Tag Archives: VersoFest

Roundup: Stakeout, Sand, Soundview …

There is a back story to yesterday’s post about the “stakeout” at the Compo Beach fireworks: the large section of sand marked off by stakes and ropes.

Just before 7:30 p.m. last night — as crowds swelled — I received this email:

“I was involved in the group that staked out a portion of the beach today. It clearly looks bad, and I guess we should have thought of another way to handle it.

“Some members of my church are bringing 30 men from the Pivot House substance abuse program in Bridgeport to Compo for the fireworks. We wanted them to have a nice night out, and to know that there are people supporting them.

“We had a cookout at the church prior to the show, and wanted to make sure we had a large enough space so they could all be together, and frankly insulated from the amount of drinking that will be going on around them.

“While the stakes were overly aggressive, I wanted you to know it was coming from a good place.”

All’s well that ends well. Next year, they’ll put up several signs noting exactly why the area was staked out.

And no one else will copy the idea for family and friends.

Yesterday’s stakeout. (Photo/Gara Morse)

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Meanwhile, in one of the most astonishing (and under-appreciated) vanishing acts of the year, Westport’s Parks & Recreation and Public Works Departments worked (once again) through the night to turn last night’s massive bash into this morning’s pristine beach. Gone, miraculously, are (literally) tons of trash.

When the final firework faded (and the barge fire was doused), thousands of partyers headed to their cars. They left behind all the remains of picnics, barbecues and open bars, plus countless chairs, tables, towels, and probably a random kid or two.

Let’s hear it for all the men and women we never saw, who made sure that when the sun came up, not a trace of last night remained!

Compo Beach, 8 a.m. this morning. Party? What party? (Photo/Karen Como)

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Speaking (still) of the fireworks:

One of the great parts (among many) of last night’s show was the scene along Soundview Drive.

Closed to vehicles, the waterfront road became a party promenade.

People of all ages strolled up and down, greeting friends and enjoying the views. A marching band strutted; music blared from house parties; vendors sold sparklers.

Kids rode bikes and scooters. Police officers chatted with teenagers. It was like Venice Beach in California, without the body builders.

So I’ll resurrect the idea I throw out every year, which never goes anywhere: Why do we do this only once a year?

How about 2 or 3 other dates each summer? Pick a few Sundays. Close down Soundview. Bring in a band or two, maybe some jugglers and clowns too.

Okay, Parks & Rec, police and selectwomen. Let the good times roll!

Soundview Avenue — without vehicles — was a place to see, and be seen. (Photo/Diane Yormark)

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There may have been 15,000 people at the Compo fireworks last night.

But dozens of others opted instead for MoCA Westport.

They enjoyed the less crowded but equally exciting opening reception for the summer exhibition, “Women Pulling at the Threads of Social Discourse.” It explores how female artists use textiles to subvert the social expectation of crafting by lambasting this soft medium with political and social awareness.

The museum will hold free “Cocktails & Conversations” events on select Thursday evenings, featuring speakers relevant to the exhibition. Free gallery tours will also be available. Click here for details.

Shelly McCoy writes on her interactive piece, “We The People.” Musem-goers are invited to write their own thoughts and feelings about the US and its politics, in red and blue crayons. (Photo/Leslie LaSala)

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After 3 years Westport’s first poet laureate, Diane Meyer Lowman, has passed her pen along. Newly appointed laureate Jessie Noyes McEntee has taken over.

First Selectwoman Jen Tooker paid tribute to Diane and her contributions, in a Westport Library event on Wednesday.

Poet laureates Diane Lowman (left) and Jessie McEntee on the Library screen, and the crowd after the ceremony. (Photo/Dave Matlow)

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Sunday marked a milestone: The Susan Fund has now distributed more than $2 million in scholarships to area students diagnosed with cancer. For the 3rd year in a row, this disbursement ($99,500, to 23 recipients) set a record.

The Fund honors Susan Lloyd, a Staples High School graduate who lost her battle with cancer before starting college at Colgate University. Her mother, Fund founder and chair Ann Lloyd, served as MC for this year’s ceremony.

To learn more or to donate, click here.

Ann Lloyd

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Details come later, but mark your calendar now:

The 2nd annual VersoFest is set for March 30 through April 2, 2023, at the Westport Library.

The multimedia festival — with music, workshops and much more — builds on the success and power of this year’s inaugural event.

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Thanks to all who sent fireworks-and-more shots yesterday. I’m sorry I could not use them all.

But before we go, here’s one I just got, from a true pro — Ted Horowitz. It’s not from Compo Beach, though. He captured the view from Harbor Road perfctly.

Enjoy!

(Photo/copyright Ted Horowitz)

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A few hours earlier, Ted captured (on camera) this handsome egret, for “Westport … Naturally”:

(Photo/copyright Ted Horowitz)

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And finally … as we head into our Independence Day holiday, let’s not forget our neighbors to the north. It’s Canada Day today.

Congratulations! Félicitations!

Roundup: Street Sweeping, Trees Falling, Album Releasing …

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1st Selectwoman Jen Tooker has invited Westporters to meet — by RTM district — at Town Hall. She and other town officials listening to their concerns.

And responding.

Dave Lowrie writes:

“Many thanks to officials and the Westport Police Department for the ongoing traffic and safety meetings by district over the last few months. And thanks also to our District 7 neighbors who voiced their concerns in person and via email.

