beechwood Arts, the non-profit on Weston Road.
They painted a “vanishing mural” of endangered native species of butterflies, birds, bees and plants, to highlight the Green Corridor and Pollinator Pathway projects that Beechwood had committed to follow. (Aspetuck Land Trust gave free native species plants to attendees).
Checking on the mural during the last snowstorm, Beechwood founders Jeanine Esposito and Frederic Chiu found it quite vibrant.
“It’s a good reminder for people to look up those initiatives as they plant new gardens for spring, to help save our local pollinators and native species,” Jeanine says.
Staples High School’s boys indoor track team earned its 2nd All-America performance in 3 days yesterday, at the New Balance national meet at the New York Armory.
The 4 x 800 meter relay team of Rory Tarsy, Ben Lorenz, Bruno Guiduli and Jalen St. Fort finished 6th overall, in a blazing 7:51.28. Guiduli and St. Fort had already earned All-America status, finishing 6th in Friday’s sprint medley relay.
Clockwise from upper left Ben Lorenz, Rory Tarsy, Bruno Guiduli, Jalen St. Fort.
Monsignor Andrew Varga, a well-respected pastor of St. Luke’s Parish in Westport, died last Monday. He was 69 years.
The Bridgeport native was baptized at Saint Stephen Church there. He made his First Holy Communion and received the Sacrament of Confirmation at Holy Name of Jesus Church in Stratford.
He attended Fairfield Prep and Fairfield University, where he earned a bachelor of arts in psychology. Msgr. Varga received his priestly formation at Catholic University, receiving a master of arts in theology. He was ordained to the priesthood for the Diocese of Bridgeport by the Most Reverend Walter W. Curtis at Saint Augustine Cathedral in Bridgeport in 1978.
His first assignment was as associate pastor of St. Matthew Church in Norwalk. In 1983 he was transferred to St/ Theresa Church in Trumbull, where he had served as deacon. Subsequent assignments included St. Leo Church in Stamford and St. Joseph Parish in Brookfield. He began his last assignment as pastor of St. Luke Church in 1997, a position he held for 25 years.
In 1982, he was awarded a doctor of ministry degree from Catholic University. Throughout his years of priestly ministry in the Diocese, Msgr. Varga served on the Presbyteral Council and the College of Consultors. Bishop Caggiano appointed Monsignor Varga as Territorial Vicar for Vicariate II in 2014.
He chaired the Diocesan Liturgical Commission for many years, served on the Sacred Arts Committee and was an active team member of the North American Forum on the Catechumenate, speaking at workshops around the country. In addition, Msgr. Varga taught homiletics in the Permanent Diaconate Formation Program for many years. He was a member of the committee appointed by Bishop William Lori for the preparation and catechesis for the new English translation of the Roman Missal in 2011.
In 2008, Msgr. Varga was named Chaplain to His Holiness.
He was a gifted liturgist and homilist, though what energized him most was ministering to the people in his parish communities. He shared willingly in their joys and challenges. He journeyed full circle with many of those he baptized who later came to him for marriage and the baptism of their own children, and laying to rest their parents and loved ones.
He loved a good joke and could tell a great story, a talent which could bring a smile or lighten a burden.
Msgr. Varga’s body will lie in repose at St. Luke Church on Thursday (March 17) from 3 to 7 p.m., when Mass will be celebrated. The Most Reverend Frank J. Caggiano, Bishop of Bridgeport, will celebrate the Funeral Mass on Friday, March 18 (11 a.m). Interment will be private.
Condolences can be sent to Monsignor’s sister, Elizabeth Robinson (15 Andre Drive, Succasunna, NJ 07876). In lieu of flowers, give of your time, talents and/or treasures to your local parish and community. To sign his online guest registry, click here.
Monsignor Andrew Varga
Crockett Johnson’s 1955 children’s book “Harold and the Purple Crayon” — about a young boy with a magical crayon — is being developed into a stage musical.
Both Johnson — who also wrote the comic strip “Barnaby” — and his wife, writer Ruth Krauss, lived in Westport. (Hat tip: Dick Lowenstein)
And finally … news of William Hurt’s death yesterday made me think of his role as a troubled Vietnam vet in “The Big Chill.” It’s a great film, with a fantastic soundtrack — particularly if that’s the music you grew up with.
Dunkin’ or Starbucks? We’ve got 3 of each in town, spread from one end of Westport to the other.
Dunkin’ fans will have more room to enjoy their coffee and donuts in March. That’s when the “middle” shop moves from its current location (across from Fresh Market). The new site is just a few yards away, and across the street: the Compo Shopping Center property last occupied by Compo Barbers, and an adjacent (also vacant) storefront.
