If you’re LGBTQ (the “Q” stands for either queer or questioning) — or you know someone who is — you can celebrate by watching “When Did You Know?”
That was last week’s webinar, sponsored by Westport Pride. Panelists — including former Staples High School principal John Dodig, former Staples High School tennis captain Luke Foreman, Staples Players alum Samantha Webstier, Weston High media influencer Zac Mathias, Staples teacher Kayla Iannetta, Westport moms Julie DeLoyd and Bethany Eppner, and Westport dad Brian McGunagle discuss their growing-up experiences, and life today.
It’s wide-ranging, informative and very, very human. Click here for the link. The passcode is “Westport06880!” (without the quotation marks).
You don’t have to be a Unitarian — or even religious — to enjoy next Saturday’s Fall Family Fun event. All (even singles) are welcome at (October 16, 2 to 5 p.m., Unitarian Church, 10 Lyons Plains Road).
Entirely outdoors, it includes a “Best of the ’70s” singalong with the lead singer of DizzyFish, a musical mural, cake carousel, rock painting and bobbing for apples. For COVID safety, bring your own food.
Lifelong Westporter Samuel DeMeo has died. He was 94.
A US Army World War II veteran, he was a member of Joseph J. Clinton VFW Post 399. He was an avid hunter, fisherman and gardener, and loved spending time at Compo Beach in Westport. He also played the accordion in a band.
He is survived by daughters Suzy DeMeo, Karen Sternberg and Lynn Smith, 6 grandchildren, 3 great-grandchildren and 2 great-great-grandchildren. He was pre deceased by his sisters Ellen Barker, Lynn DeMeo and Palma DeMeo. Services were private.
A beautiful sight was Staples High School’s Jinny Parker Field, where hundreds of Westporters of all ages banged out pushups for a great cause.
The 12th annual Push Against Cancer is a fundraiser for the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp — the wonderful respite for kids battling life-threatening diseases. It was developed by Westport’s beloved Paul Newman.
Participants solicited pledges, in return for pushups. The top 2 teams were Staples girls soccer ($24,178) and Staples boys soccer ($23.311).
It costs $2,500 to send one youngster to the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp for a week. Those 2 soccer programs alone will send 18 children there.
Add in the $140,000-plus raised by everyone else, and that’s nearly 80 boys and girls. Well done, Westport!
The Staples High School girls soccer team at the Push Against Cancer … (Photo/Charlotte Strandell)
On Saturday, friends and family of Steffi Friedman honored the Westport artist who died 2 years ago at 94, and dedicated a new work.
Her bronze “Pas de Deux” (2002) is now part of the Westport Public Art Collections. Installed for years on her Yankee Hill Road lawn, it now sits proudly in the Staples High School courtyard. The work was donated by her family, in gratitude of Westport’s cultural legacy, and Staples’ commitment to the arts.
The event was organized by Steffi’s daughter Margie — a 1972 Staples graduate — and town arts curator Kathie Bennewitz.
Performances include poetry from town poet laureate Diane Meyer Lowman, and dance by Staples alum Grace Bergonzi.
Friends and family admire Steffi Friedman’s sculpture. (Photo/Lynn Untermeyer Miller)
The River of Roses is one of Westport’s best fundraisers.
It’s probably the most colorful too.
The Survive-OAR program provides mental, physical and emotional healing after traditional treatment ends. It’s an empowering, supportive community for women to heal.
During next Sunday’s celebration (October 10, 4 p.m.) — honoring the Saugatuck Rowing Club’s Survive-OARS crew, plus anyone who has battling breast cancer (or is now) — names are read aloud, as rose petals are scattered into the Saugatuck River at high tide. They’re then swept out to sea.
Survive-OAR’s Kimberly Wilson will sing. There’s live music by Fake ID, plus Copp’s Island Oysters, a raw bar from Pagano’s Seafood, drinks, Chef Jason’s clam chowder and lobster bisque, and Donut Crazy treats.
Click here for tickets, donations, positivity bracelets and more. Questions? Email president and head coach Diana Kuen: diana@survive-OARS.org.
PS: Throughout October, new members can buy a one-month membership to the Saugatuck Rowing Club. 100% of the dues goes toward Survive-OARS.
