Tag Archives: Westport Rotary Club

LobsterFest: Old Tradition Embraces New Recycling

The Westport Rotary Club‘s LobsterFest is a great Westport tradition.

Over 300 volunteers serve 2,400 lobsters, 300 steaks, 1,600 ears of corn, and plenty of raw oysters to 1,200 ticketholders.

Though the goal is great — proceeds support more than 30 local organizations, plus international Rotary projects — it can be an environmental mess.

At the end of the event, there’s a lot of trash.

Where are you — well, all those volunteers — gonna put all those lobster and oyster shells, steak bones and husks, not to mention thousands of knives, forks, paper plates and napkins?

Don’t worry! These folks think of everything.

This year’s event — set for Saturday, September 21 (3 to 7 p.m., Compo Beach) — is environmentally friendly. Thanks to a partnership with Sustainable Westport, LobsterFest focuses as much on recycling as on raising money for charity.

Tony McDowell — Rotarian, former Fest chair and now a member of the organizing team — explains that this year’s feast picks up where other town local initiatives like the Maker Faire left off.

Last spring, that townwide event recycled in a big way. Every garbage can was labeled for the different type of trash to be deposited in it. Greens Farms Elementary School does the same thing, in their cafeteria.

Greens Farms El offers 3 choices for waste:

LobsterFest will do it too. A company will haul away lobster shells, and compostable plates, trays and cups. Almost all waste will be reused.

But not all. Some plastic knives and forks remain from last year. Moving forward, the event will use all corn-based utensils.

The red trays are plastic. But they’re reused every year.

LobsterFest is a fun, family event. Kids’ activities include the Melissa & Doug children’s tent. The Hot Rubber Monkey Band returns too.

A $60 ticket includes two 1-and-a-quarter-pound lobsters, or a 14-ounce New York strip steak, plus corn, cole slaw, bread and butter, potato salad, peppermint patties, and all the beer or wine you can drink. There’s also a $10 menu for children 12 and under.

Tickets are available only in advance. Click here to order online. They can also be purchased at Joey’s by the Shore, or from any Rotary Club member.

NOTE: The Westport Rotary LobsterFest is different from the Westport Lobster Festival, sponsored by Westport Lifestyles magazine. That event is September 28, at the Fairfield County Hunt Club; it includes a polo match and balloon festival.

No word yet on how much they’ll recycle their lobster shells, utensils and trays.

Photo Challenge #223

On the one hand, it might be called cheating that Rick Benson immediately knew the site of last week’s Photo Challenge.

Alec Head’s image showed the Rotary International symbol in cement. Rick said it was at a bus stop shelter — either in front of Super Stop & Shop, or on Kings Highway North near Canal Street. (It was the latter. Click here for the photo.)

Rick should know. As a longtime Westport Rotary Club member — he’s active at the state level too — he was a driving force behind both shelter projects.

On the other hand, it’s not cheating when we’re highlighting such good works. So let’s give Rick — and all of Rotary — a hand!

This week’s Photo Challenge is a 2-fer. They’re both taken in the same area. And — believe it or not — both are near a state route running through Westport.

If you think you know where you’d see these sights, click “Comments” below.

(Photos/Patrick Laffaye)

Photo Challenge #222

Last week’s Photo Challenge was a seahorse.

Okay, not a living one. This one’s a much larger sculpture.

For some reason, it’s located next to the Parker Mansion (former Mansion Clam House) outdoor dining area.

Diane Silfen, John D. McCarthy, Sue Iseman, Andrew Colabella, Christine Utter, Joelle Malec, Elizabeth Devoll, Peter Barlow, Susan Miller and Richard Santalesa all knew where to find it. (Click here for the photo.)

But no one has yet explained why it’s there. Or for how long. Or who created it. Or any other bit of back story.

If you know anything about this very cool seahorse, click “Comments” below.

Click “Comments” too if you know where in Westport you’d find this week’s Photo Challenge.

(Of course it’s the Rotary International symbol. But which particular local project does this honor? That’s the question!)

(Photo/Alec Head)

Unsung Heroes #66

Hundreds of Westporters enjoyed lobsters (and more) at last weekend’s annual Lobsterfest.

