Tag Archives: Westport YMCA Water Rats

Roundup: Saugatuck Hamlet And Provisions, Halloween Treats …

The next step in the plan to create a new zoning district in Saugatuck — part of the proposed Hamlet at Saugatuck project — is a Westport Planning & Zoning Commission public hearing. It’s set for Wednesday (November 2, 7 p.m., Town Hall auditorium).

The P&Z will consider Text Amendment #819 and Map Amendment #820.  

It’s the third public hearing on the proposal, but the first that will be in person. The first two were held via Zoom.

The meeting will be live streamed on the “Watch Town Meetings” page. Click here for the meeting agenda. Click here for meeting materials. Written comments can be sent to PandZ@westportct.gov,

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Speaking of Saugatuck: “06880” announced a few days ago that Saugatuck Provisions will be moving into the former Fleishers Craft Butchery.

But our little morsel was nothing compared to the meal Stephanie Webster delivered.

Her CTBites — the go-to platform for all things foodie in the state — has a full report on the new venture.

She describes the “culinary power team” of Chef (and Staples High School graduate) Matt Storch and Susan McConnell — both of the highly regarded Match Burger Lobster and  Match — along with Jimmy Bloom (Copps Island Oysters) and butcher Paul Nessel (well known from his Craft Butchery days across Riverside Avenue).

Stephanie calls Saugatuck Provisions “a new concept offering customers a curated selection of the very best ingredients from the land, sea and grocery, enabling guests to create beautiful restaurant quality meals at home.”

Click here for the full CTBites story.

And lick your lips.

Paul Nessel at work. (Photo courtesy of CTBites)

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Tom Scarice is a hands-on schools superintendent.

He doesn’t hide in his office. He loves getting out, and into schools.

But sometimes he doesn’t want everyone to know who he is.

Yesterday was a perfect chance for the boss to pop into a Long Lots Elementary classroom, incognito.

Take a look below. Can you guess which person in the photo is in charge of 8 schools, hundreds of employees and 5,000 students?

(Hint: He’s not wearing his usual jacket and tie.)

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“06880” got tons of Halloween photos yesterday.

This tied with the one above as our favorite. It’s from 23 Juniper Road:

(Photo/Pamela Long)

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Back in the day, women accused of witchcraft would be thrown into water. If they sank, they were innocent. If they stayed on the surface, they were guilty.

Looks like we had a couple of real witches in the water off Compo Beach yesterday!

(Photo/Karen Como)

Meanwhile, few hours later, and a few yards away, there was this:

(Photo/Sunil Hirani)

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More from Halloween 2022:

The photo below looks like 2 dads, dressed up for trick-or-treating (with, hopefully, their kids):

(Photo/Max Orland)

But, Max Orland says: The 2 men did not coordinate their “Teen Wolf” costumes.

They didn’t even know each other.

Mark Silverstein was giving out candy near Compo Beach, when the other dude — Danny — wandered by.

What are the odds? Cue the “Twilight Zone” theme …

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The Town Clerk’s office will be open this Saturday (November 5, 9 a.m. noon),  9to issue absentee ballots for Tuesday’s election.

Absentee ballots will continue to be available through Monday (November 7) at 4:30 p.m.

All absentee ballots must be returned to the Town Clerk’s office no later than 8 p.m. on Tuesday, November 8.

The Town Clerk’s office is located in Room 105 of Town Hall.

NOTE: Besides elected officials, voters are asked whether to amend the state constitution to allow early voting.

Don’t neglect the question in the upper right corner of the ballot!

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MoCA Westport has carved out a niche for showcasing thought-provoking, impressive art, from a wide variety of artists.

Now, it’s teens’ time.

All high school students are invited to submit works for a High School Student Art Exhibition. It will run from January 13 to February 26.

Submissions should express the theme of “Who Are You When You Are Dreaming.” The open-ended concept was created by the Teens at MoCA council.

The guidelines:

  • All high school students may submit 1 work, and all works will be accepted. Participation is not limited to a specific town or region.
  • Art may be a drawing, painting, digital/graphic image, photograph, sculpture or video.
  • All 2-dimensional work must be framed and ready to hang.
  • Work may not exceed a maximum of 30 inches in either height or width.
  • Submissions are due by midnight on Sunday, December 18, 2022.

The fee is $10 per entry. Funding to waive this fee is available; email liz@mocawestport.org. For more information, click here.

