Woog’s World: Must dos during a Westport summer
Updated 12:35 am, Wednesday, June 1, 2016
WESTPORT — Memorial Day is in the rearview mirror. We marched, rode, fifed, drummed and saluted the flag. Then we got down to the real business: cookouts and barbecues. Monday was the unofficial start of summer. For many, it’s the best season of all.
But not everyone here knows what to do or how to act. You don’t just put on a pair of shorts and sunglasses, fire up the grill and call it a summer. Anyone can do that, from Greenwich to Granby. To be part of a Westport summer though - that takes more.
So whether you’re a new permanent resident from - let’s pick a random spot: Brooklyn! - or a summer renter from - oh, let’s say, Manhattan - here are a few dos and don’ts to carry you through the next three months.
Do go to the 4th of July fireworks. They’re Westport at its best: a community celebration filled with picnics, bands, strolling up and down Soundview Drive, and briefly losing your kids. The fireworks themselves are almost anticlimactic.
Don’t complain that the 4th of July fireworks are not on July 4th. Or even technically in July. (This year, they’re June 30th.) The date is less important than the chance to celebrate as a town and a nation.
Do understand that the fireworks are a fundraiser for the Westport PAL. Among other things, they sponsor programs that serve thousands of Westport youngsters, and fund thousands of dollars in scholarships for a few dozen students.
Don’t be cheap, by enjoying the fireworks for free. Pony up for a ticket - the price has not changed in years - and even if you park far away and walk, toss a contribution the PAL’s way.
Sometimes this summer, do take advantage of South Beach - Compo’s barbecue grill, alcohol-allowed picnic area. It’s one of the friendliest, most diverse spots in town. Your cookout might take place near a high school reunion, company party, Shabbat service or extended gathering with a family from Russia. Wander over, say hi, share some food or wine, and watch a beautiful sunset. We’re all in this together.
Don’t reserve picnic tables. It says so right there on the tables themselves. It’s first-come, first-served. You can’t go down at 10 a.m., secure a tablecloth with some rocks and scatter a few beach chairs around a spot, then expect everyone to steer clear all day so you can have your picnic at 6 p.m. If you want to keep your spot, send an actual human being to sit there all day. You may not like it, but you’re not the only person in town who wants a table.
Speaking of the beach, do enjoy it in one of countless ways. Play basketball, softball, soccer or pickleball. Go to Joey’s, the concession stand that offers everything from lobster rolls to beach chairs. Walk, jog, bike or unicycle around the perimeter. Andn now that the town has extended a walkway out to the cannons - complementing last year’s path near the marina - there’s no need to do all that in the middle of the parking lot.
Don’t think that your enjoyment of the beach trumps everyone else’s. If you’re walking, jogging, etc., be aware of everyone else. There are cars pulling in and out, little kids being little kids, and elderly folks moving not as quickly as you. It would be nice if you didn’t have to wear headphones - if you could just enjoy the beauty and energy all around you - but if you must wall yourself off from the rest of us, at least look around from time to time.
Do know that there are other beaches besides Compo. Old Mill has enjoyed a renaissance of sorts in recent years; it’s cleaner, and more swim-friendly, than it has been in years. A mile or two away on Beachside Avenue, Burying Hill has its own rocky, uncrowded charm.
Don’t think you can just drive in to Old Mill and park. The lot is often filled with residents’ cars, and the few spaces near Elvira’s are for their patrons only. There’s nothing wrong with parking at Compo, and walking over - or even riding your bike to Old Mill from wherever you are in town.
Do venture beyond the beaches. There is so much more to Westport to explore. Discover the Westport Country Playhouse. Browse the Farmers’ Market. Check out the Levitt Pavilion. Try a different restaurant each week (or night). Walk your dog at Winslow Park, or hike Baron’s South. Explore the library. Make time for the Arts Center and Historical Society.
Don’t believe stereotypes. We’ve all heard them (and I’ve indulged in a few of them above). Come here with an open mind, an outstretched hand and a full heart. There’s a big, wide Westport waiting for you. And there’s no better time to be here than summer.