Tag Archives: Westport fireworks

A Star-Spangled Celebration

It was hot. The barge headed first to Fairfield, instead of Westport. The lifeguards made an announcement about a lost husband.

But traffic flowed very well. There was room for everyone. And Westport’s 62nd annual fireworks display was — once again — the best party ever.

And it’s still only July 3rd!

RTM member Andrew Colabella gets in the holiday spirit.

Doc Davidson lives directly across from Compo Beach. The inside of his fence is painted to look like Ebbets Field. Baseball and a cookout — it doesn’t get more American than that.

The lifeguards always post a Quote of the Day. Today’s was especially meaningful.

Chief of Police Foti Koskinas, at the Westport PAL booth.

Louie Carey loves the fireworks THIS much!

The Marching Cobras dance and drum corps entertained the huge crowds.

The Compo crowds — as seen from the Sound. (Photo/John Kantor)

Sandra and Baxter Urist. Check out his Declaration of Independence shirt.

The fireworks barge, as seen from the water. (Photo/John Kantor)

Hey — the garbage doesn’t pick itself up!

There were hundreds of parties at Compo Beach. This was hosted by Bart Shuldman (3rd from right) and his wife Susan (4th from right).

Sparklers on sale at nightfall offered a striking scene. (All photos by Dan Woog, unless otherwise noted)

Memories in the making. (Photo/Lisa Power)

Compo Beach Is Packed With Invisible People

The pre-fireworks scene, at 12:30 this afternoon:

(Photos/Doris Ghitelman)

No. You Can’t Reserve A Pavilion Table For Tonight’s Fireworks At 9:30 A.M. Please Stop.

It’s one thing for Westporters to come early, stake out huge swaths of sand for tonight’s fireworks using chairs and umbrellas, then leave.

That arms race started long ago.

It’s another thing entirely to claim one of the few tables in the shaded pavilion by the volleyball courts, using this very aggressive method:

(Photo/Amy Schneider)

This is wrong on so many levels.

It’s staking out not 1, but 2, very valuable tables.

It’s denying anyone else the use of them for the next 8 or 9 hours.

And yes, the red-white-and-blue touch is very patriotic, but come on! Are you really that entitled?

Today is the busiest day of the year for our hard-working Parks and Rec crew.

But I hope they find a few minutes to free these 2 tables for The People.

And leave a sign that says, “You can pick up your picnic at Parks & Rec headquarters. Tomorrow.”

Remembering Toni Cunningham

The Independence Day fireworks are Westport’s biggest community celebration of the year.

It’s when Soundview Drive — our town’s handsome, quirky beachfront exit road — turns into a party promenade.

This year — as we prepare for another year of cookouts, hanging out, and bombs bursting in air — we should also pause for a moment (on Soundview) to remember Toni Cunningham.

The grande dame of Compo died on Thursday. She was 101.

Toni Cunnnigham, at her 80th birthday celebration.

In that century of life, she saw astonishing changes at the beach just outside her front window. She herself contributed to many of them.

Toni first came to Westport as a teenager. During the 1930s her parents — who lived in Scarsdale – rented #75 (now #17) Soundview Drive. She crewed on Star sailboats, often swimming out to join friends to help in races.

Gail Cunningham Coen — one of Toni’s 3 daughters — says that Toni also swam to Cockenoe Island and back.

When her parents moved here full time, she’d walk to Cockenoe in winter over thick ice.

Toni and Frank Cunningham, in front of 17 Soundview Drive.

Every year in late June, Toni’s father Frank Bosco drove to a special “fireworks contact.” He shot them off from a card table on the beach in front of his house. Neighborhood kids loved it.

Frank was a longtime treasurer of the Compo Beach Improvement Association — which really did spiff up the area.

The group organized field days, and swim races to and from the floats anchored offshore. Toni was an avid participant.

She also loved riding on the seaplanes that landed on shore.

In those days, “air conditioning” meant opening windows. Toni’s daily piano playing was enjoyed by everyone who strolled by. She knew all the popular songs, and was often asked to sing and play for parties.

As she grew older, Toni succeeded her father as treasurer of the CBIA. She also became secretary. Her talent for shorthand guaranteed highly accurate meeting notes.

Compo was a family affair. Toni’s mother, Margaret Bosco, created the first “beach rules.” They ensure safe, responsible behavior — and strong litter prevention practices. (Interestingly, Toni’s daughter Gail later became CEO of Keep America Beautiful.)

