Tag Archives: Yankee Doodle Fair

Friday Flashback #104

Perhaps it was a slow news week.

More likely, a Westport Woman’s Club member’s husband was a high-ranking Life Magazine staffer.

Whatever the reason, on August 11, 1947 America’s leading photo magazine featured the organization in a 2-page spread.

Describing the town of 8,258 just 45 minutes from Manhattan, Life said Westport “pleasantly combines the character of New England and the up-to-date bustle of a commuting population.”

Like most American towns, Life noted, Westport has a woman’s club. But ours had “little time for lectures, cards and teas.”

The Life magazine story included this photo of members of the Westport Woman’s Club.

Instead — already 40 years old — the Westport Woman’s Club had transformed our “once somnolent” town through good works: organizing and funding street signs, public drinking fountains, garbage collections and trash cans, playgrounds, sidewalks, street lights, hot lunches in schools, and lifesaving equipment and a pavilion at Compo Beach.

Now, Life said, the club was focused on a visiting nurse service, free milk for underprivileged children and a free dental clinic. They also provided over $1,000 in scholarships each year.

Life reported that Ann Jones, 18, won a $300 art scholarship from the Westport Woman’s Club.

With 693 members — but annual dues of only $3 — members relied on the Yankee Doodle Fair to fund those projects. The 1947 event raised $18,000, with attractions like a merry-go-round, dart games, pony rides, and a raffle with prizes including cars, washing machines, luggage, watches and cases of scotch.

The Yankee Doodle Fair, as shown in the August 11, 1947 issue of Life Magazine.

More than 70 years later, the Westport Woman’s Club — and Yankee Doodle Fair — are still going strong.

Which is more than can be said for Life magazine.

(Hat tip: Paul Ehrismann)

A caption for this Life magazine photo described children of Westport Woman’s Club members, playing on a sidewalk that the organization helped build.

Pic Of The Day #424

Westport, from atop the Yankee Doodle Fair Ferris wheel.

Pic Of The Day #63

On the final day of the Yankee Doodle Fair, the sun finally shone. (Photo/JP Vellotti)

Pic Of The Day #61

Last night’s opening of the Yankee Doodle Fair (Drone photo/Ryan Collins)

Fun At The Fair

Westport’s annual rite of almost-summer — the Yankee Doodle Fair — kicked off last night at the Westport Woman’s Club.

The first night always attracts a horde of tweens and young teens. Alert “06880” reader Andrea Pouliot was there, with kids and a camera.

Sean Collins, in a timeless scene.

Eliot Klein enjoys the ride.

Aiden Rourke is a rising 7th grader at Fairfield Country Day School. He looks forward to playing football at Staples one day.

Andrea Pouliot and her daughter Callie.

110 Years Of Yankee Doodle Women

For 110 years, the Westport Woman’s Club has sponsored the Yankee Doodle Fair.

Attractions and entertainment have changed. But for 100 years, fair-goers have wondered “Who puts this on?”

When someone tells them, their next question is, “What’s the Westport Woman’s Club?”

To answer a century-plus of inquiring minds — and to honor their 110-year history — the WWC has hung a pop-up exhibit inside Bedford Hall. (That’s the wonderfully refurbished auditorium in their Imperial Avenue clubhouse, on the hill overlooking the Yankee Doodle Fair.)

Nearly 120 placards recount all those years of Westport Woman’s Club fundraising, and service to the town.

A placard honoring the organization that became the Westport Woman’s Club …

The story begins long before women could vote, and provides a fascinating window on women’s history, locally and nationally.

It also provides insight into public health and social services delivery here, before and after town government got involved.

… and one tying together 1920 and 1958…

It’s all for a great cause. Funds raised at the Fair go right back into the community, as grants and scholarships.

Just as they have for the past 110 years.

… and a very intriguing third.

(The Yankee Doodle Fair — and accompanying exhibit — are open tonight and tomorrow [Thursday and Friday, June 15-16], 6 to 10 p.m. Saturday hours are 1 to 10 p.m.; Sunday from 1 to 5 p.m.)

A classic merry-go-round, at the Yankee Doodle Fair. (Photo courtesy Pam Barkentin)

A Fair Look Backward

This weekend — as it has since 1907 — the Yankee Doodle Fair entertains thousands of kids of all ages. (Mostly kids.) (And their parents.)

Pam Ehrenburg — Pam Blackburn, as she was known in her Yankee Doodle-going days — has unearthed some fascinating old photos. All were taken by her father, famed magazine photographer George Barkentin.

