Party time! Westport Y celebrates its 90th
Even though it's soon to be reborn, the Westport-Weston Family Y is actually 90 years old.
To celebrate that landmark event, Church Lane was closed off Wednesday afternoon for a big "birthday" party, which brought out hundreds of people to celebrate -- and featured an announcement about the Y's new home under construction on its Mahackeno property in northern Westport.
The name for the new Y facilities represents a full circle from the opening of the current downtown building. The Y opened its doors on Sept. 5, 1923, following a ceremony on the building steps. "In the name of Mrs. Bedford and myself," said industrialist-turned-philanthropist Edward T. Bedford, "It is a very great pleasure to present this building and its property to the town of Westport. All we desire is that it may be most generously and properly used and that we may be permitted with you to continue to contribute to both its upbuilding and financial support."
In fact, the Bedford family continues to support the Y nine decades later. Last year, two of Edward Bedford's great-grandchildren pledged $750,00 toward construction of the new complex at Mahackeno -- Lucie McKinney, widow of the late Congressman Stewart B. McKinney, pledged $500,000, while her brother, Briggs Cunningham III, has pledged $250,000.
A wide range of the Family Y's friends and supporters came out to enjoy the birthday party games and activities, including an elaborate performance by the Y's Showtime gymnastics team. The 32 girls performed an array of choreographed tumbles and flips to music on mats set in the middle of Church Lane.
"We're celebrating," said Rob Reeves, the Y's executive director. "Ninety years ago the YMCA of Westport was dedicated and we're celebrating our 90th birthday."
"The Y and I are both 90," said Allen Raymond, former chairman of its board and longtime supporter. "This is a great year for me, to be able to be here for this." He pledged $500,000 for construction of the new Y, and in recognition of his support, the Sunny Lane entrance to the Mahackeno complex has been renamed Allen Raymond Lane.
"I think it's great," said Michael Sullivan of Westport, who moved into town with his family just last year. "I'm looking forward to the new YMCA opening.