Jim Cain Jr. confirmed the move to “06880” yesterday. His company owns dozens of Dunkin’s in the area, including the one in Bridge Square. That one will remain open.
So will Westport’s 3rd Dunkin’, on Post Road East (next to Layla’s Falafel). It’s owned by a different franchisee. (Hat tip: Westport Journal)
PS: Scratching your head over the 3rd Starbuck’s location (besides downtown, and the drive-thru opposite Carvel)? There’s the one inside Stop & Shop. Pro tip: There’s never a line there.
Among the many famous bands to play at Staples High School — the Doors, to drop one name — the Yardbirds may not ring a bell. But the band featured Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck. And they begat Led Zeppelin.
Clapton was not part of the Yardbirds when they came to Staples in 1966. But Page and Beck were.
A photo of the guitar giants tuning up backstage — in what was then, and still is, the high school choral room — appears in a new book, Led Zeppelin: The Biography:
What’s even more impressive is that the image was taken by a young New York photographer, who’d heard that the Yardbirds were about to play their first-ever US concert. She picked up her camera, and drove up to Westport for the show.
Her name: Linda Eastman. Today of course, she is known as Linda McCartney — Paul’s wife. (Hat tip: Ken Goldberg)
FUN FACT: Eric Clapton did eventually play at Staples too. He was there with his new group the next year: Cream.
Speaking of donuts (as we were above): After enjoying your treat, you might want to work out.
Westport’s newest gym has the intriguing, if somewhat unappetizing, name of “Club Sweat.” It’s the second location — the first is in Greenwich — for what its owners call “the original group elliptical workout … (but) Club Sweat is more than just a workout. It’s a lifestyle. We sweat together, have fun and work towards our fitness goals together to beat- driven classes and of one-of-a-kind playlists. We’re led through a fun choreographed workout by amazing, talented instructors who motivate and challenge us to have fun while doing something good for ourselves.”
Club Sweat will open soon, in the Fresh Market plaza.
Wakeman Town Farm welcome the new year with a pair of exciting new programs. University of Connecticut master gardener Alice Ely will teach both.
In the “Winter Sowing Workshop” (January 10, 7 to 8 p.m.), students will learn how to make a “mini-greenhouse” in a bottle. Leave it outside until spring; then reap a dozen or more native milkweed seedlings to start in your garden. Collect or save bottles now (clear 1- or 2-liter soda bottles or translucent half-gallon milk bottles are recommended.) Click here to register.
“Resolve to Compost” (January 24, 7 to 8 p.m.) will help you turn over a new leaf (ho ho) in 2022. Attendees will save water, reduce pollution and improve their gardens by making “black gold” at home. The class is for those new to composting, and those who want to up their skills. WTF will share some of its compost to get you started. Click here to register.
The League of Women Voters’ candidate debate — postponed by Tuesday’s nor’easter — has been rescheduled for tonight (Thursday, October 28, 7 p.m.).
Board of Education candidates Christine Torres and Kevin Christie (Democrats), Robert Harrington and Dorie Hordon (Republicans), and Planning & Zoning hopefuls Danielle Dobin, Neil Cohn and Michael Cammeyer (Democrats), Jack Whittle (Republican) and Ron Corwin (Coalition for Westport) will participate.
In June, “06880” posted a plea from Amanda DeRosa. The Westport m sought help for her favorite Starbucks worker, a woman in dire straits due to deliver a baby 3 months later.
Readers responded quickly, and generously. Amanda soon gave the woman $4,550 in gift cards, for stores like Buy Buy Baby, Target and Stop & Shop.
Last month — after 3 days in labor — the barista delivered a healthy, 8-pound baby boy. Yesterday, the new mom returned to work.
She was all smiles. And when you check out the photo below, you’ll see why.
The Westport Country Playhouse has changed the date of its Family Fun Day from this Saturday to Sunday (October 31, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.), due to predicted bad weather.
The event includes kids’ activities like a scavenger hunt and spider web weaving, treats, food trucks, ghost stories, a food drive for Norwalk’s Open Door Shelter, beer tastings, and costume parade for youngsters and dogs. The box office will be open from 12 to 2 p.m. for 25% discounts on in-person tickets to the upcoming performances of “Doubt: A Parable,”and 2022 Flex Passes.
Children are encouraged to bring their own pumpkins for decorating. For more details, click here.
Four school records fell last night, as Staples High Schools’ girls swim and dive splashed to victory over Trumbull at home on Senior Night.
Once again the Wreckers broke 200 and 400 meter freestyle relay school records. Senior captains Jessica Qi and Ella Alpert, plus freshmen Annam and Ayaan Olasewere, set 2 new marks: 1:48.17 (200) and 4:02.10 (400).
