Tag Archives: Westport PAL

“Saving” A Spot For Tomorrow’s Fireworks? Read This!

It’s inevitable.

Moments after the sun rises tomorrow, someone will send me a photo like this:

Or this:

Or this:

I’m not sure who these people are, who think that reserving massive swaths of sand — or long picnic tables, with “You Cannot Reserve Tables” plastered prominently on them — is cool.

Well, actually I do. They’re all named Dick.

Don’t be like Dick. If you want a prime spot, pick a little bit of it. And have someone stay there all day. You can even hire some kid — yours, or someone else’s — to do it.

If the situation gets even more out of hand than it recently has — and it’s gotten grosser and greedier every year for the past few — we might want to consider the Shore & Country Club solution.

It’s private — but a prime viewing site for Norwalk’s fireworks (also July 3). Alert “06880” reader David Loffredo forwarded an email, from the club to members.

In late June, members who wanted a picnic table for fireworks day could click a link, to enter a drawing. They could request marina or beachhouse side, or covered or uncovered — but nothing was guaranteed.

Winners were selected randomly, and assigned a random table. Each table will be labeled with the member’s name.

One more, for good measure. (Photo/Amy Schneider)

What a great idea! We could auction off not only South Beach tables but prime spots of sand, from the cannons to the Soundview jetty.

It could even be a fundraiser for PAL (or Parks & Rec, for beach improvements): $5 to enter. If you don’t pay, you can’t play…

Better yet: a raffle! Tables and plots of sand could be clearly marked online; click on one, and bid. Just think how much that would raise 🙂

But here’s the best idea of all — and we can do it tomorrow.

Confiscate any unattended stuff, and charge Dick and his friends to get it back.

If it’s not claimed by, say, 6 p.m.: Sell it to whoever wants it.

Some of those tents, beach chairs, tables, coolers, portable grills — and the food in them — are pretty pricey. They could fund an entirely new bathroom!

PAL Fireworks And Parking Passes: The Back Story Many People Miss

Since 2003, Westport PAL has awarded over $400,000 in college scholarships.

In the past few years they’ve donated $153,000 to the Field of Dreams turf field project, $49,000 to Westport Baseball and Softball, $23,000 to Special Olympics, $15,000 to the Compo Beach playground, and hundreds of thousands of dollars more to many worthy, kid-related causes.

Each year, they help sponsor the 4th of July* fireworks. They are allowed to sell a maximum of 2,000 Compo Beach parking passes. The cost — $35 per vehicle — has not risen in years.

Last year, they sold fewer than 1,900. Yet an estimated 15,000 party-goers thronged the beach, for the best community event of the year.

You do the math.

A small portion of the very large crowd.

Westport PAL was organized in 1948. A few years later, they started the fireworks tradition.

It takes a ton of work. The volunteer organization partners with the Westport Police, Fire and Parks and Recreation Departments; EMS; Fireworks by Grucci — and many others — to make the event a smash.

About 20 years ago, PAL offered to hand it over to the town. First Selectwoman Diane Farrell said thanks, but no thanks.

Everyone — including out-of-towners — pitches in to make the fireworks a success.

The fireworks is PAL’s biggest fundraiser of the year. Proceeds help run programs in football, lacrosse, basketball, wrestling, cheerleading, rugby and track. They impact thousands of boys and girls each year.

In addition to the recipients of PAL money listed earlier, recent donations include $24,000 for health and wellness programs, $20,000 for lights at Staples High School, $5,000 for wrestling mats, $2,000 for a WWPT-FM Wrecker Radio tent, thousands to Staples’ Gridiron Club — the list goes on and on.

The fireworks is a true community effort. Melissa & Doug — the internationally highly regarded, locally owned children’s toy company — generously covers the cost of the actual pyrotechnics each year. (Grucci offers 3 levels. Westport’s is the top-tier.)

Happy birthday, America! (Photo/Suzanne Sherman Propp)

But PAL picks up other costs: the barge ($15,000 a day). The Cobra marching band, with Sapphire dancers. The Nassau County bomb squad. Food and drinks for police, fire and Parks and Rec workers (beyond what Jersey Mike’s provides). This year, PAL is even springing for a new barge mooring.

