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Shorefest: A celebration of Sherwood Island

Published 7:38 am, Saturday, September 7, 2013

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  • Gwen and Parker Ackley of Fairfield got in the spirit of 1913 -- the year site of Sherwood Island State Park was purchased -- at the annual Shorefest of the Friends of Sherwood Island. Photo: Jarret Liotta / Westport News contributed
    Gwen and Parker Ackley of Fairfield got in the spirit of 1913 -- the year site of Sherwood Island State Park was purchased -- at the annual Shorefest of the Friends of Sherwood Island. Photo: Jarret Liotta

 

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For Jessica Martone, Sherwood Island State Park has always been a second home.

"It's beautiful," she said of the sweeping stretch of shoreline off Westport. It is a place that holds memories of weekend afternoons, visited often by her father as a member of a model airplane club.

"I've grown up here," the Norwalk resident said, "and it's always been a wonderful place to relax."

Martone and other Friends of Sherwood Island shared a special evening at the park Friday when the group's 15th annual Shorefest took place. About 150 people attended the fundraiser, which helps cover the cost of the park's Nature Center and its education programs.

"This year it's just extra festive," said Cece Saunders, who serves on the Friends of Sherwood Island board, because this is the 100th anniversary of the park -- the oldest in the state park system.

The evening included lots of food and drink, both a silent and a live auction, as well as a raffle of animal "artwork" by a few of the creatures at the Beardsley Zoo in Bridgeport. Several zoo volunteers were also on hand with animal ambassadors, including a black rat snake, Amazon parrot and a rabbit named Acorn.

"This is one of my favorite events on the calendar," said state Rep. Jonathan Steinberg of Westport. "Not only is the food great, but the company is better."

"What a wonderful evening to celebrate a wonderful 100 years at Sherwood Island," said Jim Marpe, Republican candidate for first selectman. "We are so blessed in Westport to have access to such a beautiful state park."

"I'm just looking out at the most beautiful vista in Westport," said Mary Ann West, the event chairwoman, noting the soft evening sunlight speckling Long Island Sound.

"Tonight is about a common understanding and a common caring about the park," said Ellie Gilchrist, assistant director of the nature center. "The people that come here care for, love and support the park, and we're here to support them."

First Selectman Gordon Joseloff, who is leaving office this year, received a commendation from the Friends of Sherwood Island for his support of the state park.

"It's a commendation for being a true friend," Saunders said.

"The party's a lovely time," said James van Acker of Wilton, who comes to the Shorefest each year.

"It's a tremendous resource that should be used by the community," he said.