Westporter Lisa Seidenberg had a letter published in yesterday’s New York Times Book Review.
It was a response to a review by Simon Winchester that mentioned the Futurama exhibit at the 1939 World’s Fair, and how General Motors drove many Americans into debt with the purchase of automobiles. That was a huge expense, in the post-Depression years.
Seidenberg knows the subject well. Her 2010 documentary on the Fair — “I Have Seen the Future” — premiered in Westport, before screenings at film festivals nationwide. It included commentary by the late Westport futurist Watts Wacker.
General Motors’ Futurama, at the 1939 World’s Fair.
Congratulations to the Longshore Ladies 9 Holers. Their annual charity golf event at Longshore raised an enormous amount of food donations for the Westport Woman’s Club food closet, plus $1,175 in cash.
Longshore ladies who golf — and raise money for good causes. From left: M.J. Fusaro, Eileen Hart, Mandy Germishuys, Julie Gray.
“At the Y this morning, we were shocked to see a very big wild cat walk by on the paved path outside the fitness center. This is an area used frequently by children and adults. I called 911 because in my experience, coming from California, large wild cats are dangerous. They should not be seen in urban areas alongside humans, as this indicates a lack of fear or illness that is even more dangerous.
The big cat.
Animal control assistant Peter Reid responded by email. He wrote:
“That is a decent-sized bobcat, and he is certainly walking around like he owns the place!
“That YMCA property used to be a summer camp, and was mostly woods. Now they have developed almost all of it, and with reduced cover, animal sightings have increased. We had a bear move through that property on several occasions this past summer.
“I will talk to the YMCA about some signage. I know there was at least one previous sighting earlier this week.
To celebrate, Westport Pride is sponsoring a virtual panel discussion. From 7 to 8:30 p.m. that day, an “A team” of LGBTQ area residents will answer “When did you know?” They’ll tell their own personal stories of self-realization, acceptance and coming out.
John Dodig, former Staples High School principal
Zac Mathias, Weston High School senior and media influencer
Samantha Webster, Staples High graduate and former Staples Player
Luke Foreman, Staples grad and varsity tennis captain
Jen DeLoyd and Bethany Eppner, Westport parents
Kayla Iannetta, Staples teacher and founder of the Westport Public Schools’ Pride Coalition
Brian McGunagle, Westport parent and founder of Westport Pride.
On the day before the holiday — October 30, noon to 4 p.m. — the historic theater hosts an outdoor family event. On tap: activities for kids, food trucks, a food drive for the community, beer tasting, scavenger hunt, raffle, and a costume parade (dogs welcome!).
Westport Police quickly identified the responsible party. They’re working with the state Attorney’s Office on a possible motive, and potential criminal charges.
The Westport Downtown Association quickly installed colored balloons, replacing those that were taken.
Replacing the colored lights. (Screenshot from News12)
And a group of volunteers — including Police Chief Foti Koskinas, RTM members Harris Falk and Sal Liccione, Emma Rojas of the WDA, Rae Suba of Child’s Play Clinic and activist Sarah Manning — hung the same banner that decorated the Pride rally 6 days earlier.
Where is it?
On the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge.
Not far from the lights that could not be dimmed by last night’s action.
Hanging proudly on the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge.
Last weekend’s LGBT Pride celebration on Jesup Green was a fantastic community event.
Singers sang upbeat, positive songs. Staples students held signs, held hands, and spoke with strength and clarity about how it feels to be openly gay. Young kids had their faces and nails painted. Same-sex couples embraced. A gay father held his 2-year-old son, as First Selectman Jim Marpe read a ringing proclamation.
Meanwhile – for the first time ever – a rainbow flag flew over Westport’s old, venerable and very beautiful Jesup Green.
None of it would have been possible without Brian McGunagle.
Brian McGunagle and his son Henry, with First Selectman Jim Marpe at last Saturday’s LGBTQ Pride celebration at Jesup Green. The town’s leader read a proclamation — and wore a rainbow tie. (Photo/Kerry Long)
From a germ of an idea last fall — what would it mean to have an LGBTQ organization in Westport? — he created, in less time than it takes to birth a baby, a townwide celebration of pride and joy.
But that’s not all.