PAL president Ned Batlin, and past president/current vice president Sam Arciola, are both Staples grads. They grew up going to the fireworks — and playing PAL sports.

They want Westporters to know: Those $35 parking passes are not a ripoff.

They’re a bargain.

Parks and Rec operations supervisor Dan DeVito helps collect tickets. The process is quick and easy.

Last year’s non-sellout — despite the packed beach — was part of a trend. Some fireworks-goers arrive by Uber. Others park — as far away as the Children’s Community Development Center on Hillspoint Road — and walk in.

Of course, there are people like the homeowner on Soundview Drive. Like many neighbors, he throws a huge fireworks bash every year.

But he also buys 30 parking passes, and gives them to guests. He wants to support PAL; he doesn’t want friends to freeload.

Party on Soundview!

“One of our longtime executive directors, PJ Romano, used to say, ‘It’s all about the kids,'” Batlin says.

“PAL — and the fireworks — is all about local police and citizens who really care about the town, and everyone in it. We want to keep doing what we’re doing. But if we don’t sell out, it really handcuffs our ability to help.”

That’s the back story too few people know. So pony up, Westporters. PAL needs you to buy those fireworks parking passes.

They’re available at the Parks & Rec office in Longshore (opposite the golf pro shop) during business hours, and 24/7 at police headquarters (50 Jesup Road). You can pay by cash or check (“Westport PAL”).

If — er, when — they sell out, you can buy a pass to park at Longshore. Dattco donates buses, which shuttle back and forth to the beach from 5:45 to 11 p.m.

With a police escort.

*Okay, the 3rd of July. You know what I mean.

Westport’s fireworks are timeless. This shot is from 2016. (Photo/Patricia McMahon)

Pic Of The Day #745

(Photo/Steve Perkins)

Rugby is a favorite South African sport. Westporter Steve Perkins was born there, and wanted to find a club here for his son.

Deputy Police Chief Sam Arciola and Westport police officer Ned Batlin helped Steve organize a rugby program, through the Westport PAL. Westport’s Parks & Recreation Department also helped.

Staples High School head rugby coach David Lyme has helped the program grow into 3 teams: Under 10 (non-contact), and U-12 and U-14 (full contact). Very quickly, the young Westporters have become formidable ruggers.

They’ll feed into the Staples program, which currently fields 4 teams for nearly 100 players.

In the photo above, Steve’s son Ari Perkins (blue) battles Aspetuck, in U-14 action at Wakeman Field.

Tommy Greenwald: Football’s “Game Changer”

Like many Americans, Tommy Greenwald has a complicated relationship with football.

He was thrilled when his son Jack played.

“If I saw him limping or shaking his head, I’d say ‘Get back out there!'” Tommy says. “I was as happy to see my kid hitting and getting hit as anyone else.”

In 8th grade, Jack hurt his ankle. “My first concern was not going to the doctor,” Greenwald admits. “It was, could he finish the game?”

Jack had a great football career, with Westport PAL and Staples High School. His father appreciates what he learned from intense practices, tough games and his relationship with his coaches.

But, Greenwald says, “the football culture — with its pressure to be tough and strong, to play hurt, to not be perceived as soft” — has its downsides.

That’s the heart of “Game Changer.” Published this month, it’s the local author’s 10th book — and a departure from his previous “Charlie Joe Jackson” (named for his 3 sons) and “Crimebiters” young readers’ series.

Jack Greenwald (center), with his brothers Charlie and Joe.

There’s not a laugh to be had in this one. There are no wise guys, no dog with special powers.

“Game Changer” is deadly serious — almost literally.

13-year-old Teddy lies in a coma after a football injury during preseason camp. His family and teammates flock to his bedside to support his recovery — and at the same time trade rumors and theories on social media.

Was this a tragic but fairly common result of a violent sport? Or did something more sinister — bullying and hazing perhaps — happen on the field that day?

“Game Changer” is different type of book. It mixes together dialogue, text messages, newspaper stories — and Teddy’s own inner thoughts.

