Woog’s World / Mark your calendars, Westport
You missed the Memorial Day parade. Damn!
Monday’s event was - as I previewed last week, on this very page - a throwback. It was a heartbeat-of-America homage to our military heroes. Plus our police officers, firefighters, EMS, Y’s Men, Little Leaguers, Suzuki violinists, and anyone else who wandered into the march.
(All of this assumes, of course, that the parade was not canceled, for the third year in a row, by rain. I’m writing this a week ahead. Hey, I get a holiday too.)
But whether you were out of town, did not want to go, or simply forgot, no worries. Memorial Day marks the unofficial start of summer. Which means are there three months left to enjoy the many outdoor activities your realtor promised would be worth the premium you paid to purchase your home here.
So mark your calendars for:
The 4th of July fireworks. Actually, they’re the 2nd of July fireworks - but that’s the way we roll here. Once you’ve gotten your ticket (they do sell out), get set for an afternoon and evening of crazy-packed Compo Beach, barbecues and picnics, a marching band, and pyrotechnics shot fired from a barge offshore. Warning: Each year, more and more people save larger and larger swaths of sand, starting earlier and earlier in the day. Also, traffic to and from the beach can be a bitch. Those are small prices to pay for the best bash of the year.
The Levitt Pavilion. The biggest bang for your buck. Oh, wait - it’s free! Over 50 nights of entertainment, under the stars, alongside the river. The offerings are like Ed Sullivan on steroids: rock groups, folk and jazz music, kids’ shows, military bands, comedians, and everything else this side of Topo Gigio. Bring a lawn chair, a picnic, and your smile. The Levitt is Westport at its best.
The downtown art show. Officially called the “Fine Arts Festival,” this is a mid-July smorgasbord of watercolors, oils, sculpture and photography that sprawls up and down Main Street, along Elm Street and - this year - onto Church Lane. There’s lots of good art (mostly at Westport-type prices), along with music, food and first-rate people-watching.
The same weekend, across the Post Road, the Westport Library holds its annual book sale. Nearly 100,000 volumes - from novels and non-fiction to arcana, Judaica, even erotica - share space with DVDs, CDs and LPs. You can buy hundreds of items for what you’d spend on one piece at the art show - and Monday is half-price. Tuesday is completely free. After all, organizers need to make room for the nearly 100,000 more things they’ll amass in 2019.
Sidewalk sale. This happens every year too. You can buy clothes, shoes, gifts, and anything else sold on Main Street and in shopping centers up and down the Post Road, all without going inside a store. In fact, the only thing you can’t buy is - despite its name - a sidewalk. Go figure.
Outdoor dining. Unlike the 2nd of July fireworks, art show and sidewalk sale, this takes place all summer long. Westport is blessed with a ton of spots to eat al fresco. Some are obvious - riverfront restaurants like the ‘Port, Arezzo and Rive Bistro. Others are more like a few tables crammed in a parking lot. No matter. There’s nothing like an umbrella, some chairs and a bottle of wine to make you think you’re in Paris or Rome.
Compo Beach sunsets. One of the real underrated joys of Westport life. Every one is different. Not all are spectacular. But whether you’ve had cocktails and a cookout on South Beach, or just head over at dusk, the end of the day almost always draws an appreciative crowd. Insiders’ tip: Don’t forget to turn around and watch the moon rise behind you, too.
There is much more to do in Westport too, of course. The outdoor Longshore pool, nestled by Long Island Sound, can be either Zen-like or zoo-like depending on the time of day (and crowds). A few steps away, Longshore Sailing School rents all kinds of watercraft, including kayaks. (So does Downunder, across the river in Saugatuck.)
Longshore also offers golf, tennis and Pearl (more outdoor dining!). Old Mill and Burying Hill Beaches provide solitude. Sherwood Island State Park is Westport’s most overrated gem.
Blues, Views and BBQ. Held on Labor Day weekend at the Levitt a few days after school starts back up, this bookends the Memorial Day parade. But while pulled pork replaces hot dogs, and Muddy Waters takes over from John Philip Sousa, both are Westport at its best.
You may not have been there on Monday for the start of summer.
But shame on you now if you miss the rest.
Dan Woog is a Westport writer, and his “Woog's World” appears each Friday. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. His personal blog is danwoog06880.com.