“As a green pedestrian, my issue centered on walking and biking access along North Bulkley Avenue toward the Post Road. Two days after the meeting, through Monday, Public Works road chief Joe Izzo and his crew of 2 sweepers cleaned the shoulders along North Bulkley, and all side roads.

Kudos to 1st Selectwoman Tooker for moderating the Town Hall session, powerhouse RTM member Brandi Briggs and her counterparts for engaging constituents, town engineer Keith Wilberg and his staff. and concerned members of the Westport PD.”

North Bulkley Avenue, looking toward Old Road. (Photo/Dave Lowrie)

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Amy Ancel has been watching the osprey nest at Terrain. She writes:

“Sadly, it’s been empty for some time. The male returned in March. In early April I last saw him on the platform, loudly and plaintively calling his heart out to his mate. I don’t think she ever returned.

“It was heartbreaking to hear. I’m just a curious and casual observer, but I think we’ve lost our dear and favorite breeding couple for good. It’s so sad. Nature is brutal.”

Have any “06880” readers spotted the osprey recently? If so, click “Comments” below.

Ospreys, in early April. (Photo/Carolyn Doan)

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It was not exactly the Welcome Wagon.

Last week, a family moved in to a newly built Gorham Avenue home.

In Monday night’s rain and windstorm, a tree fell on their property.

There was a bit of damage to their porch, and lovely copper roof.

All we can tell them is: It’s not always like this!

Cleaning up on Gorham Avenue (Photo/Mark Mathias)

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Tickets to see multimedia superstar Shonda Rhimes in person at the Westport Library’s “Booked for the Evening” fundraiser have sold out.

But Westporters — and anyone else — can still join the June 1 (8 p.m.) celebration, via livestream. Tickets are $25; click here to purchase.

No recording will be made of the program.

Shonda Rhimes

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Gabriele’s has added lunch and brunch to its dinner menu.

The Italian steakhouse that replaced Positano next to the Westport Country Playhouse is now open Tuesday through Friday noon to 2:30 p.m., and weekends 11:30 am to 2:30 p.m.

Dig in!

Gabriele’s Steakhouse.

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Among other highlights, Westport Library’s VersoFest featured the debut of the first independent record label of any public library in the country.

There’s a limited pressing of the yellow vinyl and digital album, featuring some of the best emerging and eclectic talent in the tri-state region.

All preorders of “Verso Records: Volume 1” come with digital downloads of Daniprobably’s “Cowboy” (indie pop), Alexandra Burnet & the Stable Six’s “You’re Okay” (ethereal singer/songwriter); Ports of Spain’s “All You Can Carry” (indie rock), and The Zambonis’ “Gretzky Twist” (hockey rock).

Click here for details.

The album cover, designed by Tammy Winser.

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The pandemic pushed Staples High School’s Class Of 1970 50th reunion back 2 years. They’re on for this year, on August 26-28  — and they’re turning it into a joint celebration of their 70th birthdays.

The high point — as always for their class — is a Saturday Night dinner-dance at Norwalk Inn, with live music from the class band Smoke.

Reservations must be made online (click here). The deadline is July 20. For more information, call Mark Smollin: 626-584-3997.

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Our “Westport … Naturally” feature is big on nature — flowers, trees, animals. We seldom include human beings.

But Rowene Weems captured this intriguing photo Monday, near Winslow Park. Tree trimming is important work.

A few hours later, wind and rain caused power outages for over 1,100 Westporters.

Hopefully, none in this area.

(Photo/Rowene Weems Photography)

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And finally … because today is 4/20:

Roundup: Shorebirds, Costumes, Paul & Joanne …

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Shorebirds are nesting at Compo Beach.

As usual, Parks & Rec is on the case.

Department staff has staked out an area near the site, keeping people away from the fragile birds and their eggs. A sign offers information about the threatened wildlife.

Stay away! It’s their beach too.

In fact, they were here first.

(Photo/Matt Murray)

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Speaking of shorebirds: A week from tomorrow is Earth Day. But the big events at Sherwood Island State Park are Saturday, April 23.

Friends of Sherwood Island offer several events. They include:

Friends’ Garden Team Activities (9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., at the Friends’ table on East Beach across from the Nature Center).

🌱Bring a reusable water bottle; get a “Protect Our Wildlife” sticker (while supplies last).

🌱Tour the Dunes Restoration project site; plant a stem of American Beach Grass.

🌱Learn about native plant species planted for wildlife at the park; get a list for planting at home.

“Why Reducing Food Waste is Critical to a Sustainable Future” (9:30 to 11 a.m.).Host: Pippa Bell Ader, Sustainable Westport Zero Food Waste Challenge. Ongoing at the Friends’ table outside the Main Pavilion.

“Walk Through Sherwood Island’s History (From 12,000 Years Ago)” (noon to 1:30 p.m.). Host: Cece Saunders, owner of Historical Perspectives in Westport. Guided walk. Meet at the Friends’ table outside the Main Pavilion.

“Salt Marshes and Marsh Migration at Sherwood Island” (12:30 to 2 p.m.) Host: Michele Sorensen, environmental educator, captain of the Friends’ garden team. Guided walk; also pick up plastic waste on the marsh. Gloves and bags provided. Meet at the Friends’ table on East Beach across from the Nature Center.