They show the fair on what appears to be Jesup Green — or perhaps the topography of the sponsoring Westport Woman’s Club was different 60-plus yeas ago. (Pam believes the images were taken in 1952.)

Some of the fashions are different. But in many ways, the Yankee Doodle Fair is timeless too.

This looks like Jesup Green -- with National Hall (then Fairfield Furniture) in the background, across the river.

This looks like Jesup Green — with National Hall (then Fairfield Furniture) in the background, across the river.

A classic Ferris wheel.

A classic merry-go-round.

This is noted writer Parke Cummings. He may have walked over from his home on the corner of South Compo and Bridge Street. He owned a tennis court -- still there -- that was open to anyone who wanted to play or learn.

This is noted writer Parke Cummings. He may have walked over from his home on the corner of South Compo and Bridge Street. He owned a tennis court — still there — that was open to anyone who wanted to play or learn.

Marjorie Teuscher and her son Phil. Her husband -- a doctor -- owned real estate downtown, including the building that is now Tavern on Main. Phil -- now all grown up -- still lives in Westport.

Marjorie Teuscher and her son Phil. Her husband — a doctor — owned real estate downtown, including the building that is now Tavern on Main. Phil — all grown up — still lives in Westport.

Pam Blackburn -- who sent these photos from her father, George -- is shown here with her sister Perii and their mom, Jessica Patton Barkentin.

Pam Blackburn — who sent these photos from her father, George — is shown here with her sister Perii and their mom, Jessica Patton Barkentin.

Yankee Doodle Comes To Town

There are many reasons — probably more than 109 — to come to the 109th annual Yankee Doodle Fair.

But among the many — free admission! unlimited-ride wristbands! a bake sale with macaroons from 90-year-old Bev McArthur! — my favorite may be this:

Yankee Doodle himself is going.

The fictional colonial simpleton — who bears a striking resemblance to Westport artist Miggs Burroughs (designer of our town’s Minute Man flag) — will be there this week. In full costume.

With — of course — a feather in his cap.

Yankee Doodle, aka Miggs Burroughs.

Yankee Doodle, aka Miggs Burroughs.

For a $3 donation, you can take a selfie at the Yankee Doodle Fair (Westport Woman’s Club, 44 Imperial Avenue). With Yankee Doodle.

You gotta hand it to Miggs. When he borrowed his costume from fellow illustrator Ed Vebell, he realized it was a better fit for a 1776-size guy.

So Miggs found a tailoring kit, and fixed it himself.

Betsy Ross would be proud.

Which is not just a clever line. Fun fact: Miggs actually dated Betsy Ross.

No, not that one. He isn’t that old.

Miggs met this Betsy Ross in 1998, at a New Year’s party at Ann Sheffer and Bill Scheffler’s house. She grew up in Westport — as Betsy Peterken– and left Staples after 10th grade.

This is not the Betsy Ross whom Miggs Burroughs dated.

This is not the Betsy Ross whom Miggs Burroughs dated.

By the time she returned for that party she’d married and divorced Thomas McCaughey, married (and was in the process of separating from) wealthy investment banker Wilbur Ross — and was, in her own right (using the name Betsy McCaughey Ross) lieutenant governor of New York, under George Pataki.

A staunch conservative, she was also in the process of defecting to the Democratic Party — so she could run against Pataki. (She lost in the primary.)

Which brings us — in a roundabout way — back to Yankee Doodle.

The costume is hot. So Miggs will be in air-conditioned Bedford Hall — part of the Yankee Doodle Fair grounds — for limited hours: 6-8 p.m. on Thursday and Friday, June 16-17; 4-7 p.m. Saturday, June 18, and 1-3 p.m. on Sunday, June 19.

After 109 years, this Yankee Doodle Fair promises to be a historic occasion.

(Full hours for the Yankee Doodle Fair: 6-10 p.m. June 16-17,  1-10 p.m. June 18; 1-5 p.m. June 19. All proceeds help fund Westport Woman’s Club grants and scholarships. For more details, click here.)


Yankee Doodle Comes To Town

For 108 years, June in Westport has meant 2 things:

  • The end of school
  • The Yankee Doodle Fair.

For longer than any man or woman here has been alive, the Westport Woman’s Club event has signaled the start of summer. It’s also the long-lived civic organization’s main fundraiser, helping them help dozens of local charities and provide important scholarships to Staples grads.