Brian’s vision, leadership and boots-on-the-ground work were the impetus for the lighting of the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge this entire month. Lawn signs that are sprouting everywhere. The summer-long “Merchants of Pride” promotions.
And much more.
Brian did not do it all alone, of course. Dozens of folks helped: his friends, oldtime Westporters and newcomers, straight and gay parents, and an astonishingly creative, active, visionary and fun crew of Staples High School students (inspired by biology teacher and Gender Sexuality Alliance advisor Kayla Iannetta).
But Brian was the driving force. He brought everyone together, oversaw countless Zoom meetings, did the grunt work, and moved mountains to make it happen.
He did it all too while holding down a fulltime job. And studying for the Episcopal priesthood.
John F. Kennedy said that victory has a thousand fathers (and defeat is an orphan). Brian McGunagle — proud gay father of 2-year-old Henry — is this week’s Unsung Hero.
And — hey, why not, since this is June — let’s call him Father of the Year too!
(Do you know an Unsung Hero? Email email@example.com)
Over the years, Jesup Green has hosted anti-war and pro-war demonstrations. It’s seen rallies against nuclear arms, antisemitism and AAPI violence, and in support of Black Lives Matter.
Yesterday, Westport’s first LGBTQ Pride celebration took over the historic town lawn. For several years in the early 2000s, smaller events were held at the Unitarian Church.
This one drew 500 people. Spanning all ages, many faiths, and ranging from gay, lesbian, bi, trans and questioning to plenty of straight allies, they enjoyed the most beautiful day of the year so far. (Weather-wise, and in spirit.)
Kicking off a joyful day. (Photo/Kerry Long)
The crowd saw a rainbow flag fly over the green. They heard great music and inspiring speeches from out, proud teenagers. Politicians and clergy praised the progress made, and promised to keep working for social justice and civil rights. Kids had their faces painted.
Westport Pride organizer Brian McGunagle and his 2-year-old son Henry listen as 1st Selectman Jim Marpe — wearing a rainbow tie — reads a town proclamation. (Photo/Kerry Long)
It was a powerful, memorable community event. For some in the crowd, it could have been life-changing.
Another celebrant. (Photo/Lauri Weiser)
It made all who were there immensely proud of their town. (Click here for the News12 report.)
Proud clergy (from left): Rev. Heather Sinclair, United Methodist; Rev. Alison Patton, Saugatuck Congregational; Rev. Dr. John Morehouse, Unitarian; Rev. John Betit, Christ & Holy Trinity Episcopal; Rev. Marcella Gillis, Christ & Holy Trinity. Jewish clergy who were officiating at Saturday services sent their best wishes. (Photo/Dan Woog)
Showing the flag (Photo/Kerry Long)
State Senators Tony Hwang and Will Haskell. Haskell drew laughs when he said that his 3 gay brothers were disappointed the day he brought home a girl. (Photo/Kerry Long)
Staples Players were out in force — with their own prideful t-shirts. (Photo/Kerry Long)
Suzanne Sheridan helped organize Westport’s first Pride festival in 2002. She was part of the great entertainers, along with Stacie Lewis, Julie Loyd and many young singers. (Photo/Kerry Long)
Former Staples High School principal John Dodig is flanked by his husband Rodger Leonard (left) and Staples Gay-Sexuality Alliance co-advisor Chris Fray. Kayla Iannetta, a biology teacher, is the other advisor, and helped organize the event. (Photo/Dan Woog)
Cornell University football player AJ Konstanty and his brother Colin, a Staples junior, posed, then performed “Your Song” on keyboards and vocals. (Photo/Dan Woog)
Marjorie Almansi, who helped organized the day, stands with her next-door neighbors. (Photo/Dan Woog)
Staples singers entertain the large crowd. (Photo/Kerry Long)
US Congressman Jim Himes discusses past struggles, current successes, and future goals. (Photo/Kerry Long)
Pride was a family event. (Photo/Lauri Weiser)
Weston High School junior Zac Mathias: fashion model — and role model. (Photo/Dan Woog)
Everyone — and everything — gets into the act. (Photo/Kerry Long)
Start time for the Representative Town Meeting’s special June 8 (Tuesday) meeting to reconsider the Planning & Zoning’s adoption of a new zoning district that would enable a 157-unit development on Hiawatha Lane has been pushed ahead to 7 p.m.