Hundreds more pack downtown every June for the Great Duck Race.

A few take advantage of a specialized wheelchair, to enjoy the sand and shore at Compo Beach.

All are events sponsored — and projects supported — by Westport’s 2 Rotary clubs.

One meets Tuesdays at noon, at Christ & Holy Trinity Church’s Branson Hall.

The Sunrise Rotary meets Fridays at 7:30 a.m., at the Westport Inn.

Both clubs are filled with busy Westporters, who nonetheless give astonishing amounts of time and energy to raise tons of money. Then they give it all away, to help people in town, across Connecticut, elsewhere in the US and around the world.

I am a huge fan of both the Sunrise and noontime Rotary Clubs. But I admit: I have a hard time keeping them apart.

No matter. Rotarians in both groups put aside their friendly (I think) rivalry, to support each other’s good works — and Rotary International in general.

You may have no idea that so much good comes out of so much hard work, by so many neighbors.

That’s why Westport’s 2 Rotary Clubs are this week’s Unsung Heroes.

(To nominate an Unsung Hero, email dwoog@optonline.net)

Unsung Hero #48

Earlier this year, WestportNow celebrated its 15th anniversary.

Since 2003 the site has provided readers with political news, police reports, coverage of community events like library talks and fundraisers, obituaries, photos of sunrises and sunsets, and the immensely popular “Teardown of the Day.”

The founder, editor and publisher is Gordon Joseloff. He gave up his editor’s post between 2005 and 2013 — that’s when he served 2 terms as the town’s 1st selectman — but he’s been back at the helm ever since.

Gordon Joseloff (Photo/Lynn Untermeyer Miller)

Joseloff’s journalistic chops are real. He worked for UPI. Then, during 16 years at CBS News, he rose from a writer for Walter Cronkite and Dan Rather to correspondent, senior producer and bureau chief in New York, Moscow and Tokyo.

Joseloff covered the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the downing of Korean Air Lines flight 007, the assassination of India Prime Minister Indira Gandhi (for which he won an Emmy Award in 1984), the Bhopal gas leak, and the overthrow of Philippines President Fernando Marcos.

And he’s a Westport native. His family’s roots run deep: They owned downtown property including the Fine Arts Theater, a very popular spot for over 8 decades. (Today it’s Restoration Hardware.)

Joseloff was a teenage reporter for the Westport Town Crier, and helped create the predecessor of Staples’ WWPT radio station, broadcasting at Compo Beach.

Prior to running for first selectman, Joseloff served 14 years on the Representative Town Meeting (RTM) — 10 of them as moderator.

A member of Westport Rotary and an honorary member of the Westport Historical Society advisory council, Joseloff is also a volunteer firefighter, and a former Emergency Medical Technician.

Congratulations on 15 years to WestportNow — and thanks to Gordon Joseloff, its founder, guiding light, and this week’s Unsung Hero.

 

State Of The Town

Presidents make State of the Union speeches. Governors have their own (weirdly named) State of the States.

Now Westport introduces the State of the Town.

Unlike the other events, this one is a public forum. Questions are welcome from normal (as in, you and I) citizens.

It’s set for Sunday, January 28 (4 p.m., Town Hall). First Selectman Jim Marpe and Board of Education chair Michael Gordon will discuss town and school issues. Both are in charge of big budgets — and both wield important influence on what this town is, and where it’s going.

The State of the Town is a joint project of Westport Sunrise Rotary and the Westport Rotary Club. Incoming presidents Eileen Flug and Jeff Wieser joined current presidents Ron Holtz and Susie Basler to make the event a reality.

The State of the Town is a great way to learn what’s going on — and give feedback.

And enjoy fine refreshments, courtesy of Panera Bread.

No Bull! Westporters Run At Pamplona

Rick Benson, Jack Fanning, Drew Murphy and Rod Smith met in 1988. All had toddlers. They — the adults, that is — helped plan and build the Compo Beach playground.

It was dangerous work. Not the physical labor — just getting it approved was tough. There was significant opposition: It will ruin the vista! Teenagers will hang out there, drinking and having sex! It will attract out-of-towners!