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“06880” was honored this summer to tell the story of Wynston Browne. The non-speaking autistic Staples High School student had made spectacular progress in just a few months, using a spelling board — a low-tech communication device.

Three months later, Wynston continues his astonishing growth. Now Westport Lifestyle magazine has taken notice.

For the latest on Wynston, click here. It should be must-reading for everyone, everywhere.

Wynston Browne and his communication partner, Elisa Feinman, He chatted with customers at The Porch.

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Most “moon shots” on “06880” include some recognizable part of Westport.

This one doesn’t (though — trust me — it was taken at Compo Beach).

But it’s sure not a normal moon image.

(Photo/James Doan)

Photographer James Doan took it with a telescope and an attachment that houses his phone.

He’s a Staples High School junior, taking an astronomy class this year. I give him an A+ for this!

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The Westport Weston Family YMCA Water Rats swim team are winners in the pool.

And out of it too.

This Saturday (November 5, 8 a.m. to noon), they’ll help neighbors in need. The Water Rats are sponsoring a food drive (plus non-perishable items) for the Bridgeport Rescue Mission.

the Water Rats Swim Team in their food drive benefiting the Bridgeport Rescue Mission. The need is great: Pantry requests are double what they were last year.

You don’t even have to get out of your car. Just pull into the YMCA loop, and swimmers will take your donations.  See below for suggested items.

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This week’s Jazz at the Post show is “the most ambitious program so far” at the VFW location (Thursday, November 3, 465 Riverside Avenue; shows at 7:30 and 8:45 p.m.; dinner at 7 p.m.).

Grammy nominees Antonio Hart and Mike Mossman join veteran jazz warriors and recording artists pianist David Morgan, Ron Carter’s personal bassist Boots Maleson, drum master Tim Horner and the “Jazz Rabbi,” saxophonist Greg Wall,  for 2 sets of jazz classics. Sextet arrangements are by Michael Mossman.

The repertoire features tunes by Miles Davis, Jimmy Heath, Duke Ellington and Duke Jordan.

Reservations are strongly suggested: Jazzatthepost@gmail.com

Antonio Hart

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This year’s fall foliage is the finest in years. Consider this Halloween-colored beauty on Cross Highway — perfect for today’s post-Halloween “Westport … Naturally feature:

(Photo/Mark Yurkiw)

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And finally … in honor of James Doan’s stunning astronomical photo above:

(Even once in a blue moon, consider supporting “06880.” Please click here to donate.)

Roundup: Homemade Pies, Swim Records, Will Haskell …

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The Westport Young Woman’s League’s newest holiday fundraiser may be its sweetest one yet.

They’re selling Lyman Orchards homemade pies and cookies. Each purchase supports the WYWL grants program that funds local non-profit organizations.

Orders may be placed through Tuesday (November 23) with WYWL for a variety of pies and cookie dough, frozen fresh for delivery. They can be kept fresh in the freezer until ready to bake and serve.

Orders can be picked up at the Westport VFW (465 Riverside Avenue) on Friday and Saturday, December 17-18. 

WYWL members also offer holiday gift wrapping, for a recommended donation of $5 per gift. Items can be dropped off at the VFW on those same  days (December 17-18).

Click here to place pie and cookie orders.

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It sounds like a broken record: The Staples High School girls swim tam broke 4 records again.

Wednesday night’s eye-popping performances came at the class LL (extra large schools) state finals at Southern Connecticut State University. Freshman Annam Olasewere rewrote the state and LL record books in 2 freestyle races. The freshman wowed the crowd with a time of 22.67 in the 50 free, breaking the 2016 record of 23.02. She also took the 100 free in record time, with a blistering 50.14.

Staples, which placed 4th overall, also saw 2 relay teams finish first in record times. The 200 freestyle foursome of Jessica Qi, Ella Alpert, Ayaan Olasewere and Annam Oleseree broke the 25-year-old state record, with a time of 1:35.75. Qi, Alpert, Ayaan and Annam Olasewere came back to win the 400 freestyle relay in yet another state record time: 3:28.54.

Up next: the state open meet tomorrow (Sunday) in West Hartford.

Congratulations to coaches Mike Anderson, Elaine Rankowitz and Kuku Fleming. — and of course to the girls! Can you imagine what they’ll accomplish as seniors?!

