After the long, snow-heavy winter that walloped New England many people fretted over whether summer would ever arrive this year.
It did, just in time for the start of the long Fourth of July weekend on Saturday, and with seasonally appropriate temperatures in the low 80s and humidity hovering in a comfortable range. Saturday proved a perfect day for outdoor activities and many people headed to their local water ways, parks, and golf courses to engage in traditional summertime activities -- some with a sense of urgency because Sunday promised to be cloudy and wet.
Westport's Longshore Club Park is a favorite spot for the Banerjee family of Westport, because of its many recreational options. Sarmishtha Banerjee said her daughter Priya, 9, enjoys taking tennis and canoeing lessons at Longshore.
"We can picnic in the park here. Westport has a lot of things for children to keep them engaged. Both my children love music so Levitt Pavilion is a big attraction for them. On Wednesdays they have programs for children -- concerts, magic shows, puppet shows," Banerjee said.
After Priya and Banerjee's son Rishabh, 6, went swimming in the Longshore pool Saturday they took a long walk on the grounds and stopped to admire a baby osprey sitting in its nest high atop a pole.
Paul Marnoto of North Andover, Mass., comes to Longshore when he visits family in Westport as he is for the Fourth of July weekend. On Saturday, his sons Tristan, 5, and Cameron, 4, chose to swim in Long Island Sound instead of the pool because it gave them a great vantage point to watch boaters and paddle-boarders heading out and returning to shore.
Jack Rhodes, a watercraft instructor at Longshore, said stand-up paddle boarding is a recent trend. "We got them last year. It's like a surfboard. Once you get used to it it's very relaxing," he said.
"It's nice to be out here on the water exercising and relaxing. It's better than being on a treadmill," said paddle-boarder Brian Scanlon of Wilton.
Rhodes said the facility has sailing classes for children and adults, private lessons and daily rentals of day sailers and kayaks. "Most holidays too. July Fourth we'll be here. Very rarely do we take time off for the holidays," Rhodes said.
Sarmishtha Banerjee said she likes the atmosphere at Longshore. "It's like a family," she said. Lila Gagliardi thinks so too. "I like all the different people I meet. I know all the lifeguards' names," said Lila, 5, of Fairfield, who swam at the Longshore pool Saturday.
Dozens of people golfed and many, like Amy Katz, of Westport, did not use a golf cart. She walked around the golf course under an oversized umbrella that was rigged to her rolling golf bag. "I carry my shade with me," Katz said.
By mid-afternoon in neighboring Fairfield, many people were returning to shore from their day on the water at the Lower Wharf at the harbor in Southport Village, while several others were just heading out.
"We've got a good tide to go fishing right now," said Brian Kristy, 21, of Fairfield, who has fished off the dock there since he was a year old. Kristy set out to fish for fluke with friends Peter Taracka, 22, Neil Palmer, 22, and Cailee Kopp, 22, all of Fairfield.
Martha and Peter Small, of Easton, both of whom have medical practices in Fairfield, were just loading kayaks onto their car about 3 p.m. after hours on the water as Matthew Wunder, of Easton, and his son Benjamin, 11, were setting their kayaks in the water.
"It's very peaceful out there. You see the water, the blue sky, the clouds and sailboats. It's quite a nice scene," said Martha Small, a Fairfield pediatrician. "You've got to take advantage of the weather this time of year. The spring was so wet and cold," she said.
Peter Small certainly took advantage of Saturday's beautiful weather, starting the day with a 27-mile round-trip bicycle ride from their Easton home to Southport before joining his wife for an afternoon of kayaking.
"We did the whole summer day. We stopped at Westfair Fish Market (in Westport) for lobster rolls," Peter Small said.
Not everyone exerted themselves under Saturday's bright skies.
"The thing I like about the water is it opens up your mind. You always think what's across the water, what's underneath it," and live vicariously through the people enjoying their boats," he said.
Patty Wells said she often wonders where boaters are going.