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Monday, June 27, 2011

Koo Koo Kachoo: Beatlemania Cast Starts Levitt Pavilion Season

Koo Koo Kachoo: Beatlemania Cast Starts Levitt Pavilion Season
By Mike Lauterborn
(for Westport News)

Westport, CT – The familiar jangle of “I Saw Her Standing There” carried out over the throng, creating instant smiles on faces young and old.

The tune was the opener in a non-stop two-hour set performed Sunday night by the mop-topped stars of the Broadway sensation “Beatlemania”, at the Levitt Pavilion, 20 Jesup Road. The show was the first of 57 free nights of “entertainment under the stars” offered at the outdoor performing arts center. The evening sponsor was Melissa and Doug educational toys. Poland Spring is the lead sponsor for the season.

“We’re so lucky to have such a beautiful night and enthusiastic turnout,” said Janet Plotkin, chair of the pavilion’s board, to the hundreds of people that filled the grassy space in front of the pavilion stage. “We have something for everybody, from Grammy winners to emerging talent,” she said.

Plotkin mentioned the two major fundraisers of the season, which help make the free season possible: Big Bad VooDoo Daddy on July 10 and the Doobie Brothers, July 28.

As Paul McCartney, Lenie Colacino, wearing a black suit with thin lapels and effecting a thick Liverpudlian accent, chirped, “It’s nice to be back in America, in Connecticut. Dancing is encouraged and any other illegal activities. It’s your place, not ours.”

Taking in the fun was Westporter Joyce Landon, attending with her husband, Elliott, and friends from Redding. “We’ve been coming here for 20 years,” she said. “We love the feeling of camaraderie. The entertainment is usually very good, and Beatlemania is a great show.”

Another Westporter, Michael Book, enjoying beer and wine with his wife April and a Norwich couple, said, “We love coming to the Pavilion on the weekend. It feels like a vacation. And we love the Beatles.”

Seated with her husband John and local friends around a low-rise table, Dianne Shannon commented, “We’ve been doing this for a long time. It’s a great way to get together with our friends and start the summer.”

Emiko and On Nomoto of Norwalk had pitched a small tent and spread blankets on the grass for the comfort of their daughters, Mio, 3, and Ena, 5. “We’ve been coming with our kids since they were very small,” said Emiko. “It’s great entertainment for all of us and very family oriented.”

Learning that dogs were allowed on the grounds, Elliott Diesenhaus and Nicole Palmisano from Norwalk brought along furry friends, Remi and Emma. “This is a good outing on a Sunday and we’re Beatles fans, too, so that’s a plus.”

Tucking into a bucket of chicken and homemade potato chips, Greg Fass, with several friends, said, “I love the Beatles. We listen to them snowboarding.”

For Dave Dreyfuss of Westport, the concert was an excuse to celebrate his birthday. “My loved ones and the Beatles – who could ask for more?” he said.

Westporter Michael Platt decided to take the labor out of the evening and pick up Chinese food from Little Kitchen for himself, his wife Lisa and their neighbor Andy Bangser. Andy contributed a bottle of champagne. “This is a spectacular night,” said Michael, “and the biggest crowd I’ve ever seen here.”

Speaking on behalf of the Under-10 set, Amanda Kline, 7, of Westport, said she’s a Beatles fan and “thought it would be fun to come and hear some of their songs outside.”

As the cast made costume changes to reflect different eras of Beatle music, the crowd sang along, clapped, tossed paper airplanes and shimmied near the stage, happy to lose themselves in the moment.

For more information and the season schedule, visit

Ethiopian Runs Off with Half Marathon Crown

Ethiopian Runs Off with Half Marathon Crown:
Fairfield Road Race celebration dominates Jennings Beach area
By Mike Lauterborn
(for Fairfield Citizen News)

Fairfield, CT – Three-thousand four-hundred twenty starting runners. Five-hundred to 1,000 spectators at the finish. Another few thousand along the course. Sixty-five port-o-potties. One hundred thousand cups of water. Over 15,000 cups of Gatorade. Three thousand pounds of watermelon. Twelve hundred apples. Two thousand Gu Gel energy packets. Three hundred pizzas. Four thousand ice creams. Three thousand yogurts. Fifteen hundred bagels. Fifteen hundred volunteers. Nine water stations. Two bands, a deejay, a fife and drum corps, and bagpipers.