Staples’ record-setting 400 meter free relay team (from left): Ella Alpert, Annam Olasewere, Ayaan Olasewere, Jessica Qi.

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Speaking of swimming: Earlier this month, the Westport Weston Family YMCA’s Water Rats swim team ran a food drive. They collected 880 pounds of food — nearly half a ton — for the Bridgeport Rescue Mission. Those donations will provide 735 Thanksgiving meals.

Team members also collected $205 in cash, good for 82 more meals.

The entire Water Rats team participated, from pre-competitive swimmers to seniors.

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Yesterday, driving around his old Drumlin Road neighborhood, Fred Cantor saw former neighbor Gordon Hall.

The longtime — and long-respected — Staples social studies teacher turns 94 today. Happy birthday, Mr. Hall!

Gordon Hall (Photo/Fred Cantor)

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Will Haskell is in his 2nd term as Westport’s state senator. When he was elected in 2018, he was the youngest legislator in the country.

He’s still not far removed from his Georgetown University days. He’s a proud alum — and his school is proud of him.

The other day, the school newspaper The Hoya interviewed Haskell. Click here to read his thoughts on government, politics, his college experience and more. (Hat tip: Sal Liccione)

State Senator Will Haskell

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The early bird gets the Westport Country Playhouse summer camp worm.

“Early bird pricing” is available now through December 5 for CampWCP, a social justice theater program for 20 middle school students (June 27 through July 23).

The camp “empowers young artists to activate their creative voice on issues that matter to them and turn it into something theatrical — so that they can ignite social change for their community and beyond.”

Campers explore the art of playwriting, and create and perform an original play. devise their own play. They learn acting techniques, and participate in workshops with Playhouse staff. For details and registration, click here.

CampWCP is open for registration.

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Today’s “Westport … Naturally” image shows the Saugatuck River at sunset. This natural resource never gets old.

(Photo/Claudia Sherwood Servidio)

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And finally … music photographer Mick Rock died recently. He was 72.

Among his subjects: David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Lou Reed, Queen, Syd Barrett, the Ramones, the Sex Pistols, Motley Crue, T. Rex, Blondie and Thin Lizzy. He shot the covers of albums like “Queen II,” Reed’s “Transformer” and “Coney Island Baby,” Joan Jett’s “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll” and the Stooges’ Raw Power.

He also directed Bowie’s music videos for “I’m Only Dancing,” “Jean Genie,” “Space Oddity” and “Life on Mars.”

Click here for a full obituary. (Hat tip: Amy Schneider)

 

All campers are

Roundup: Sunrise Service, Town Farm, Ospreys …

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Last year’s Easter Sunrise Service at Compo Beach was canceled by COVID.

This morning, it was once again on. The return was welcomed by Westporters — and the Easter Bunny.

(Photo/Rick Benson)

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Wakeman Town Farm’s partnership with Homefront Farmers continues to bear fruit.

If you buy a gift card through @payitfwrd.co to start or maintain a home garden, all proceeds go to WTF’s educational program that teaches youngsters how to grow their own food.

Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and other holidays are around the corner. The gift of a home garden will definitely reap benefits. Click here for more information.


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Speaking of nature: Here’s an osprey update from the indefatigable Carolyn Doan.

“Our lovely osprey couple has been making their nest near Fresh Mart a little more comfortable. They’ve resorted to using what looks like a knit hat or glove. The female has taken matters into her own talons, and is getting sticks herself.”

(Photo/Carolyn Doan)

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During the pandemic, families have spent more time than ever. For some, it’s a wonderful way to reconnect. For others, it’s caused tension.

Dr. Bob Selverstone — a much-admired Westport psychologist in private practice for over 40 years, former Staples High School educator and counselor, and noted TV and radio guest — recently taped a session for the Westport Library.

It’s called “Making Marriage Even Better.” He should know: Bob and his high school sweetheart, Harriett, have been married for nearly 60 years!

Click below to listen and learn.

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Congratulations, Westport Water Rat 13/14 girls relay team. On Friday they broke the state record in the 200 freestyle relay. They blazed to a 1:36.73 finish. Well done, girls!

New state record holders (from left): Kate Murray, Ella Gussen, Ayaan Olasewere and Annam Olsawawere. Coach (not pictured) is Ellen Johnston.

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And finally … Happy Easter!

Stop (Or Start) The Presses: Staples Swimmers Sink Greenwich!