However, the RTM will not address the petition until 7:30 p.m.
The meeting will be livestreamed on www.westportct.gov, and shown on Optimum channel 79 and Frontier channel 6020. To attend by video, send an email to RTMcomments@westportct.gov; include your name and address, to receive participation details.
Emails may be sent before the meeting to RTMmailinglist@westportct.gov; this goes to all RTM members.
It’s called “CT Trails Day.” But Friends of Sherwood Island are actually sponsoring two days — today and tomorrow — of activities at Connecticut’s first state park.
Today, there’s a Wonder of Flight Interactive Air Show (10 a.m. to 2 p.m.), featuring radio-controlled model planes, helicopters, gliders and drones, followed by a Butterfly Walk with Michele Sorenson (2 p.m.; meet at the Nature Center).
Tomorrow (Sunday), Louis Petig leads a Nature Walk at 1 p.m. along the Sound. It begins at the Nature Center, and includes birding locations, the Connecticut 9/11 memorial, model aircraft airport, trailheads, wetlands and a pine forest.
At last: There’s smooth sailing — well, driving — to the beach.
Just in time for this weekend’s 90-degree weather, Hillspoint Road has been repaved. Residents and beach-goers have been frustrated for weeks, after Aquarion’s work left the street rough and rutted.
Striping should begin next week, weather permitting.
RTM member Andrew Colabella credits teamwork with 1st Selectman Jim Marpe, Public Works director Peter Ratkiewich, RTM colleague Chris Tait, Joey’s by the Shore owner Hal Kravitz and resident Robin Tauck for helping move the project along.
Speaking of Tauck: The upscale guided tour and cruise company — based now in Wilton, but for many years a Westport operation, where many family members still live — will resume tour and river cruise operations in Europe, Africa and central America, beginning this month.
Some North America tours have already begun. Click here for details.
A limited audience saw Staples High’s first live musical performance of the school year last night.
Thunderstorms moved the first of 2 Pops Concerts was moved from the Levitt Pavilion to the auditorium. After a year of COVID, that hardly mattered.
A variety of choruses, orchestras and the freshman band entertained the socially distanced — but very grateful — crowd. Despite the masks, it was a sure sign that the district’s superb staff had shepherded through a very difficult year.
And that music makes us all truly alive.
The 2nd night of the Pops Concert — with other groups — is scheduled for tonight. All tickets have already been distributed.
Luke Rosenberg directs the Anima Cantorum.
Staples High School music instructors (from left): Luke Rosenberg, Candida Inanaco, Phil Giampietro, Carrie Mascaro, Jeri Muehleise. Innaco retires this year, after 36 years of teaching. (Photos/Dan Woog)
The Artists’ Collective celebrates Westport’s return to actual, live activities with 2 big events.
A pop-up art show opens in the Westport Country Playhouse barn June 12. It runs from 2 to 6 p.m. every day, through June 19. An artist’s talk on closing day begins at 4 p.m.
Participating artists include local favorites Lucienne Buckner, Miggs Burroughs, Elizabeth DeVoll, Charles Douthat, Susan Fehlinger, Noah Fox, Jen Greely, Toby Michaels, Nancy Moore, Mary Ann Neilson, Melissa Newman, Diane Pollack, Ellen Schiffman and Jahmane West.
The Collective’s very popular trunk show returns in the Westport Library’s lower parking lot: July 11 (11 a.m. to 4 p.m.).
What is the Artists’ Collective of Westport? Click below to learn more.
The return to indoor events came too late for the Westport Country Playhouse to stage its full summer productions.
But the venerable theater welcomes a series of special events, to support next year’s full reopening.
“Cabaret in the Robards” is 3 evenings of shows featuring Broadway talent, with music, song and comedy.
The first one — June 26 — is “An Evening with Brad Simmons and Tonya Pinkins.” She’s a Tony-winning Broadway veteran; he’s a famed music director and concert artist. They’ll combine for show favorites, contemporary covers, classics and more.
Congratulations to the Staples High School boys and girls tennis teams! Both are state champions!