“Environmental Role of Trees at the Park” (2 to 3:30 p.m.) Host: Louis Pietig, Friends’ of Sherwood Island Advisory Council member. Guided walk. Meet at the Friends’ table outside the Main Pavilion.

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Did you miss VersoFest? Or do you just want to relive last weekend’s Westport Library first-in-any-library-anywhere music and media festival?

Click below for a short highlight video. Jerri Graham and Verso Studios’ vivid photos will bring it to life. And get you psyched for the 2023 show, already in the planning stages.

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The curtain came down on “The Descendants” last weekend. But the final act came later.

Staples Players’ talented costume crew — the behind-the-scenes students and parents led by Christie Stanger, who designed and created so many wonderful outfits — had a great idea:  bling out a young audience member’s own clothes to look just like the costume of one of the Descendants!

This lucky, randomly chosen winner had her jean jacket and leggings made to look just like Evie’s. She also got a bunch of cool Evie-like accessories. She even got to meet Evie after the show.

Thanks for spreading joy, Costume Crew!

Lucky winner holds her Evie costume.

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Speaking of entertainment: Not much gets by Fred Cantor.

The other night he watched “The Drowning Pool.” The 1975 noir film starring Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward streamed on TCM.

At the end — yes, Fred watched the credits — he saw that it was “A Coleytown Production.”

Digging further, he found that “Coleytown Productions Inc.” is a California corporation formed in 1969. It dissolved in 2014. Joanne Woodward was the CEO.

Other copyrights held by Coleytown Productions included 2 other Paul Newman films: “The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean” and “Pocket Money.”

Screenshot from “The Drowning Pool.” (Photo/Fred Cantor)

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The other day, “06880” noted that Drew Coyne was named Connecticut’s Patricia Behring Teacher of the Year.

Now the highly lauded and popular Staples High School social studies instructor is vying for national Patricia Behring Teacher of the Year honors.

Every nominee for the $10,000 demonstrates “a commitment to engaging students in historical  learning through the innovative use of primary sources,  implementation of active learning strategies to foster historical  thinking skills, and participation in the National History Day Contest.” The winner will be announced in June.

Drew Coyne

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After 7 years of providing a dedicated gluten-free, organic, non-GMO-certified commercial kitchen, C&K Community Kitchen no longer maintains its gluten-free status. It still “enthusiastically stands on its  devout organic, non-GMO foundation.”

Questions? Contact Sarah Kerstin Gross (candkcommunitykitchen@gmail.com), or call 203-226-0531.

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Dale Najarian is the Westport Book Shop’s latest guest exhibitor.

The Westport artist is showing several abstract landscapes on wood panels. She  works in several mediums, including watercolor, acrylics, mixed media and oils.  She also has a passion for photography.

Najarian earned a BFA from Moore College of Art and Design in Philadelphia. She worked for over 15 years as a graphic designer and art director at design firms and advertising agencies in New York, Philadelphia and Washington.

She serves on the advisory board for the Norwalk Art Space, the executive board of the Artists Collective of Westport, and is a board member and project manager for #UNLOADusa.org, a nonprofit organization using arts to talk about gun violence in America. She is also an active member of the Greenwich Arts Council and the Cultural Alliance of Fairfield County.

Dale Najarian at the Westport Book Shop.

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Longtime Saugatuck Co-op resident Johanna Straczek died peacefully last month, at 96. Her family says she “lived a full and vibrant life.”

She started her own accounting firm and worked daily at a front desk, even after selling the company years ago.

“Always dressed with taste and seldom without a signature chapeau, her slight but powerful presence graced our town with a genuine air of European culture,” her obituary says.

Born in Austria in 1925, Johanna learned multiple languages and studied opera in  Vienna before coming to the US. She attended Sacred Heart University, sharpening her business acumen.

She became a fellow of the National Tax Institute, was a longtime Rotarian, and member of several tax associations.

As treasurer of the Saugatuck Co-Op on Bridge Street, where she lived, she is remembered for her dedication volunteer work, and her soprano voice that she gifted at holiday parties (especially “Stille Nacht/Silent Night”).

Johanna is survived by her sister, Vera Romatko and brother Carlo Romatko.  She was predeceased by her husband John and sister, Nadia Romatko Krower.

A celebration of her life is set for April 20 (Unitarian Church, 11 a.m.).

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The other day, David Ader searched for wild mushrooms at the Lillian Wadsworth Arboretum.

Instead he found this tree. He writes: “What you see are fresh scratches from a claw. Given where they were on the tree, I assume it was a small bear. The claw marks are very different from, say, a deer rubbing antlers, which would be higher up.”

He has not seen the bear this year. He is, however, “hopeful.”

(Photo/David Ader)

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And finally … Bridgeport’s Sound on Sound Festival features some big names September 24 and 25. Among them: Dave Matthews, the Lumineers, Stevie Nicks and Brandi Carlile,

The biggest might be Ringo Starr. He kicks things off September 23.

That’s quite a coup. You know he don’t come easy. (Hat tip: Mark Yurkiw)

Roundup: VersoFest, Tax Holiday, Downshifters …

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Yesterday — the middle of the Westport Library’s 3-day VersoFest — included a keynote speech by Michael Jai White.

