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 firstname.lastname@example.org)
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.
Around the world, Pride Month — commemorating one of the first uprisings against police raids on gay bars, at the Stonewall Inn in June 1969 — is celebrated with parades, festivals, discussions and more.
Next month, Pride comes to Westport.
Actually, it’s already here. Formed just 5 months ago, a new group — Westport Pride — has developed an ambitious slate of events for June.
With dozens of members, from teenagers through grandparents — and hundreds of followers on social media — Westport Pride’s goal is to raise the visibility of LGBTQ residents and issues; increase understanding; provide mentors; inspire future leaders, and share the LGBTQ community’s culture and accomplishments.
They’ll do it with an array of events. Some are live, some virtual. Some will be educational; others, fun. All are important.
Westport Pride kicks off June 2 (7 p.m., Zoom) with a discussion on the past, present and future of LGBT life here. Panelists include Pride founder Brian McGunagle, Staples High School Gender Sexuality Alliance faculty advisor Kayla Iannetta, and members of that GSA. The moderator is … me. Click here for the link.
On June 4, Staples High celebrates Pride. The day-long event includes music, buttons, and an art show featuring submissions from Staples’ LGBTQ community. Rainbow attire is welcomed.
The original rainbow flag. Other colors have been added, symbolizing transgender issues and the AIDS crisis.
The next day — Saturday, June 5 (10 a.m. to noon) — is the Big One. The entire town is invited to Jesup Green for a Pride Rally. Youth (and non-youth) will speak, sing and perform. Clergy and political leaders will join together (with 1st Selectman Jim Marpe issuing a Pride Month proclamation). A rainbow flag will fly, and there will be children’s art activities too.
Westport elementary schools get in the spirit on June 15 with “You Be You Spirit Day.” Begun by a Coleytown Elementary School student in 2019, it’s a celebration of what makes each child special.
This year’s theme is “What Makes You Shine?” Activities include a Staples student-created video, suggested book readings, and a self-portrait art project. Children (and parents) can proudly wear “You Be You” t-shirts and other apparel (click here to purchase).
MoCA Westport celebrates Pride June 25 through August 21 with “Love Wins.” The exhibit highlights the issues, themes and conversations of the local LGBTQ community, and beyond. Featured artists include Staples graduate Noah Fox, and a mural designed by Staples senior Poppy Livingstone.
All month, a large banner — designed by Staples senior Claire Hanley — will hang on the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge (which will be lit by rainbow lights). The project was a collaboration between Staples’ GSA and the Westport Downtown Association.
Baker Graphics offers Westport Pride lawn signs, with a “Pride in Town/Pride in Each Other” message. They’re available at the 1753 Post Road East location, at a Pride-special $10 price.
JL Rocks is one of many local businesses supporting Westport Pride.
Other businesses are joining too. A “Summer of Love/Merchants of Pride” promotion with Pride-themed items and events includes JL Rocks, Savvy + Grace, WEST, Franny’s Farmacy, Fourth & Pride Vodka, Bespoke Designs, Le Rouge by Aarti, Purpose 2 Purchase, Rosebud Slumber Parties, Grammie’s, JoyRide, Norwalk Crossfit, The Row House, Pure Barre, Amis Trattoria, The Whelk and Don Memo.
But Westport Pride is not stopping after Pride Month. In the works: a Book Club discussion with the Westport Library about the true crime story “Last Call,” a killer who preyed upon gay men (July 22; click here); a panel with the Westport Weston Clergy Association; events for Coming Out Day in October, and more.
Westport has a long LGBTQ history. The Brook was one of the first gay bars in the area — and, when it closed in 2011, the oldest continually operating one in the country.
Staples sponsored the first Gay Straight Alliance of any public school in Connecticut.
A Staples High School GSA bulletin board near the cafeteria provides education and history.
Fairfield County’s inaugural Gay Pride celebration was held at the Unitarian Church. It, and other religious institutions, have been strong proponents for inclusion for years.
What’s happening now builds on that past. It honors the present, and empowers the future.
I’ll be proud to see you on Jesup Green — and everywhere else — next month.
PRIDE PS: Senior Ben Zack says, “I believe we are working toward the very important mission of educating people, creating acceptance and celebrating the LGBTQ community in our town. Even more importantly, we are setting the groundwork so that youth who are questioning have a place to turn, an organization that supports them and helps reduce the struggles they go through because of fear of accepting who they are.”
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