But they — and others — persisted. Today the beach playground is one of our town’s great attractions.

The men have remained friends ever since. This year, they decided to do something even scarier than building that playground.

They would run with the bulls at Pamplona.

The bulls at Pamplona.

If you’ve been living under a rock all these years — or hanging out at a playground — and never heard of that bizarre ritual, it’s this:

Every year, for 9 days during the Feast of Saint Fermin, over 1,000 people join 6 bulls (and 6 herding steers) in the narrow, winding medieval streets of the Spanish town.

The men — and the runners are nearly all male (go figure) — try not to get gored or (yes) killed in the 2-minute race to a large bull ring. Once inside, there’s even more chasing — and being chased by — the bulls.

What could be more fun?!

RB and Rick Benson in the Plaza del Toro bull ring, Pamplona.

The Westporters were joined by others: Benson’s son RB, Fanning’s son Mikey and Smith’s son Tyler; Joey Laurita and his cousin Bryan.

All have Westport connections.

They spent 3 days in Pamplona. They watched one day from the balcony of La Perla — the same hotel where Ernest Hemingway stayed, when he wrote “The Sun Also Rises.” The 1926 novel lifted an obscure Spanish ritual into a worldwide phenomenon.

All ran at least one day with the bulls.

(From left): RB Benson, Joey Laurita, Mike Fanning, Joey’s cousin Bryan and Tyler Smith. They all look relieved — and alive.

“It’s not as scary as it’s sometimes portrayed,” Rick Benson reports.

However, he notes, “Some people are definitely less cautious than we were.”

The craziest folks are in front of the bulls, or near their horns. The Westport contingent ran alongside the 1,500-pound animals.

Which is why they’re back home today, able to tell this great tale.

(PS: Rick Benson does not know what everyone else’s next adventure is. But this fall, he heads to Africa. He’s spent the past months raising funds with Rotary Clubs throughout the state. In Kenya, he’ll help oversee a $135,000 school renovation. In Nigeria, it’s a $120,000 water sanitation project. Both are a long way from Pamplona — and the Compo Beach playground.)

Running with the bulls sure gives you an appetite. The Westport contingent dined well.

Staples, Farmers’ Market, Gillespie Center: Seed, Feed And Lead

The Westport Farmers’ Market opened for its 12th season last month.

As usual, plenty of vendors offered everything from locally grown and raised produce and meat, to honey and bread.

The crowd was large. The vibe (and weather) was warm. Another year was underway.

And — for the 9th year — the Market will partner with 2 other important town programs: the Gillespie Center, and Staples High School’s culinary classes.

It’s a win-win-win. In fact, it’s one of the most intriguing partnerships around.

Once a month — at the end of Thursdays, as vendors close up — the Farmers’ Market purchases unsold food. Volunteers transport it to Staples.

There, chef Cecily Gans’ students create unique menus, and prepare wholesome, nutritious meals. The Farmers’ Market picks those up and takes them to the Gillespie Center — Westport’s emergency shelter.

Gans’ students — with help from Rotary Club members and the Farmers’ Market — then serve the meals they’ve cooked.

“Seed, feed and educate” is the way WFM director Lori Cochran-Dougall describes the 3-prong partnership. They call it “Farms to School to Community.”

“We’re lucky to live in a privileged area,” she says. “This program allows kids to see neighbors who have fallen on hard times in a different light.”

Relationships bloom. Last year, an older man gruffly refused vegetables.

“My mom always says to eat all your vegetables,” a girl replied.

His face softened. He took some.

Fresh strawberries, tomatoes and other produce are used creatively — and deliciously by Staples’ culinary students.

Soon, he was back for more. He told the teenager he had not tasted tomatoes like that since his mother served them.

“People in Westport are very generous with their donations to the Gillespie Center,” Gans says. “But there’s not a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables.

“We bring in high, nutrient-dense foods. That makes a difference. Think about how you or I would function if we didn’t eat well.”

Gans’ students appreciate the opportunity to cook for the residents — and to make their menus count. Each month, the ingredients are different.