In 1938, a strong hurricane hit the area. Toni refused to leave, and rode out the storm.

In fact, during her 85 years on Soundview only one hurricane forced her to leave. That was in the 1950s, when waves chewed up the road and deposited huge chunks of the seawall in front yards.

As she earned fame for riding out storms, reporters regularly called her for blow-by-blow news.

Toni and Frank Cunningham, playing a 4-hand duet.

July 4th was not the only holiday  Toni enjoyed. She also loved New Year’s eve. In the early 1960s she built a party room on the 3rd floor of her house at 27 Soundview, where she and Frank raised their family.

It featured a Steinway baby grand. But the party wasn’t in full swing until Toni sat down to play. Governor John Davis Lodge and his wife Francesca were frequent guests.

Today a small sign on the flower bed at the start of Soundview Drive — near where the boardwalk begins — honors Toni Cunningham for her dedication to the CBIA, and her beautification efforts at Compo.

The sign on Soundview Drive.

It’s a simple gesture, but an important one. In many ways, that stretch of Compo Beach is Toni Cunningham.

Think about that as you enjoy the fireworks — the first 4th of July Toni Cunningham has not been alive for in over a century.

(Contributions in Toni’s memory can be made to the Compo Beach Improvement Association Traffic Calming and Beautification Fund, 40 Compo Beach Road, Westport, CT 06880.)

A Smash Birthday Bash

What do fife and drum members do before marching at the Compo fireworks? Have intense discussions, apparently.

What do fife and drum members do before marching at the Compo fireworks? Have intense discussions, apparently.

It’s Westport’s best party of the year — by far.

Thousands of men, women and children — especially children — descend on Compo like Patton’s army:  well-organized, disciplined, fully in control.

They trudge off several hours later like Lee’s troops after Appomattox — carrying what they can, leaving the rest behind.

In between is a festival, a happening, an all-American event — with, of course, a Westport touch.  Flags and bunting fly from multimillion-dollar homes.  Sushi and champagne share picnic tables with hot dogs and soda.

Beachgoers enjoy the post-cloudburst sun and sky.

Beachgoers enjoy the post-cloudburst sun and sky.

For more than a month, Westport had been trapped in an endless “Annie” loop.  The sun would always come out tomorrow.  Yesterday, the sun really did come out — mostly.  It was a fine day — until 6:15, when a drenching rain blew in from nowhere.  The sun never stopped shining — it was an almost cartoonish cloudburst — but thousands of folks covered their sushi and hot dogs, then ran for shelter.

It was all over in 5 minutes, followed by the obligatory rainbow.  Five minutes later, everyone was dry.

The Balloon Man -- Steven Marcinuk -- wows young fireworks-goers.

The Balloon Man -- Steven Marcinuk -- wows young fireworks-goers.

Back in the day, the fireworks were simply that:  20 minutes of noise and color.  Over the years it’s morphed into a show.  There’s entertainment galore — including, this year, a group of teenagers singing show tunes.  They performed by the cannons, which is where long ago the fireworks were fired from.  That must have been before someone realized fireworks can be lethal, and moved them onto a barge.

The barge now bobs scenically offshore, surrounded by 5 or 6 squintillion boats.  It’s a lovely scene, joined this year by a lighted sign saying “Lydian.”  They’re the official fireworks sponsor, perhaps the least demanding sponsor in corporate history.  All they ask is 1 little sign.  All of Westport should say “thanks” to Lydian Asset Management.  I suppose it wouldn’t hurt if we handed all our investments to them either.

I’m not sure whether Lydian, Westport PAL or town officials were in charge of providing the spectacular near-full moon backdrop for the fireworks.  Some of the pyrotechnics seemed to actually frame the moon, or explode from within it.  Whoever took care of that — it was a great touch.

Andrew Lott and Riley Andrews fly patriotic colors on their Sportster.

Andrew Lott and Riley Andrews fly patriotic colors on their Sportster.

Then it was over, and the great migration began.  Thanks to that nearly full moon, it was clear to see the beach was a pig sty.  Polite people hauled their trash to the overflowing barrels.  The rest left blankets, umbrellas, tables, chairs and mountains of food right where they were.

But an amazing thing happens each year.  Parks and Rec immediately deploys an army of workers.  Patton-like, they get the job done.  And if you go down to Compo this morning, it will look like nothing at all happened last night.  The sand will be swept; the cans emptied.

And Westport can start partying all over again.

Happy 4th of July!