Families Say “Si!” to Mahackeno Fall Fiesta
By Mike Lauterborn
(for Westport News)
Westport, CT – Thump, thump, thump. The tunes DJ/MC Stevie C. was laying down echoed across the landscape, an auburn-tinged, pine needle carpeted mélange of game stations, pumpkins and inflatable structures set to capture the imagination of local families.
Collectively, the scene Sunday afternoon meant the Westport/Weston Family YMCA’s Mahackeno Center was hosting its sixth annual Fall Family Fiesta. The free public event at the 37 Rices Lane space offered a full complement of diversions from pumpkin painting, birdhouse building, beading and bean bag toss games to huge inflatables, CPR demos, grilled food and a spectacular performance by the Y’s own girls gymnastics/dance squad. Over 500 people were drawn to the site, which hugs the Saugatuck River, and will soon be the location of the Y’s new 102,000-square-foot facility.
“It’s exciting to see the Mahackeno property alive with families and smiles,” said YMCA CEO Rob Reeves. “We look forward to the day we can use these 32 acres 12 months a year. Our new facility has been site planned and the first shovel will break ground in Fall 2012.”
Director of Development Jon Simons added, “Fundraising is our challenge now, and we’re more than halfway along, with about $20 million to go. The more we can fundraise, the less we’ll need to borrow.”
For now, Y event coordinators will squeak as much fun out of the site as possible, and the Fiesta was certainly one of the more significant final outdoor events of the season.
One group that really needed as much space as possible was the Y’s gymnastics/dance team. The corps of girls, ranging in age from about 7 to 14, sprang high, leaped far and tumbled long across mats spread out on the blacktop near the pool area.
Between routines, Olivia Crosby, 14, shared, “I’ve been doing this since I was six and grew up at the Y with my teammates. We’re like family. I’ve got my sisters and me, you might say. We’re so well coordinated together.”
Coordinated enough that the advanced team – 15 girls in all – was recently invited to perform in Switzerland at an international show called Gymnaestrada. Next summer, they will travel to Florida for a similar performance.
While the cameras and recording devices of dance performance onlookers snapped and whirred, over at a picnic table on adjacent flat field, Peruvian-born Danica Blas of Stamford had her girls around her and was happily tap-tapping away on a birdhouse building project. She was glad to have a family moment, sharing, “It’s a nice day to spend with the kids after working all week… and we even learned a few things like CPR and making this birdhouse. My sister came here last year; this is my first visit here. It’s a very nice time.”