The boys of coach Kris Hrisovulos defeated Westhill 7-0 yesterday, clinching their 5th straight — yes, 5th (!) — state “LL” (extra large schools) championship. They finished the season 22-1, shutting out all 4 state tournament opponents. Their only loss was to Darien, in the FCIAC final.
Singles winners yesterday were Tighe Brunetti, Robbie Daus, Brandon Felcher and Lucas Haymes. Doubles victors were Bradley Sheppard/Luke Brodsky, Alex Miller/Jack Motyl, and Matthew Chiang/Josh Suggs.
The 2021 state champion boys tennis team.
The girls of coach Paco Fabian beat Amity 4-3, for their 3rd straight title. Jenna Kornbluth’s 6-4, 6-1 victory at #4 singles clinched the match, after everyone else had finished.
Other victors for Staples: Karenna Birns (singles) and Elle Tesoriero/Audrey Kercher, and Carine Geijerstam/Maya Farber (doubles).
The 2021 state champion girls tennis team (Photo courtesy of The Ruden Report)=======================================================
Work continued on Railroad Place this morning.
During repaving, all the restaurant structures were removed. That’s done, and now all 3 restaurants — Harvest, Tarantino’s and Romanacci will be open this weekend.
In related news, Romanacci has taken over the former Commuter Coffee location It’s now a full restaurant, with bar.
Outdoors or in, Railroad Place is the place to be. And with reduced train travel, there’s plenty of parking nearby!
Your kid may not be a career farmer. But Wakeman Town Farm’s 2-week summer service program for 6th through 9th graders is a great outdoor, hands-on opportunity to learn about the land. And become more self-reliant and independent in the process.
Participants plant, water and harvest vegetables to be donated to local food pantries. Representatives from those agencies visit WTF, and discuss food insecurity in the area.
Teens and chefs also cook a nutritious meal for the Gillespie Center, using the Farm’s organic produce. They also run their own farm stand.
Students get to know the rabbits, ducks, chicken, sheep, goats and alpacas. They learn about animal care, feeding and halter training.
The program also explores environmental topics like composting, pollinator gardens and the Zero Waste initiative.
Mark Mathias spotted this at Stop & Shop yesterday:
Actually, the photo shows something that is not there.
Look closely. The supermarket has removed all those one-way directional arrows, which no one has followed for at least the past 10 months (if they ever did).
Stop & Shop is not the only place getting back to the pre-pandemic normal. Trader Joe’s shoppers no longer have to queue up, and be directed to a cashier; we’re now free to find our own, just as we did before March 2020.
And the Westport Weston Family YMCA has removed the absurd red tape on the stairs, demarcating the up and down sides. The staircase is way too narrow to have any effect.
Tomorrow’s “Songs for a Summer Evening: Music that Made Movies Magical” YouTube video benefits the Norwalk Sister City Project, a non-profit doing incredible community development work in a poor Nicaragua barrio.
But there’s a heavy Westport presence n the video. Broadway icon Kelli O’Hara, Staples Players stars Jamie Mann and Bridget Looby, and Emily Rabon Hall and her dad Bill Hall all join together to share the magic of music from the movies. Tom Kretsch is president of NSCP, and has worked with Bill Hall to create the video.
Click here for the link to the 7:30 video (and to donate), or click the link below:
Speaking of art: George Billis Gallery hosts an opening reception on Friday, June 18 (146 Main Street, 4 to 7 p.m.).
New artists include Westport-based Jarvis Wilcox. The gallery says: “His lush still life paintings are poetic with much emotional connections stimulating the viewer. Wilcox brings delight and insight as he discovers seeing and then making his works of art.”
Also in the exhibit: watercolorists Derek Buckner Paul Pitsker, still life artist Julian Cardinal and ceramicist Alice Federico.
The owner of 3 very popular Westport restaurants — Don Memo, Kawa Ni and The Whelk — is opening a cafe in the new Norwalk Art Space (455 West Avenue). The breakfast and lunch menu includes flour water salt and Idylwild breads, Riverbank Farm kimchee, and barbecue smoked turkey.
And more than 2 dozen local stores, restaurants and services have signed on to a first-ever Pride promotion. Some offer discounts to customers; others are donating a portion of sales to Westport Pride, the new community LGBTQ group
“Merchants of Pride” is available to everyone, of every conceivable sexuality. The only requirement is to have fun.
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