I’m sure that back in the pre-internet, pre-TV, pre-radio (!) day, there were lots of old-fashioned, carnival-style fairs. I remember them at Compo Beach, the empty lot where Barnes & Noble now sits, and (of course) Festival Italiano.

The Yankee Doodle Fair is the only one still alive. Generations of Westporters have fond memories of it.

Some have more tangible images.

Ann Sheffer - Yankee Doodle FairIn 1952, 4-year-old Ann Sheffer attended the Fair. She keeps a photo of herself on a carousel (left) — and gets a kick out of watching 21st-century 4-year-0lds ride them.

When Ann was growing up, many Woman’s Club members were either artists themselves, or married to artists. Affordable portrait drawing was a big Yankee Doodle Fair attraction.

Howard Munce — who at nearly 100 years old is still 8 years younger than the Fair — drew portraits at the Fair. So did Miggs’ Burroughs father, Bernie.

But Bernie didn’t draw his son. The charcoal portrait below was done around 1956 by Westporter Tom Lovell. He later became a famed book cover artist and painter of Western art, whose works sold for up to $400,000.

This portrait of Miggs probably cost $1. But he still has it.

Miggs Burroughs by Tom Lovett

Years after sitting (while watching all his friends going on rides), Miggs went on to curate the Woman’s Club Art Show Fundraiser last month. It featured local artists — and honored Ann Sheffer’s aunt, Susan Malloy. Interesting how the Yankee Doodle Fair connects them all.

Linda Gramatky Smith remembers the Yankee Doodle Fair too. Every year, her parents — Hardie (“Little Toot” author/illustrator) Gramatky and Dorothea Cooke — took turns in the portrait booth.

Her father’s diary from June 28, 1956 notes he went to the Fair that day with famed artists Ward Brackett, Dolli Tingle, Herb Olsen, Donald Purdy, Arpi Ermoyan and Johnny Gannam.

But they were not just drawing caricatures. In 1953, Hardie Gramatky matted a watercolor as a gift to the Fair. Just one more Westporter helping the Westport Woman’s Club make money.

This year’s edition opens tomorrow. There’ll be many chances for today’s kids to make their own memories for years to come.

A caricature by T.C. Ford

A T. C. Ford caricature

Besides the traditional rides and games, new this year are a “Children’s Garden” area, a photo opp board, a “Fountain of Wishes,” face painting (fun or fierce), sand art, and (Saturday and Sunday only), caricaturist T.C. Ford (with his sidekick, all-natural henna artist Brigid Fleming).

The timing is perfect. School is out. Summer is about to begin. After 108 years, things still haven’t changed.

The Yankee Doodle Fair runs Thursday and Friday (June 18 and 19, 6-10 p.m.), Saturday (June 20, 1-10 p.m.) and Sunday (June 21, 1-5 p.m.) at the Westport Woman’s Club, 44 Imperial Avenue. Admission is free! Click here for more information.

Yankee Doodle Comes To Town

Back in the day, the Westport Woman’s Club’s Yankee Doodle Fair raised money to build sidewalks on Main Street, install toilets at Compo Beach, and bring hot meals and health care to our schools.

That day was 100 years ago.

Today we’ve got sidewalks (some in retro red brick).  There are toilets at Compo (both permanent and portable).  And our schools serve plenty of hot meals (though at least Two Angry Moms think they’re not exactly healthful).

But the Yankee Doodle Fair still raises money for local causes.  Last year, the Woman’s Club donated $200,000 to community groups.

That would pay for a lot of Port-a-Potties.

Yankee Doodle Fair-goers try their hand at an arcade game. (Photo by Laura Buckman)

This year’s Fair opens tomorrow (Thursday, June 17, 5-11 p.m.).  It continues through Sunday at the Woman’s Club on Imperial Avenue.

There’ll be a Ferris wheel, flying Dumbo, kiddie cars, basketball toss, bumper cars, tower drop, giant slide, scrambler, and the “brand new and breath-taking Zero Gravity.”

For the less adventurous, there’s face painting, sand art, and plant and bake sales.

The Westport Woman’s Club downplays their civic contributions.  Few Yankee Doodle Fair-goers — little kids enjoying the rides; middle schoolers primping and preening; adults reliving a relic of their youth — even realize they help the organizers support dozens of worthy charities.

That’s fine.  The last thing you want to think about — hanging upside down on the banks of the Saugatuck River, your change falling out of your pockets — is where your money is going.

Well, let me rephrase that…