Among the recipes: Hungarian gulyas; butternut squash pasta; asparagus with miso lemon dressing; quinoa tabouleh with parsley and mint, and curried pumpkin with raisin.

“They think outside the box,” their instructor says. “They’re creative. They get the opportunity to serve, and see the needs of their community. Their level of responsibility really impresses me.”

Three graduating seniors — Christian Franceze, Alex Ialeggio and Ryan Liu — have been involved for all 4 years at Staples. Next year, Gans counts on juniors to fill their shoes.

Chef Cecily Gans’ students prepare food for the Gillespie Center.

The students build strong relationships with the WFM farmers and vendors. “We’re there at the beginning of the Farmers’ Market season, and the end,” Gans says. “We do whatever we can for them. They do the same for us.”

Cochran-Dougall echoes that sentiment. The director praises everyone in the community who participates — including the major funders, the Rotary and Sunrise Rotary Clubs.

In return, the Staples students print and share the menus they’ve created. It’s one more way to help nourish the town.

(Interested in donating to the Westport Farmers’ Market for this project? Click here — and earmark it for the Gillespie Center.)

Lobster Fest!

A lovely late-summer day.

Beer and wine. Music. A huge crowd of friendly, sociable people, ready to mix, mingle, kick back and chill.

And of course about 3,000 lobsters, shipped in yesterday from Nova Scotia.

Those were the ingredients for today’s Lobster Fest.

In just 5 years, the Rotary Club event has become a major highlight on the Westport calendar.

It’s the biggest block party in town. It’s Compo and community at its best.

And — best of all — it raises about $75,000, which the Rotary Club plows right back into good causes locally, nationally and abroad.

If you weren’t there, you missed a fantastic party.

And some really amazing lobsters.

lobsterfest-fresh-lobsters

The stars of the show.

Rotary Board member Rick Benson claws State Representative Gail Lavielle.

Rotary Board member Rick Benson claws State Representative Gail Lavielle.

Homes With Hope CEO and Lobster Fest volunteer Jeff Wieser pours a beer for 1-year-old Andy Wolf. Her dad, Jim, looks on amused.

Homes With Hope CEO and Lobster Fest volunteer Jeff Wieser pours a beer for 1-year-old Andy Wolf. Her dad, Jim, looks on amused.

Nearby, a slightly older youngster explored the Beaver Beer car.

Nearby, a slightly older youngster explored the Beaver Beer car.

First Selectman Jim Marpe and his wife Mary Ellen were also Lobster Fest volunteers.

First Selectman Jim Marpe and his wife Mary Ellen were Lobster Fest volunteers.

As the sun set on Lobster Fest, no one wanted to leave.

The sun set on Lobster Fest, but no one wanted to leave.

At the end, not much remained of the 3,000 lobsters.

At the end, not much remained of the 3,000 lobsters.

Saturday’s Lobster Fest Still On!

Yesterday’s thunderstorm knocked down several tents at Compo Beach. Three people were injured.

Folks wondered if the damaged tents would force cancellation of Saturday’s Lobster Fest — a major fundraiser for the Westport Rotary Club, and the town’s 2nd-largest community beach party (after the fireworks).

Have no fear. Tie those bibs. The Rotary Club promises that Lobster Fest is “100% still on.”

The tents are being fixed today (and the hundreds of chairs underneath them righted). Supplies arrive tomorrow. The fresh lobsters will come moments before they’re devoured.

Also featured at the 5th annual event: Jeff Northrup’s Hummock Island oysters; Baxter Urist and Bill O’Brien’s Beaver Beer, live music and more. Over 1,200 seafood lovers are expected to attend.

lobsterfest

Lobster Fest hopes to raise $75,000 for local, regional and international causes. The Westport Rotary Club does plenty of good, for plenty of folks. They’ve got a big tent, both figuratively and — now that it’s back up at the beach — literally.

The weather forecast for Saturday is clear, with a high of 76. Perfect lobster-eating weather!

(Lobster Fest is set for Saturday, Sept. 17, from 3-7 p.m. at Compo Beach. Click on www.westportrotary.org for more information, or to purchase tickets — they will not be sold after Friday. Parking is free for all attendees. )