Tag Archives: Westport Rotary Club

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. )

Rotary Duck Succumbs To Heat

Sunny — the 23-foot inflatable duck promoting Westport Sunrise Rotary’s Great Duck Race on June 4 — has been the most popular downtown attraction since The Crane.

After hanging out by the library, he moved over to more ducky territory: the Saugatuck River.

Today’s near-90-degree heat must have gotten to him, though. Alert “06880” reader Dorian Barth spotted Sunny keeled over:

(Photo/Dorian Barth)

(Photo/Dorian Barth)

Or maybe he was just resting.

Get Your Lobster On!

All summer long, Compo’s South Beach is the site of scrumptious-looking lobster bakes.

As summer ends (officially), there’s one last lobster cookout. And everyone is invited.

Westport Rotary‘s LobsterFest is set for this Saturday (September 19, 3-7 p.m.). It’s a great event — 2 lobsters or a New York strip steak plus corn, cole slaw, potato salad and all the beer and wine you can drink — for a great cause (Westport Rotary does amazing service, here and around the globe).

The beach is a fitting spot for lobster, of course. But it’s also familiar territory to Damon Grant. The percussionist headlines this year’s entertainment.

Damon Grant

Damon Grant

Before he became a musician, the world-class sideman — who has worked with Madonna and Parliament Funkadelic, and will be seen soon in “Daredevil” — dreamed of becoming a marine biologist.

Growing up in Norwalk, he had fish tanks all over his parents’ house. During high school, he worked at the Maritime Aquarium.

After a biology teacher turned him off to science, he became increasingly drawn to music. At Norwalk High School, he drummed in nearly every ensemble.

Grant earned a B.A. in jazz performance from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. He’s just released a new album, Prevailing Melodies.

He and his fellow musicians will play “mellow, beach-y” music on Saturday. In other words: Music to eat lobster by.

(Tickets are $50 each, available at www.westportrotary.org, at Joey’s By the Shore and from Rotary Club members. Funds generated benefit over 30 local non-profit organizations.)

 

The Baldwin Family Returns

It started with a Google alert.

A grandson of Herbert Baldwin is notified every time his grandfather’s name appears in cyberspace.  In February, he learned of an “06880” post about Westport’s upcoming celebration of the 50th anniversary of the purchase of Longshore.

Baldwin — who in 1960 was serving the 2nd of  his 5 terms as 1st selectman — was instrumental in getting the RTM and Board of Finance to approve $1.9 million to buy financially ailing Longshore Country Club, before it could be sold to a residential home developer.

This afternoon Westport celebrated that historic event with a gathering at — of course — Longshore, following the Westport Rotary‘s annual golf and tennis outing.

Wendy Baldwin holds Herb Baldwin's license plate. It is from 1956 -- the year she was born.

Wendy Baldwin — Herb’s granddaughter — was there.  She smiled brightly as she recalled her grandfather.  She enjoyed the day immensely — but that’s not the only reason she and other family members traveled here from across the country.

Her father — Herb Baldwin Jr. — died last year, at 88.  For several months the family tried to figure out the best time to gather in Westport, so he could be buried here.

This was the perfect opportunity.  Tomorrow, Herb Jr. joins his father and mother in the Saugatuck Congregational Church cemetery.

Wendy and her brother Pete were delighted to have the chance to return to Westport, see Longshore — and reunite with people who helped their grandfather move so swiftly 50 years ago.

Pete Baldwin, proudly wearing his grandfather's cap.

Former Baldwin kitchen cabinet members John Boyd and Allen Raymond were both at today’s event.

“It was great to see them,” Pete said.

“And it’s nice to see my grandfather is still remembered in Westport.”

Right back at you, Pete and Wendy.  It’s nice you had the chance to make it back “home.”

With a tip o’ the hat to Google Alerts.