The actor/writer/producer/martial artist/former Westport personal trainer described his upbringing in Bridgeport, his career in the movie industry, and his quest to bring a full-scale, state-of-the-art, employing-hundreds studio and production facility to Connecticut.

“I was not put on this earth to make a billion dollars,” he told the crowd. “I’m here to share a billion dollars.”

Michael Jai White (Photo/Dan Woog)

Another highlight from yesterday: the announcement that Tammy Winser is the winner of the contest to design a cover for Verso Studios’ new record label

It’s the first label for any library, anywhere in the country. Music will be produced at the Westport Library’s high-tech studio.

Tammy’s work was chosen from dozens of entries. Here it is:

Meanwhile, all the album covers entered in the contest were shown on the Library’s big screen, prior to the big reveal:

(Photo/Dan Woog)

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Yesterday was also the Rotary Day of Service.

Westport’s Sunrise Club gathered (in early morning hail) at grungy I-95 Exit 17.

Sixteen members (and 3 spouses) collected 17 large bags of trash, along the roadside and ramps. Their haul included liquor bottles, masks, bumpers — and a passport. Westport’s Parks & Recreation Department hauled it away.

Numerous passing drivers honked, and gave thumb’s-up. Now all they have to do is stop tossing liquor bottles, masks and passports out their windows.

Sunrise Rotary members Bruce Fritz and Paul Keblish clean up Charles Street …

… while Maria Fraioli snags a stray bumper.

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Last month, the state General Assembly suspended Connecticut’s 25-cent gas tax. They also added a second “Sales Tax-Free Week” to the annual summer holiday.

The spring “Sales Tax-Free Week” begins today (Sunday, April 10). It runs through Saturday (April 16).

This week, sales of clothing and footwear costing less than $100 will not be subject to sales tax.

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Westporters were out in force yesterday, taking advantage of the nice weather to beautify their land.

Among them: a woman at the historic Jesup Road property just west of the police station.

(Photo/Robin Myers)

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In the 1950s and early ’60s, the Downshifters were Westport’s premier hot rod club.

The club is long gone. So are hot rods. And the members are getting up in age.

But the ones who are still around have a new project: varsity jackets.

They’re ordering those sharp-looking jackets, complete with logo. And you don’t have to be a former member to order one.

Contact Morgan Smith for details: aeronaca33@gmail.com. The deadline is April 15.

So you’ve got to hurry. But don’t speed.

Downshifters jacket.

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Staples High School Class of 1971 graduate Bonnie Erickson offers today’s “Westport … Naturally” treat.

She spotted this beauty in the Saugatuck River, near the Library Riverwalk:

(Photo/Bonnie Erickson)

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And finally … the Westport Library’s VersoFest ends tonight, with what is sure to be a kick-ass performance by Selwyn Birchwood. If you haven’t yet heard of the rising blues artist — you will. Click here for more information, and tickets.

Roundup: Real Estate, Food, Trees …

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The 1st quarter of 2022 is in the books. That means it’s time for some real estate stats.

Westport had 86 house closings, a 25% decrease from a year ago but
still the 2nd-most number of closings for this period since 2006.

The average house closing price of $2.2 million was the highest for the quarter in the past 2 decades. The average closed price per square foot rose to $509, up 23% from a year ago.

Reflecting high demand and low inventory, houses in the quarter sold on average for 102% of the list price — the 4th  straight quarter that average has been over 100%

Eight-five Westport houses were pending (properties with signed contracts) on March 31. That’s down slightly from the end of March 2021, but still high by historical measure.  (Hat tip: Rose Marie Colletti, Brown Harris Stevens)

This Bluewater Hill home is on the market for $12 million.

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Two years ago, Westport Farmers’ Market started its #Who Grows Your Food” campaign. The goal was to expand people’s knowledge of what farmers look like, to gain more support foro local agriculture.

Anne Burmeister and Ashley Skatoff offered to help. They lent their photographer lenses and creativity, capturing the essence of the farmers while creating an intimate story that eaters could follow along with.

Last fall, the Farmers’ Market partnered with MoCA Westport. Dozens of Burmeister and Skatoff’s stunning photographs became part of an art exhibit called “Between the Ground and the Sky.”

Now, those 52 photos from over 15 farms are available for purchase.

Each 18″ x 27″ original print (23″ x 32″ with border) is $500. All are signed and dated by the artist. The print includes information about the farm and photo, plus text created by the artist for the display at MoCA. The certificate is signed by the farmer.

All proceeds support WFM programming. Purchased photos may be picked up at the first 3 markets of the season: May 12, 19 and May 26.

For more information and to purchase, click here.

“Chicken Tractors” by Anne Burmeister is one of 52 Farmers’ Market photos available for sale.

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Arbor Day is near — and the Westport Tree Board is ready. Among the events throughout the month:

Saturday, April 23 (10:30 a.m. to noon, Jesup Green, free): The Tree Board and Westport Book Shop celebrate Earth Day with a fun event to promote reading for all ages, with attention also on the value of trees. Interactive family-friendly activities involving reading and early learning; educational materials and a native tree sapling giveaway, courtesy of Bartlett Tree Company.