The Staples High School boys swim team is making quite a splash this winter.

But — at least in the local media — they haven’t even caused a ripple.

What a shame.

Last week, the Wreckers beat Greenwich.

The last time that happened was 1979 — nearly 40 years ago. And the time before that — Staples’ only other swimming win over the Cardinals — came in 1970. That day, the water in the small Westport YMCA pool was so murky, no one could see the turns.

The 2018 Staples High School swimming and diving team. (All photos by Andy McNab)

How good is Greenwich? Under coach Terry Lowe, they’ve won 34 state open championships, and 24 class LL (extra large school) crowns. They’ve also won captured a mind-boggling 46 FCIAC titles, over the past 47 seasons.

They make the Yankees and Celtics of the 20th century — or, more recently, the Patriots — look like the early New York Mets.

Coach Jeff Bonaccorso

Yet last week, Staples out-swam the Cards. In fact, they drowned them. The final score was 110-76.

It was quite a victory for the Wreckers. And for first-year coach Jeff Bonaccorso.

That’s right. This is his rookie season with this high school team.

He took over after Frisk Driscoll moved to Fairfield University. Of course, Bonaccorso is hardly a fish out of water. He’s aquatics director at the Westport Weston Family Y — and in the fall, coaches the Ridgefield High girls squad.

The Staples/Westport Y connection is strong. Many Wreckers grew up in the Water Rats program, directed by the legendary Ellen Johnston. Most continue to compete on both teams — even during the high school season.

Scott Adler

That’s true for Staples 2 captains, Josiah Tarrant and Scott Adler. They began swimming almost before they could walk. Pool water courses through their veins — and they race through their lanes faster than everyone else.

Still, both were a bit apprehensive when Driscoll left.

“I never thought we’d see another coach like Frisk,” Adler says. “But Jeff exceeded everyone’s expectations.”

The two men have very different styles. Driscoll always had a set lineup. Bonaccorso makes changes based on whoever the other team puts in the water. Plus, Adler says, “he’s super-competitive and a great motivator.”

Entering the season, the captains had high hopes. They finished 3rd at last year’s FCIACs — and graduated only a few, non-scoring seniors.

Still, admits Adler, despite their confidence they were “not sure about Greenwich and Ridgefield.”

Two weeks before the Cardinal meet, Staples met the Tigers — a team with 5 great swimmers, including 2 Olympic trial hopefuls. What Adler calls “the most exciting and closest dual meet of my life” — with an “insanely loud” home crowd — came down to the final relay.

Ridgefield won. But by placing 2nd and 3rd, the Wreckers amassed enough points to eke out a 94-92 victory.

Josiah Tarrant in action. He swims the 50 free, 100 butterfly, and anchors the 200 medley and free relays.

Then came Greenwich.

Again at home — with more packed, roaring fans, including the girls’ team — Staples took down the state’s most legendary swimming power.

How did they do it?

“Hard work,” says Tarrant. “I know it’s a cliche. But we’re in the pool from 5:30 to 7 in the morning before school, a few days a week. Then we’re in again, from 3 to 5 every day.”

Their rigorous practice schedule — and all the coaching, from Johnston, Driscoll and Bonaccorso — are paying off.

Josiah Tarrant

“Everyone thinks swimming is an individual sport,” Tarrant notes. “At the club level, it is. But on the high school pool deck, there’s so much camaraderie.

“It’s not just about the fastest guy. The 5th guy gets a point, and every point matters.

“We constantly push each other in practice. We always cheer for each other. These are my brothers.”

“It’s nice to see a direct connection between hard work and the end result,” Adler adds. “You really see it come to fruition.

But Tarrant and Adler are not basking in the glow of their press clippings. (Whoops — sorry. There weren’t any.)

“This is only the beginning,” Tarrant notes. “The championships are what really matter.”

The FCIAC meet is February 27-March 1 — at Greenwich. Hey, why not?!

Then come the state LL and open championships.

Scott Adler gets ready for the start of his backstroke race.

It won’t be easy upending Greenwich in the post-season. The Cardinals have a ton of swimmers — they brought 2 busloads to the dual meet — and numbers count.

But one thing is certain. When the record board that hangs over the Staples pool is updated in March, nearly every event will now include a 2018 swimmer.

You may not read about the Wreckers’ accomplishments elsewhere.

But this year’s team has written a new chapter in the history books.