It’s different too in that it’s a no-holds-barred look at the terrifying risks of a major American sport — and the entire culture supporting it.

Greenwald is emphatic that this is a work of fiction. He added an author’s note to that effect at the end. He says he never saw or heard anything like what happened in “Game Changer” during Jack’s Westport career.

But, Greenwald says, it is “based on a culture I saw through Jack. It’s not far-fetched that this could happen. We’ve all heard about terrible cases in college, high school, even middle school.”

“Game Changer” is not, he insists, a condemnation of football. “My respect for coaches, the life lessons they taught, the lifelong friendships Jack made, is amazing,” Greenwald says.

He calls Westport PAL and Staples “great programs.” And Greenwald has done enough research to know that football in Fairfield County — while intense — is “a dust speck compared to programs around the country. When football is the dominant event in a community, the pressure ratchets up unbelievably. Westport seems to have a good balance. We don’t pin our hopes and dreams on young kids.”

But his book is “a wake-up call for everyone — including me,” he adds. “People — including me — have to pay more attention to the culture and the injuries” of football.

Tommy Greenwald

Greenwald never had to confront the even more dangerous effects of football at the higher level. Though Jack was “semi-recruited” for college, he ended up at Elon and did not play. He graduated from there last June, and now works at a Boston cyber-security firm.

“Jack’s era was a tipping point,” Greenwald says. “The media started focusing on concussions, and parents started looking at football differently. If Jack wanted to play in college, that would have been a much larger discussion.”

Greenwald — who won a state championship as a Staples High School soccer captain in 1978, and whose son Joe was a Wrecker soccer captain in 2012 — remains a “huge” NFL fan.

“I read, like everyone else, about the dangers,” he says. “And like everyone else I camp out every Sunday looking for the best games.

“It’s a weird feeling to like a game you probably shouldn’t.”

(Tommy Greenwald will host a discussion on the pros and cons of youth sports at Barnes & Noble this Sunday [October 7, 12 p.m.] Panelists include his own son Jack; former Staples High School, Temple University football captain and Staples assistant coach Mac DeVito, and Dan Woog — in my role as Staples boys soccer head coach.)

Unsung Hero #55

Today is July 4.

Westport jumps the gun a bit on our fireworks celebration. We held ours Monday night. It’s the town’s biggest and best party of the year.

The cost is just $35 — and that’s only if you want to park at Compo. (Plus, you can pack as many people as you want into your vehicle.)

Otherwise you can park at Longshore, the office complex on Greens Farms Road or a friend’s house, and walk to the beach.

Still, people complain.

The $35 — a price that has remained the same for years — helps fund Westport PAL. They’ve sponsored the event for years. Recently, Melissa & Doug have helped out, ensuring that more of the money goes back to PAL programs.

Under the direction of Westport Police officer Ned Batlin — and a small group of volunteers — PAL does plenty. For example, they provide:

  • Youth sports teams and clinics. Each year, over 2,000 youngsters participate in 20 or so programs, including football, wrestling, cheerleading and much more.
  • The ice rink at Longshore (one of Westport’s favorite winter activities, for people of all ages and abilities).

The PAL Longshore Ice Rink.

  • Equipment and other needs for a variety of Staples High School teams.
  • College scholarships (more than 300 graduates so far, and counting).
  • Support for Toys for Tots, DARE and other programs.

That’s just the tangible stuff. By partnering with so many efforts, Westport PAL shows kids that the police really are their pals.

Westport PAL is our July 4th Unsung Heroes.

And every other day too.

Officer Ned Batlin, Police Chief Foti Koskinas and Deputy Chief Sam Arciola all help Westport PAL go.

Enjoy The Fireworks! But Read This First.

Every year, folks are surprised by Westport’s July 4th fireworks rules.

For one thing, they’re surprised they’re not on July 4th. (This year they’re set for Monday, July 2.)

For another, they’re surprised that:

  • They need a ticket to get into Compo Beach
  • They’re not permitted in until 5 p.m. — unless they’re already there before 4 p.m.
  • There’s a lot of traffic.