Friday April 29 (Arbor Day, 3 to 4 p.m., Town Hall, free):  The Tree Board hosts their annual native sapling giveaway, plus brochures and advice from professional associations on tree-related topics, from site selection to proper maintenance.  Native saplings for giveaway are donated by Bartlett Tree.

Saturday, April 30 (3 to 4 p.m., Earthplace): The Tree Board hosts a live discussion and free information session with a tree professional on the basics of tree planting and maintenance, including selection, mulching, pruning, pest management and more. Native tree saplings, courtesy of Bartlett, will be available while they last.

As part of Arbor Day, Earthplace also hosts a “Toast To The Trees” family event 4 to 6 p.m.), with kids’ activities and s’mores, handmade pizza, beverages for adults and kids, plus a “tree walk” tour.  Click here to purchase tickets.

Beginning mid-April, the Tree Board and Westport Library will create a “StoryWalk” at the Lillian Wadsworth Arboretum (2 Woodside Lane).  The featured book is “Be a Tree!” For more information, click here.

A Norway maple at the Wadsworth Arboretum.

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Superintendent of schools Thomas Scarice offered a video update yesterday. He covered 4 areas:

The 5-year capital forecast to bring all schools — especially Long Lots and Coleytown Elementary — up to the district’s standards.

The uptick in the COVID Omicron sub-variant.

The Westport Public Schools’ ongoing equity study.

Ukrainian refugees. Scarice notes that Westport has already welcomed some to town, and any student settling here will be accommodated — as will all refugees from anywhere who come to Westport. He asks anyone with any information on refugees in Westport to call his office: 203-341-1025.

Click here to view the video update.

A screenshot of Superintendent of Schools Thomas Scarice, giving a video update from his office.

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Speaking of Westport Public Schools: Horace Lewis was the beloved head custodian at Staples High School, and served the district for 3 decades. He suffered a stroke shortly after retiring last summer, and died in December.

Classrooms, hallways, teaching kitchens, storage areas, auditorium, gym, fieldhouse, cafeteria, library, TV studio, boilers and HVAC systems — Horace kept them all sparkling and working. Despite a stressful job, staff and students knew Horace as the walkie-talkie carrying, most cheerful custodian.

Over the years, countless students (and parents) enlisted Horace’s help after leaving coats, backpacks, sporting equipment and phones at school. Even after his official retirement, Horace stayed on to help the schools cope with COVID cleaning requirements.

To honor Horace’s legacy of hard work, service to others and positive outlook, Staples Tuition Grants has created a scholarship in his name. The first need-based award will be offered this year. Click here to donate to this special fund.

Horace Lewis

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Among the most impressive parts of Westport Country Playhouse’s production of “Next to Normal”: the set.

Like everything that appears on the Playhouse stage, it was constructed by the in-house production staff — with help from  Jake Krasniewicz, assistant box office manager.

But that’s not his only side gig.

The Stratford native plays bass, ukulele, guitar, banjo and synthesizer. At Berklee College of Music he studied film scoring.

After graduating, Jake spent time in Boston’s music scene. When he returned to Connecticut, he formed Drop Party. The band plays an amalgam of genres, and call their style “a way to access emotions without sounding like radio music.”

Drop Party is part of this weekend’s Westport Library VersoFest. On Sunday (April 10, 7 p.m.), they open for Selwyn Birchwood.

What does all this have to do with building the set?  After college, Jake helped out at his father’s welding shop. The Playhouse technical director recruited the assistant box office manager to help with the extensive welding needed for the “Next to Normal” set.

He particularly enjoys funk. But it seems “heavy metal” is also one of Jake’s outlets. (Hat Tip: Bruce Miller)

Jake Krasniewicz takes a break from ticket sales and music,, to help create the “Next to Normal” set.

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There’s always something going on Westport — and much of it flies under the radar. And I do mean “radar.”

Last Saturday, over 100 automotive enthusiasts and industry leaders filled
the Autostrada facility — formerly the Steinway piano showroom — to kick off the Piston Foundation’s 2022 season.

Attendees came from across the US and Europe. They heard the non-profit
foundation lay out its mission to “bring more young people into the collector car industry so the craftspeople who built this American touchstone can transfer their skills to a new generation.”

The site included a “collection of exotic automobiles.” A silent auction raised funds for students and apprentices to pursue careers in automotive craft, restoration specialties and service.

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Staples High School seniors Sophie Alcyone and Alexandra Maskoff were honored this week, at the 27th annual High School Arts Awards ceremony.

Selected by the Staples staff, Sophie was recognized for visual art, Maskoff for music. The event was sponsored by the Connecticut Association of Schools.

From left: Sophie Alcyone and Alexandra Maskoff.

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With spring arriving fitfully, Jonathan Alloy offers 2 “Westport … Naturally” photo.

He writes: “My wife Sarah hung a pretty seasonal wreath on our front door, which real birds used to build a real nest — now complete with real eggs! Robins perhaps?”

Here’s the wreath:

And the eggs:

(Photos/Jonathan Alloy)

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And finally … the Westport Library’s VersoFest (see story above) and Talking Heads’ Chris Frantz present an intriguing concert tonight (7 p.m.). Headliners are Enid Ze and Daniprobably. Click below for a sneak listen; click here for ticket information, and more.

 

 

Pic Of The Day #1817

Led Zeppelin fans were on a stairway to heaven tonight.