(For more on the Staples swim team, click here.)

The Staples girls swimming and diving team provided great support at the Greenwich meet.

Bob Knoebel’s Dreamer

For 29 years, Bob Knoebel was a revered Westport YMCA Water Rats swim coach and aquatics director. The 1971 Staples High School graduate now enjoys a 2nd career in Idaho, as an equally well-respected fishing guide.

Bob is also the godfather of a young man named Enrique. In the wake of President Trump’s decision to end DACA — the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program for 800,000 people — he sent along these thoughts:

If you grew up in Westport, you were accustomed to your mom driving you to soccer or swimming practice, making sure you were at your games or meets on time.

Your parents were at every game. They cheered — or better yet, acted as volunteer coaches or officials.

Bob Knoebel

They also made sure you had everything you needed to succeed in school — the proper supplies, a dedicated place to study — and had regular contact with your teachers.

You took music lessons, dance lessons, swimming lessons or became an Eagle Scout. Your parents were probably college educated, and helped you navigate the college process.

Even if you didn’t realize it, they were looking over your shoulder — just to make sure. Lucky you, lucky me for being fortunate enough to grow up in Westport and graduate from Staples.

Imagine for a moment your parents don’t speak English. They have less than a high school education. You live in a trailer.

At 9 years old you missed a soccer game because you had to act as an interpreter/negotiator for your dad when he bought a goat from a local rancher, or needed you to go to the junkyard to do the same for parts for the family truck.

Your most important role in the family is what you can provide in terms of financial support.

To top it off, your mom doesn’t drive.

Imagine if you lived in fear that ICE might show up at your home to deport your mom or dad. Imagine the relief you would feel if you were offered a level of protection that the Obama-era program known as DACA provided you.

You could do the things your schoolmates take for granted, like get a driver’s license or summer job.

I am the “padrino” (godfather) for Enrique, a DACA-protected 17-year-old who is a high school senior here in Idaho.

He has more grit than you came imagine, because of challenges like these. He has completed 5 AP courses, and is taking 3 more this year. He started a tutoring program at the middle school to help other 1st-generation college  hopefuls, and recruited friends to help.

Enrique is a top student.

Enrique works after school, interning at an engineering firm. He plays saxophone in the band, and belongs to the National Honor Society and Key Club.

Trout Unlimited chose him last summer to attend a national leadership conference in Montana.

Bob Knoebel and Enrique.

He is the first Hispanic player on his high school lacrosse team, and was the top-scoring underclassman last year.

Enrique wants to go to college. Not because he hopes to change the world, but for a more humble reason: to help his family.

He’s counting on a scholarship to a private university, because he does not qualify for in-state tuition at Idaho schools.

He never complains, gets stressed or worries about his future, because he believes in the goodness of America and the promises it offers to those who work hard.

He’s not worried that the Trump administration has announced an end to DACA. He believes that Congress will act with compassion when deciding his fture, and that of 800,000 others.

In a senior class of just over 200, there are 14 other DACA-protected students alone.

It’s a world away from Staples.

But it’s Enrique’s reality. He is making the best of it.

Among many other things, Enrique is a star lacrosse player.

Teens Swim 15.5 Miles, Raise $9,000. And What Did You Do Last Sunday?

The easiest way to cross Long Island Sound is on the Bridgeport-Port Jeff ferry.

You can also sail, motorboat or yacht across on your own.

It’s a lot tougher to actually swim those 15 1/2 or so miles yourself.

It’s especially difficult to do it faster than anyone else.

But that’s what a team of 6 Westport YMCA Water Rat swimmers did last Sunday. And they finished in just 6 hours and 20 minutes — beating 150 competitors by a wide margin.

It was hardly a day at the beach. Before taking the Swim Across the Sound plunge, they secured $9,000 in pledges for St. Vincent’s Medical Center.

Congratulations to the intrepid, strong and very fast group of 16-year-olds: Scott Adler, John McNab, Richard Nolan, Josiah Tarrant, Austin Twiss and Charlie West. All except Richard swim for Staples High School.

From left: Austin Twiss, Charlie West, Scott Adler, John McNab, Richard Nolan and Josiah Tarrant.

 

Fun fact: Swim Across the Sound director Liz Fry is a former Staples High School swimmer.

(Fast forward to the 10:00 mark below, for an interview with the Water Rat swimmers.)