Woog’s World: Things I love about Westport
When I attended Burr Farms Elementary School — back in the pre-politically correct days — we handed out cards to classmates on Valentine’s Day. Not to all of them, mind you, just some.
It was an arms race to see who could amass the most. I’m sure many of us were scarred, or ill-advisedly pumped up, by our totals, though today I have absolutely no recollection of whether I was a Valentine’s Day winner or loser.
In 2020, I imagine the practice has been outlawed. Or else students now engage in supervised Valentine’s Day card-making, with teachers, paraprofessionals and counselors making sure everyone receives not only an equal number, but that they’re all the same size, weight and carry the same sentiments.
To hell with political correctness. Here’s my Valentine’s Day card to Westport. If you’re on the list, I love you. If you’re not, I don’t. Well, either that, or I forgot about you. Whatever the case, have some chocolate.
Things I love about Westport:
The vibe. I often ask people what got them here. Invariably, they say that as they visited various towns, something about this place stood out. It may look like other suburbs, but newcomers sensed somehow that it is more diverse, more progressive, more environmentally aware, more of a community than a collection of homes. I’m sure those are the reasons some people do not move here, and for that I say thank you!
The people. Westporters get involved. If there’s a cause, we speak up. If there are two, three or 203 sides to an issue, we’ll find them and debate them. Coming to consensus can be a long, messy process. We may not always like the result, but we make our feelings known — loudly — and then we move on to the next issue.
The schools. It’s easy to fixate on one poor teacher, one bad grade, one less-than-stellar experience. But taken as a whole, Westport Public Schools are astonishing. This truly is a lighthouse district. I hear it over and over from parents after their first Back-to-School Night, and again when their child graduates from high school. A committed, caring and extremely talented staff; fine facilities; and a multilayered focus on every student helps leverage the advantages that are already baked in to an affluent district. If you’re tempted to throw stones at our administrators, teachers or anyone else associated with Westport schools, try some others.
The water. The more time I spend here, the more I realize how important this is. Our beaches are our most visible connection, of course, but the Saugatuck River has had at least as strong an influence on who and what we are as a town. Add in all its branches, our many lagoons and tidal pools, and of course Sherwood Mill Pond, and you realize the power that water holds over us. We’re not Montauk or Martha’s Vineyard, but we’re sure not Omaha.
The arts. It’s easy to say that Westport is not the arts community it once was, but it would be wrong. The band of creative, talented men and women known as the Artists Collective of Westport has brought new spark (and new blood), all over town. Pop-up galleries showcase intriguing works. The Westport Country Playhouse has upped its game over the past few years, with a host of new offerings and ideas. Though this is the era of STEM, Westport schools are clearly aware of the need for STEAM.
The organizations. Westport supports not one but two Rotary Clubs; a Woman’s Club and a Young Woman’s League; a Chamber of Commerce that organizes dog festivals, Slices of Saugatuck and Supper and Soul series. Groups dedicated to animal welfare, sustainability, sports, astronomy, veterans affairs, homelessness and hunger, history, community service, gardens, books, electric cars, women’s issues, voting rights, new neighbors and senior citizens — all of them thrive. If you’ve got a passion, there are people here who support it.
The library. Very few projects exceed expectations. The Westport Library does. It’s beautiful, functional, it pulses with activity, it’s cutting edge, it’s warm, welcoming and fun. And despite the fears of traditionalists, it’s still a place to check out books. Our library is the crown jewel of downtown, and a stunning symbol that despite all the perverse joy we sometimes take in mocking Westport, it’s a town that loves ideas, loves innovation and loves coming together.
That’s my Valentine’s Day card to my home town. Next week, I’ll be back finding fault and picking nits with this place. After all, that’s the Westport way.
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.