Lez Zeppelin — an all-female tribute band — kicked off this weekend’s VersoFest at the Westport Library tonight. 

There’s much more ahead, for fans of all kinds of music. A series of workshops and panels on songwriting, audio production and more, is set for tomorrow and Sunday afternoons.

There are more concerts both evenings, and a Westport Library Verso Studios album launch party Saturday at 6 p.m. Click here for a full schedule, and more details.

The view from the floor …

… and above. (Photos/Dan Woog)

Roundup: Ambulance, Chickens, Girls Who Code …

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It’s hard to believe, but Westport Volunteer Emergency Medical Service — the men and women who save lives, patch wounds and do everything in between — have to fund raise for nearly all their needs.

From ambulances to Band-Aids, they depend on all of us.

The Westport Woman’s Club is helping, big-time. Yesterday, Westport’s 115-year-old civic organization made it official: They’re providing $300,000 for a new ambulance.

Half the funds come from the club itself. The other half comes from a member’s anonymous contribution.

That’s just part of the WWC’s good works. They recently awarded $39,000 to Fairfield County non-profits. Soon, they’ll grant $36,000 in scholarships to Staples High School seniors.

WVEMS thanks the WWC. And every Westporter should join “06880” in thanking both import life-saving, and life-changing, groups.

Police, town, EMS and Westport Woman’s Club officials, with a $300,000 check. (Photo/Lauri Weiser)

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Media personality David Briggs has interviewed some heavy hitters in his career.

But, he says, actor/filmmaker/director/martial artist/studio head Michael Jai White was “the most inspirational person” he’s ever talked with.

The InstagramLive interview is deep and intriguing (see below). And you can see — and listen to — White live and in person tomorrow.

He kicks off the 2nd day of the Westport Library’s VersoFest — a music-and-media extravaganza modeled on South by Southwest — with an 11 a.m. keynote address. It’s free, as are nearly all the events starting today.

Click here for a full schedule and more details — including 3 big concerts.

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Bwwaack, bwwaack!

Wakeman Town Farm is crowing about its “egg-cellent” 3-session series: an introduction to raising chickens responsibly at home.

Whether you attend just one, two or all three of the sessions, you’ll  have a chance to bring home 2 Farm-raised chicks, along with a handy starter pack, (feeder, waterer, wood shavings, and 5-pound bag of organic feed).

Instructors include WTF staff and “local chicken experts.”

Session 1 (April 26, 7 p.m., $40): “Introduction and Starting Your Flock” covers how chickens can enrich your life; positive environmental impacts; chicken facts and anatomy; starting a flock, dos and don’ts and more.

Session 2 (May 17, 7 p.m., $55): “Coop, Habitat, Environment and Basic Needs” includes housing and spacing issues, free range pros and cons, local zoning, and creating a happy, stress-free environment.

Session 3 (June 21, 7 p.m., $55): “Products, Maintaining Your Flock, Behavior and Physical Health” offers product recommendations, plus coop maintenance and advice on physical behavior and disease.

Click here to register, and for more information.

Wakeman Town Farm’s mobile chicken coop.

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Westport Sunrise Rotary’s contribution of $5,000 to the only coding school for girls in Afghanistan has gone a long way.

It helped ensure that 160 females ages 15 to 24 had access to computers — including 12 laptops purchased through the grant — in class and at home during COVID lockdowns, then following the rise of the Taliban when the school was closed.

Twenty girls and women have already received remote jobs, ranging from design and animation to website development. They have earned $10,000 — an enormous sum in that impoverished country.

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Zoe Brown is a go-getter.

Since graduating from Staples High School in 2015, and the University of Southern California, she’s been a producer’s assistant on “Love, Victor” and
“Euphoria.” Season 2. Zoe now works for the president of the K Period Media production company.

In her free time she produced a short web series (“LolaMay”) and a short film (“Great White Lies”). In 2020 Zoe co-founded the Mental Health Content Collective.

(Oh, yeah — she’s also been a tutor, restaurant hostess, communications intern for the Two Oh Three lifestyle brand, babysitter, Challah Connection worker, jewelry designer helper, and started a greeting card/poster business).

Now Zoe has joined a few other young creative-types to produce a play.

“Get It Together” is a woman-led comedy/drama about 2 alienated kids finding a sad, imperfect, real romance at the most confusing time of their lives: stuck between home and the rest of the world.

Since premiering at Boston College in 2018, the play has won awards at the NYC Indie and Denver Fringe Festivals.

Zoe and her crew are raising funds to pay for the crew, set, props, marketing and LA’s Zephyr Theater. To help with a tax-deductible contribution, click here.

Zoe Brown

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Westport artist/author/illustrator Elaine Clayton as she discusses those topics (and more) as she celebrates her newest book, “The Way of the Empath: How Compassion, Empathy and Intuition Can Heal Your World.”

The in-person and virtual event is set for the Westport Library on April 20 (7 p.m.).

Her book mentions fellow Westport artist/author Miggs Burroughs’ book “What If?” Clayton says his art “shifts people and communities into a place of compassion.”

No prior experience is needed — just curiosity, and a willingness to be open and have fun. Click here to register, and for more information.

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Nancy (Roach) Tanzer — a longtime social studies teacher at Bedford Middle and Staples High Schools — died March 29 in Marshfield, Massachusetts. She was 92, and suffered from congestive heart failure.