In individual events, freshman Annam broke her own record in the 50 meter freestyle (25.69, shattering her previous mark, 26.15). She also broke Staples’ record in the 100 meter freestyle (57.30).
Freshman Dani Schwartz won the 400 meter freestyle (4:52.51). The Wreckers also swept the 200 meter freestyle, led by Jessica (personal best 2:08.99). Sophomore Libby Turner (1:09.92) took first in the 100 meter backstroke.
Divers Kate Whitaker, Emme Thaw and Ava DeDomenico took the top 3 spots in their event.
Staples finishes the regular season 6-3 record. Postseason championships begin soon.
Winning 400 meter free relay team (from left): Annam Olasewere, Ayaan Olasewere , Ella Alpert, Jessica Qi.
Also moving into the postseason: The Staples field hockey team (11-1-0) can finish 2nd or 3rd in the FCIAC, depending on today’s game at undefeated New Canaan, and begin the league playoffs Friday or Saturday.
The girls soccer team finished the regular season 9-2-4. Seeded #4 in the FCIAC tournament, they host #5 New Canaan this afternoon (Thursday, 3 p.m., Wakeman Field at Bedford Middle School).
The boys soccer team closed out their best regular season (10-1-4) in 10 years last night, with a 3-0 win at Fairfield Ludlowe. Ranked #3 in the FCIAC tourney, they host #6 Fairfield Warde tomorrow (Friday, 3 p.m., Wakeman Field at Bedford Middle School.)
The Staples boys soccer team runs over to greet their fans, at the end of their final regular season game last night. (Photo/Barry Guiduli)
And finally … on this date in 1893, Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 6 in B Minor, Pathétique premiered. Nine days later he died. His death, at just 53, has been attributed to both cholera from drinking unboiled water, and suicide.
Today’s arresting New York Times Magazine cover photograph is by Pulitzer Prize winning (and 1988 Staples High School graduate Tyler Hicks.
The Contributors’ page explains that the photography for the story — on sharks and Cape Cod — was shot over the course of 3 months. Luckily, it says, both Hicks and the author “are men of the ocean and have plenty of boating experience. They were still at the mercy of nature, with the weather and an unpredictable predator to cover. But they also had technology to deal with. Drone batteries run out very quickly.” (Hat tip: John Karrel)
Rowene Weems attended yesterday’s OAKtober/Halloween celebration on Jesup Green. She reports: “Lots of costumes, young and old. Earthplace brought a snake and a bat. There were 50 pumpkins to decorate. We got an oak tree too!”
The event was sponsored by Westport Book Shop, Earthplace and the Westport Tree Board.
It’s bad enough when traffic for the Starbucks drive-thru backs up on the Post Road, coming from the west (downtown).
But yesterday, this very entitled driver coming from the other direction decided his (or her) Trenti iced coffee, 12 pumps [sugar-free] vanilla, 12 pumps [sugar-free] hazelnut, 12 pumps [sugar-free] caramel, 5 pumps skinny mocha, a splash of soy, coffee to the star on the siren’s head, ice, double-blended drink could not wait.
Hey … why park and go inside, when I can block one lane of traffic on Westport’s main thoroughfare, right? I’m thirsty!
Last Wednesday, “06880” posted a plea from Amanda DeRosa. The Westport mom sought help for her favorite Starbucks worker, a woman in dire straits due to deliver a baby in September.
Less than 5 days later — yesterday morning — Amanda delivered $4,550 in gift cards to the woman. They’re for stores like Buy Buy Baby, Target and Stop & Shop — and they’re all courtesy of “06880” readers.
“I’ve never felt so much joy in my heart,” says Amanda, about the moment she handed the cards (and flowers) to the woman.
“She said she couldn’t believe it. She felt her mom” — who died before she was a teenager — “was looking out for her. We both hugged and cried.”
Thanks go to Amanda — and the more than 100 very generous “06880” readers, who helped make one life a little brighter today.
Speaking of music: REO Speedwagon and Styx will open the Hartford HealthCare Amphitheater in Bridgeport on July 28.
It’s part of the “We Are Back Tour 2021.”
The name is fitting. In 1971, the most popular track on Speedwagon’s debut album was “157 Riverside Avenue.” That’s where — in Westport — they stayed while recording at Leka’s studio. Which (speaking of “we are back”) was in Bridgeport.
“157 Riverside Avenue” remains one of the band’s concert favorites. No word on whether they’ll take a side trip next month to their old stomping grounds.
Staples High School’s graduation ceremony last week was special for 450-plus graduates.
