Woog's World: As summer slips away, here's a Westport checklist to savor what's left
Published 5:17 pm, Friday, August 15, 2014
Don't look now, but the calendar says "Aug. 15."
We're blasting through August. School starts in 10 days -- a frightening thought for students (and their parents). Labor Day falls on the earliest date possible: Sept. 1. By that time, the 7th annual Blues, Views & BBQ Festival will already have come and gone.
If Albert Einstein were not long dead, we could tell him we've discovered how to compress time by about half.
Though it may feel like you've already sipped your last margarita of the season, there are still those 10 days left. Why you're wasting them reading this column is beyond me, but in the spirit of a rapidly fading Westport summer, here are a few ideas of things to do before firing up the electric blanket and buying Christmas trees.
If you have not yet checked out the new Levitt Pavilion, go now! The renovation project flew under the radar for years, but now that it's done, it's rockin' the town. From the soaring white roof of the first-time-in-40-years actual stage -- evoking waves and water -- to the regraded landscape, concession stand and (oh yeah) bathrooms, the Levitt is now a destination, not an afterthought. Let other towns have their gazebos. We've got a pavilion on a landfill.
Similarly, if you have not been to the Westport Country Playhouse, head there, too. Between its near-downtown location and its proximity to Fairfield County's favorite dog park, I'm not sure how the Playhouse gets overlooked. But it does. It's a magnificent structure, mixing American theatrical history with first-rate, modern productions. Tickets cost a bit more than the Levitt (which is free -- get it?), but they're also vastly less expensive than Broadway.
Free, too, are the Friday and Saturday concerts on the as-yet-unnamed plaza between Saugatuck Sweets and the Whelk on Riverside Avenue. Sponsored by Pete Romano and Al DiGuido's instantly popular ice cream and candy shop, they're a throwback to another era: outdoor music by the river, with no cover or attitude. It's as family friendly as a Stevan Dohanos' Saturday Evening Post cover from the 1940s (though the bands are more Eagles-like than Andrews Sisters). Decades from now, grown men and women will sit around in whatever types of cities and towns future folks will inhabit, and reminisce fondly about lazy summer evenings spent licking cones while their parents danced awkwardly to bands.
You may not have heard much about those Saugatuck Sweets concerts, but you definitely know there are picnic tables and grills at Compo Beach. Still, I'm astonished at the number of Westporters who have never enjoyed them. There is a healthy corps of regulars -- and "South Beach" is popular enough that on weekends, folks "reserve" tables by early afternoon with tablecloths and folding chairs (yeah, it's illegal, but these are Very Important Picnickers) -- yet a far greater number of people have lived here for years and never seen a Compo sunset. You've got 10 days to do it before the unofficial end of summer, though the grills are not going anywhere, ever.
If you're not down with cooking at the shore, head to Joey's. Their menu is broader and deeper than any beach concession I've seen. Hummus, anyone?
Less sandy food options exist all over town. Westport is not Paris or Amsterdam, but we can pretend. An intriguing number of restaurants offer relaxed, refreshing outdoor seating. Rizzuto's, Viva, Bartaco, Villa del Sol, Spotted Horse, Tutti's, the Whelk, Post 154, Arezzo, Bobby Q's and Acqua are just a few places that pop to mind. Lower down the food chain (ho ho), but very chill and perfect for people watching: Java and Elvira's.
To get rid of those calories, rent a kayak or stand-up paddleboard at Downunder. Tons of Westporters have discovered that the Saugatuck River is more than just something to cross by car -- but many more have not yet taken the plunge (poor metaphor). The redevelopment of Saugatuck has earned plenty of attention, but an equally intriguing "development" is how the river has returned to its long-ago, recently forgotten recreational role.
Sporting-wise, you might also give the Longshore golf course another chance. The new grounds crew has made tremendous strides. It plays as good as it looks. And though the course will be open long after school begins, these last few days of summer might be the best time to play a round.
Playing around. That's the watchword of a Westport summer. Too often though, we stick to the tried and true. If we're boat people, that's pretty much what we do. Swimmers, country clubbers, the same.
If you have kids in public school, you've got 10 days left of summer. Use them wisely. It's only 10 months until the summer of 2015, but somehow it will seem like 10 years.