The fireworks are Westport’s best party of the year. The $35 ticket — which allows you to cram as many people into your vehicle as you want — helps the PAL run programs that benefit thousands of youngsters.

So be ready! Whether you have a ticket or not, if you plan to be at the beach, read the rules. And have a great 4th 2nd!

Daily Passes will not be sold after 12 p.m. on Monday.

Compo Beach will close at 4 p.m. All vehicles without a PAL Fireworks ticket must vacate Compo Beach and the Soundview lot at 4.

FOR TICKET HOLDERS:

  • Access to the PAL Fireworks display is through Compo Road South only. Hillspoint Road south of Greens Farms Road will be open only to residents with homes south of that intersection.
  • Firework attendees should display the fireworks ticket prominently on the dashboard.

FOR THOSE WHO DO NOT HAVE TICKETS:

  • Vehicles without a ticket can go no further toward Compo Beach than the Minute Man monument. Shuttle buses will run from the Longshore marina to Compo Beach.
  • Those utilizing Uber, Lyft, or taxi services will be directed straight past the Minute Man monument on Compo Road South. From there, they can walk from the area of Compo Road South and Soundview Drive to the beach. NOTE: If you choose to use this method of transportation, return service will not be available until after 11 p.m., due to 1-way traffic exiting the beach area.

Fireworks Tickets On Sale Now!

No one snoozes during Westport’s Independence Day fireworks.

But if you snooze too long now, you’ll have a tough time seeing them at Compo Beach.

Parking at Compo for the 62nd annual fireworks — which, in true Westport tradition, are blasted off a barge not on July 4th but, this year, on Monday July 2 — is by ticket only.

Sales — which began today — are limited, and on a first-come, first-serve basis. Once they sell out, shuttle passes from Longshore are available for purchase.

Tickets are available at Westport Police Department headquarters (50 Jesup Road), and the Parks and Recreation office (in Longshore, near the first tee).

The price is $35 per car (pack ’em in!). Before you bitch and moan: Proceeds go to Westport PAL, to support many programs — and thousands of kids.

And before you complain that the fireworks are sponsored by Melissa & Doug — the international (and locally owned) toy company — remember that because of them, PAL does not have to shell out money for all those firework shells.

Absolutely worth $35!

Pics Of The Day #218

Don’t mess with these girls.

Police and teenagers threw balls at each other’s heads — and cheered for each other — at tonight’s annual Dodge-a-Cop tournament in the Staples High School fieldhouse.

Sponsored by the Westport Youth Commission, Staples’ Teen Awareness Group, the Westport Police Youth Collaborative and PAL, it’s a chance for a couple of hundred kids and a couple of dozen cops to play dodgeball, eat pizza, win trophies, raise money, and hang out.

Teams came in costume. Police took off their holsters and cuffs. It was a great night for all.

Whether it’s Staples Wrecker blue, or the men (and women) in blue, the message was clear: Blue lives matter.

A typical team — with actual cops on the far left and far right.

Pic Of The Day #168

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month — and to raise awareness, the entire Westport PAL 8th grade football team is wearing pink socks, (Photo/Miki Scarfo)

July 3!

Last year, some hard-to-please Westporters bitched and moaned because the 4th of July fireworks were held on June 30th.

Folks have complained about July 1 and 2 dates too.

There are several reasons why we can’t do fireworks on July 4. But this year we’ve got the next best thing.

The 2017 show — produced by Westport PAL, sponsored by Melissa & Doug, with fireworks from the great Gruccis — are scheduled for Monday, July 3.

Tickets for the 61st annual event go on sale tomorrow (Thursday, June 1). They’re available — first-come, first-serve — at the Police Department (50 Jesup Road) and the Parks and Rec  office (Longshore, across from the 1st tee).

Westporters also sometimes bitch and moan that the cost is $35 per car. Well, proceeds fund a ton of PAL programs. And the entire evening is unrivaled for fun, and a community feeling.

Oh, yeah: The rain date is Wednesday, July 5.

We’ve got the 4th surrounded.

Westport’s fireworks, as seen from Hillspoint Road.