It was extra special for 12.
Russell Sherman writes: “In 2009, a group of kindergarten boys started their Little League careers together on a team called The Bats.
“Over the years the boys stayed in touch, and so have the parents. Thursday night, following Staples graduation 12 years later, they gathered for a reunion to celebrate.
“They are fantastic kids. It has been a privilege watching them all grow up. Obviously it is an emotional time for all of us parents. But we can’t help but be proud of them, and excited for what’s to come.”
The Bats, all grown up …
Front row (from left): Danlel Rosenkranz, John Vincini, Owen Sherman, Tucker Lawrence. Middle row: Coach Steve Vincini, Quinn Jumper, Eduardo Andrade, Sam Kleiner, Mathew Ambrifi. Standing: Coaches Russell Sherman and Eduardo Andrade. Missing: Lucas Dimyan, Steve Greenberg, Mike Greenberg. (Photo/Scilla Vincini)
Next on the Planning & Zoning Commission agenda: bus shelters.
On Thursday (June 24, 6 p.m.) the board holds a public hearing. A proposed text amendment would define bus shelters, exempt them from coverage requirements, and permit them within the front landscape area setbacks.
An explanatory statement notes that in Westport, bus shelters are considered structures with no special exemptions. Installing them adjacent to the roadway and within the 30-foot front landscape area requires a variance from the Zoning Board of Appeals.
The proposal will explicitly define bus Shelters, specify which features are permitted there, specify which agencies are responsible for overseeing the locations, exempt bus shelters from coverage requirements. and allow them to be located within the 30-foot front landscape area setbacks adjacent to the roadway without a variance.
The P&Z meeting will be live streamed on www.westportct.gov, and on Optimum Government Access Channel 79 and Frontier Channel 6020. Comments may be sent prior to the meeting at PandZ@westportct.gov, and during the meeting at PandZComments@westportct.gov. Interested parties may join virtually to offer live testimony during the meeting if the meeting link is requested by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org by noontime on the day of the meeting.
Waiting for the bus — without a shelter. (Photos courtesy of Planning & Zoning Commission Bus Shelter Working Group
During the darkest days of the pandemic, Amanda DeRosa was heartened by regular trips to Starbucks.
With several health issues, the 37-year-old Westporter used the drive-thru. She got to know one of the regular order takers.
“She’s so lively and bubbly,” Amanda says. “She’s spunky and young. I’d think about her while I was waiting to pick up my order. She made me feel secure.”
At the drive-thru window, Amanda adds, “she wore a mask. But I could see the smile in her eyes.”
A Starbucks worker brings joy to customers.
Recently, Amanda noticed the woman was pregnant. But when Amanda congratulated her, she looked sad.
Amanda wanted to help. She asked for the woman’s phone number; a tear rolled down her cheek.
They began texting. Amanda learned her new friend lives in a Bridgeport studio apartment. She has a 3-year-old son, and a longtime partner. When she was 12, her mother died. She’s struggling.
She’s been at Starbucks more than 3 years, and hopes for a promotion.
“This is a dig-her-heels in woman. She works hard for her family,” Amanda says.
The Westporter wanted to offer more than encouragement. When her own son was born, she was registered with Buy Buy Baby. Suddenly, she had an idea: collect donations, and present the woman with a gift card.
“I want her to have the joy of walking into the store with her partner, and pick out the stroller, car seat, crib, bassinet, toys, books and formula they need,” Amanda says.
Babies need lots of “stuff.”
She put the word on social media last night. As of this morning, grateful Starbucks customers — and those who do not even know the woman — had contributed $440.
Amanda hopes for much more. She’s cleared her own personal Venmo account. All donations (Venmo: @AmandaDeRosa) will go directly to the woman. (To ease concerns, Amanda will send “06880” a screen shot of the balance, plus the gift card receipt.)
Amanda will present Westport’s gift to the woman on Monday. (She knows she’s getting something, but has no idea what.) A florist — who did not want to be named — will contribute a bouquet, to accompany the gift card.
“We’re all human beings,” Amanda says.
“We all do what we can, with what we have. This is a wonderful woman, someone in need. I’m proud of how this great community is helping her.”
The pandemic has also affected Suzuki Music Schools. But their classical music education and performance schedule has simply moved from Colonial Green to cyberspace.
The popular children’s “Pillow Concert” series returns January 24, and continues through spring. Family-friendly concerts give children a chance to be up close and personal with performers beyond the front row (and they’re encouraged to bring pillows to create seats at the artists’ feet).
Online master classes and interactive workshops will be conducted by widely acclaimed artists like violinists Rachel Barton Pine and Regina Carter. They’re open to audit for non-students for the first time (for a small suggested donation to the school).