She grew up in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Nancy graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Pennsylvania in 1952. She played lacrosse there, and was one of the few women enrolled in business classes.

She began her career in advertising and public relations, where she met her first husband, Duane Roach. After starting a family, Nancy earned a master’s degree in education at Fairfield University and became a history teacher.

Throughout her 20-year career in Westport, she impacted the lives of students in the classroom, and through ski trips and outdoor backpacking adventures. She spent her summers racing sailboats on Long Island Sound. When her children were in college, Nancy became a volunteer Emergency Medical Technician.

Nancy enjoyed the peacefulness of Vermont, and had a vacation/retirement home built there. During a sabbatical year from teaching, she lived in her Vermont home and earned a second master’s degree at Dartmouth College. While there she met Henry Tanzer, who shared her love of the Vermont lifestyle.

After retiring to Vermont with Henry, Nancy volunteered reenacting historical events at Billings Farm and Museum, and giving presentations at the Vermont Institute of Natural Science.

She enjoyed playing bridge, was president of the garden club, and an active member and trustee of the senior center.

She skied at Killington and Okemo well into her 70s. Her love of travel brought her to 36 countries, and she saw 5 of the 7 wonders of the modern world.

Nancy was predeceased by Duane Roach and Henry Tanzer. She is survived by her daughter Deborah (Jeff) Lasala of Scituate, Massachusetts; son Jeff (Susan) Roach of St. Charles, Missouri; her granddaughter Mary (Jake) Genthon and her husband Jake of Ballwin, Missouri, and the Tanzer and Benjamin families of Massachusetts and Connecticut.

Nancy was passionate about the work of Doctors without Borders, the World Wildlife Fund, and St. Jude’s children’s hospital. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations to any of those causes.

Nancy Tanzer

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Are you a chicken person (see story above) or a turkey person (read on!).

Dianne Behrmann has had 12 turkeys in her Partrick Road back yard. She thinks they live in the nearby wetlands.

“They came running down the driveway one morning, had breakfast and left,” she says.

She took this photo for our “Westport … Naturally” feature, adding: “This is the first time I saw the males all puffed up and making lots of noise. Many gobbles!”

(Photo/Dianne Behrmann)

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And finally … Francisco González, a founding member of Los Lobos, died recently. He was 68, and had been diagnosed with cancer.

The group blended “rock-and-roll and R&B, surf music and soul, mariachi and música norteña, punk rock and country,” their website says. NPR called it “Chicano hippies playing mariachi music.” Click here for a full obituary.

VersoFest: Sunday’s Soul Extravaganza

VersoFest — the Westport Library’s first-ever (and first-library-in-the-country) music and media festival — is shaping up to be a major event.

Joshie Jo Armistead

Take just one example: Sunday.

It’s a blues-and-soul extravaganza. From 2 to 3:30 p.m., Saturday Night Live tour de force Christine Ohlman interviews Joshie Jo Armstead.

Armistead — a soul Renaissance woman got her start as an Ikette (with Ike & Tina Turner). She wrote hit songs for Ray Charles and Aretha Franklin, and collaborated with filmmaker/playwright Melvin Van Peebles. And that’s just a start.

Armstead and Ohlman will present a live version of Verso Studios’ Connecticut Music Oral History podcast, with music, images and video on the Library’s new sound system and spectacular digital screen. The event is free with registration.

After a short break — perhaps a bite to eat downtown? — VersoFest ends with a bang. Selwyn Birchwood takes the Forum stage at 7 p.m.

Selwyn Birchwood (Photo/Jim Hartzell)

Rolling Stone calls him “a remarkable, contemporary bluesman … a powerhouse young guitarist and soulful vocalist … a major player.” The Alligator Records artist has been nominated as Blues Male Artist of the Year.

The opening act — funk favorites Drop Party — veer from jazz and funk to Latin, always conjuring up a dancing spirit.

Tickets for Selwyn Birchwood and Drop Party are $30 — but enter the promo code “Woog,” and get them for just $15 each!

Click here for tickets, registration, schedules and more information on all 3 days of VersoFest. Beer and wine will be available at the concert.

(Want to hear more of Selwyn Birchwood. Check out WPKN-FM 89.5 tomorrow — Wednesday, April 6, 11 a.m. — for his interview with music director Rob Silber. NOTE: VersoFest is co-produced by the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce.)

“06880” Podcast: Bill Harmer

Twice a month for over a year, I’ve chatted with some of Westport’s most interesting and insightful men and women, for “06880: The Podcast.”

We tape (and film!) the series on the big Westport Library Trefz Forum stage, with the wonderful Verso Studios crew’s help.

Hard to believe that after more than 2 dozen podcasts, I hadn’t sat down with my podcast “boss” himself: Library director Bill Harmer.

The other day, I did. For half an hour, Bill and I talked about the transformed building, and the magic that goes on there; the evolving role of libraries in American culture, and VersoFest — this weekend’s groundbreaking music and media festival.

I learned a ton. (Which, of course, is supposed to happen in a library.)

You will too. (As should happen in a podcast.)

Click below for a very intriguing half hour.