The 4th annual Connecticut Guitar Festival returns March 5-7. It goes global virtually this year, featuring international artists. Attendees can tune check out Suzuki Schools’ social media pages every week leading up to the festival for discussions famed guitarists about how they’ve performed during the pandemic.
For more information on Suzuki Music Schools, click here.
“Has anyone ever mentioned the overflow Post Road traffic at the Starbucks drive-thru?
“I can’t tell you how many time I’ve driven by and thought it’s an accident in the making. I snapped this the other day leaving the Bank of America ATM next door. I could barely see the approaching traffic.
“I’ve got nothing against Starbucks. I just don’t want to see anyone get hurt.”
Colin, the topic has been addressed before. This has been going on for months — ever since the pandemic began.
I am stupefied that anyone would sit in a car for so long at any drive-thru. It’s particularly mind-boggling because there is a perfectly good Starbucks a mile or so down the road, at Stop & Shop. The biggest line I’ve ever seen there is one person.
You could drive, park, get your coffee, drink it — and do all your grocery shopping — in the time you’d spend on that Post Road Line.
Of course, it would mean getting out of your car …
And finally … Phil Spector — the influential record producer who went from creating the famous Wall of Sound to prison for the murder of a woman in his home — died Saturday, of complications from COVID. He was 81.
The updates provide more specific guidance, and new recommendations for a broad range of sectors. Highlights include new rules for Indoor Recreation; expanded guidance for Outdoor and Indoor Events.
Changes impacting Offices, Personal Services, Hair Salons & Barbershops, Retail, Libraries, etc. include:
Non-essential businesses have the right to refuse service to anyone not wearing a mask.
In the event an employee tests positive for COVID-19, it is recommended the business implement a 24-hour passive decontamination and follow CDC guidelines for cleaning and disinfecting.
Changes impacting restaurants include:
Servers are no longer required to wear gloves.
Indoor performances are now allowed (with the exception of musical vocalists).
In addition, hotels are now permitted to provide non-essential services and amenities (valets, ice machines, etc.).
First, the downtown Fine Arts Festival was moved from always-hot July to much more pleasurable late May. Then the pandemic pushed it back to fall.
Now the Westport Downtown Merchants Association has reluctantly announced its cancellation. The next festival — with hundreds of artists, plus music, food, kids’ activities and more — is set for Memorial Day weekend of 2021 (May 29 – 30.
But you can still enjoy this year’s show. Click here for links to over 175 juried fine artists who would have attended, and will be welcomed back next year.
A scene from last year’s Fine Arts Festival.
Back in 2017, “06880” ran a story on Townee. The new company produced authentic, Westport-inspired t-shirts, sweatshirts, hats and more.
This summer they’ve added hand-created tie-dye clothing. “It’s the perfect way to show town spirit and positivity,” say Nick Prior and Theo Vergakis. They’re rising juniors at Staples High School — and they’ll deliver your goods personally.
They also offer tie-dye workshops at small home camps in town. Kids pick their styles, then learn how to tie-dye. The cost is just $20.
For more information, click here or email email@example.com
Theo Vergakis, Nick Prior and Townee tie-dyed tees.
Last night, Westport Public Schools officials presented 3 options for reopening to the Board of Education.
Today at 5 p.m., Westport Magazine’s Dave Briggs interviews Staples High School principal Stafford Thomas, on Instagram Live. The former CNN, NBC Sports and Fox News anchor will ask about that topic, and other important issues.
Search for @westportmagazine on Instagram to hear the interview. Questions can be submitted live (@westportmagazine), or beforehand (@davebriggstv).
The other day, “06880” gave a shout-out to 2020 Connecticut Entrepreneur Award winners Sarah Deren of Experience Camps, Remarkable STEAM and Mark Mathias.
There’s another local honoree (with an asterisk).
FinTron invest placed first in the Venture (Pre-Revenue) category. Their office is on Franklin Street. But they moved from Fairfield in the beginning of March, so that town gets credit for them in the list of winners.
No problem. From here on, FinTron is ours.
Partly cloudy skies are predicted for this weekend. Temperatures will be in the 80s — well below last weekend’s sizzling weather.
No matter what the weather, Westport’s Parks & Recreation staff is ready to welcome beachgoers. They manage the crowds with efficiency and energy.
And smiles — even if you can’t see them, behind their masks!
The Westport Library Book Sale is not accepting any more donations this week. The donation shed is full. Next chance: next Thursday.
And finally … what better way to celebrate the end of another week than with this great put-on-a-smile-on-your-face song? One more reason to love Scotland!
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