Roundup: $10,000, Logging Truck, VersoFest …

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Earthplace updated maps of their 74-acre sanctuary. Project Return repainted their North Compo Road home. The Westport Astronomical Society got a new solar telescope. Wakeman Town Farm bought a mobile chicken coop.

All of that money came from “Ruegg Grants” — courtesy of the Westport Woman’s Club. Established in 1995 by former member Lea Ruegg, they’re given each spring to a local non-profit with a project that makes a meaningful difference in social services, health, safety, the arts or education.

Previous recipients include, CLASP Homes, the Westport Police Department, Interfaith Housing, Mercy Learning Center, Toquet Hall, the Westport Rotary Club, Staples Players and the Westport Library.

Your organization could be next. The Woman’s Club is accepting submissions now through April 25, for up to $10,000 for a 2022 project. Click here for the application form.

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Bert Porzio is one of Westport’s real good guys. The tree service owner would do anything for anyone (and often has: Check out his Unsung Hero honors from 2018).

But his rental of the small lot on the corner of Post Road and Roseville to store logs has worried some residents.

They’re concerned about one of his trucks parked at the lot, blocking visibility of drivers coming down the Roseville hill.

Now, for the past few days, a logging truck has been parked across from McDonald’s. It’s on the sidewalk, just a few yards from Route 1.

Is it legal? Is it safe? “06880” readers have asked both questions.

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Al’s Angels is sponsoring a Fairfield rally, in support of Ukraine.

The event is tonight — Wednesday, March 30 — from 5:30 to 10 p.m. at Penfield Pavilion. 100% of all proceeds will go to 2 charities, working for the war-torn nation.

The $50 ticket price includes Ukrainian and “local” food, live music, a silent auction and raffle prizes. Scan the QR code below for tickets. (Hat tip: JC Martin)

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Verso Fest continues to get bigger.

The Westport Library has just added an intriguing panel to its 1st-ever media and music festival.

On Saturday, April 9 (1 p.m.), Dick Wingate — a Westporter at the forefront of music marketing, A&R and interactive technology for over 40 years — will moderate a panel on audio production.

Dick launched or developed the careers of Bruce Springsteen, Elvis Costello, Aimee Mann, Peter Tosh, Eddy Grant, Pink Floyd, Sarah McLachlan and Garland Jeffreys while at Columbia, Epic, PolyGram and Arista Records. He then pioneered the digital music business with Liquid Audio, as chief content officer. He now operates DEV Advisors, a media and entertainment consultancy.

Panelists include:

Datwon Thomas: editor-in-chief of Vibe magazine, and vice president of cultural media for MRC. He was founder and editorial director of men’s lifestyle guide King magazine, the urban car enthusiast’s favorite Rides Magazine, and editor-in-chief of hip-hop’s street authority, XXL Magazine.

Stephen Webber: Emmy-winning composer, musician, author, producer, engineer, and a leading innovator in music and the performing arts. He founded the Music Production, Technology, and Innovation master’s program at Berklee College of Music’s Spain campus. He’s Berklee’s dean of strategic initiatives, working on domestic and international projects in Los Angeles and China. A former A&R consultant for Universal Music Group, Webber has produced and engineered albums for a wide range of artists.

Travis Bell: audio studios Manager and in-house producer and engineer for Verso Studios. As owner/operator of Hamden’s Adorea Studios for 10 years, he earned acclaim from NPR and Rolling Stone for an array of different projects.

For more information on VersoFest, click here.

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This is a tough time of year for Homes with Hope’s food pantry.

The Gillespie Center program always sees a dip in donations between the holidays, and its spring food drive.

Rising food prices have proved a double whammy. More families are in need, while donors are also feeling the pinch.

Donations can be dropped off between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. at the Gillespie Center. It’s behind Barnes & Noble, next to Don Memo and Walrus Alley off Jesup Road. Click here for a list of most-needed non-perishable items.

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Michael Bolton moves on!

Not from Westport — he’s staying here. But the New Haven native advances to the next round of NBC’s “American Song Contest.”

Bolton sang “Beautiful World,” in the Eurovision knockoff that includes artists from all 50 states, 5 US territories and Washington DC.

The jury ranked him 5th, but votes by fans propelled him into the semifinals. He joins representatives from Rhode Island, Oklahoma and Puerto Rico. His video from the show is below. (Hat tip: Dick Lowenstein)

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Julian Lamb Orgel — the lively and musically talented cellist son of 1971 Staples High School graduate Paul Orgel — died in 2018. He was 26.

A fundraising concert in Colchester, Vermont on May 21 will endow a scholarship in Julian’s honor for the Vermont Youth Orchestra — a place, his family says, that “nurtured him and provided him with years of support, friendship and music-making pleasure.”

The program features the world premiere of “Songs With and Without Words,” composed in Julian’s honor by Curt Cacioppo, with his father on piano. There are also classical and jazz performances.

Click here for tickets and more information. Click here for more on Julian Orgel. (Hat tip: Diane Sherman)

Julian Orgel

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Jonathan Alloy submits today’s “Westport … Naturally” photo. He also sends this question: “Is your bird feeder deer-proof?”

(Photo/Jonathan Alloy)

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And finally … it was great seeing Peter Tosh’s name among the artists Dick Wingate has worked with (in the story above, on VersoFest).

He’s one of my favorite artists. And, like so many, gone way too soon.