The logistics and sheer numbers related to the Stratton Faxon Half Marathon, a 13.1-mile race run Sunday morning from Jennings Beach, are staggering. The 31st annual event, sponsored for the fifth year by Stratton Faxon law firm and for the tenth year by Anthem Health Plans, is the largest footrace in Fairfield County and the fourth largest in Connecticut.

“It’s a fast-growing race,” said Event Coordinator John Bysiewicz. “Five years ago, we had 3,000 participants. This year, we doubled that number with the 5K.”

In the past, a 5K and the Half Marathon were run on the same day. This year, the 5K was scheduled the day prior. “We used to be limited to 4,500 participants overall,” said Bysiewicz. “Having the 5K on a separate day allowed us to accommodate an additional 1,300 people.”

Founded by Steve Lobdell, the race director and a retired Fairfield Fire Dept. captain, the event is supported by 60 to 70 fire dept. members as well as area scouting troops, the Fairfield YMCA and Fairfield Beach Association. “It really is a community event,” said Bysiewicz. “Almost all our volunteers are from Fairfield and 700 to 1,000 runners are from Fairfield. So, over 1,500 Fairfielders are involved in the event in some way.”

Fundraising is also a big story with the race. Team in Training, representing the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, raised over $100K; Hole in the Wall raised close to that figure; and other independent groups pulled an equal amount for charity. “Between runners and charities, over $300K has been raised this weekend,” said Bysiewicz.

Overall, the Ethiopians, known to be world-class runners, dominated at the finish line. Kumsa Adugna, 24, placed first with a time of 1:04:40 and Ketema Nigusse, 30, placed second 15 seconds behind. They captured $2,000 and $1,000 cash prizes respectively. Among women, Moroccan Malika Mejdoub, 29, finished first at 1:18:06. The top U.S. finisher was Ridgefield, CT resident Lucas Meyer, 27, at 1:09:52. The fastest teen on the course was Matt Klein, 17, from Trumbull, in at 1:13.43. The top finisher from Fairfield was Paul Dolynchuk, 42, recording a time of 1:25:14.

While these competitors were in it to win it, many more, like Bostonian Elisia Eifler, had entered for the first time and were challenging themselves. “I trained three to four months,” she said, while getting a free massage onsite before the race from students with the American Massage Therapy Association. “My twin sister, a marathoner, flew out from San Diego to join me. I was nervous last night.”

Charlene Calandro, from Newtown, was participating for the first time with two friends. “We decided to cross this one off our bucket list,” she said. “We’re excited and nervous. My friend Christine is my weight management coach and I dared her to do this.”

Claudia Hordes, from Stamford, just hoped to finish. “That’s all I want,” she said. “I just don’t want to be last. It’s a nice day, I think it’s going to be fun.”

Other runners were veterans and planned to at least put forth a good showing. “I’ve done five half marathons,” said Chris Palko, from Trumbull. “This is my second time for this one. It’s a beautiful course. The start and finish is very easy, and the event overall is well organized, with lots of supporters and a great massage at the end.”

With Palko was Erin Merritt, from New York City. “I love the shady downhill in Greenfield Hills,” she said. “That’s when you can start to pick it up and go. I’ve done the race six or seven times.”

Stephanie McNamara, from Stamford, said she had done a couple of 5Ks and that this was her second half marathon. “I love the crowd,” she said. “Forty-five hundred runners is a perfect number. You’re surrounded by a mix of people pushing each other.”

Besides the independent runners, there were full teams, like the Fairfield Running Group. “About 70 of our members are running,” said Kristen DeLaurentiis, the group’s chairman. “We’ve raised over $12,000 for Tiny Miracles, which helps families with premature babies in Fairfield County.”

David MacNiven, director of marketing for Team Hole in the Wall, which funds a camp for children with serious illnesses, said, “We had 45 runners in the 5K yesterday and 135 in the half marathon today.”

Among spectators, Claire Andoy, from Ossining, NY, said, “I wouldn’t miss supporting Sonia for the world,” she said, referring to her best friend Sonia Neto, also from Ossining, who was running her first half marathon.

As runners came across the finish line, flanked by cheering spectators, and received a medal, they made their way over the dunes to a beach-based exhibit and cool-down area where several charities and vendors, like Generation UCan powdered energy drink, Blue Buffalo cat and dog food and 95.9 FM, had tables. Many runners, sweat-covered from their feat, marched right down and into the water – the ultimate cool-off.

There, runner Lisa Lapointe, from Norwich, CT, commented, “The course was awesome and beautiful and this is one of the best celebrations.”

Looking winded and relieved, Fairfielder Dave Rabideau, 41, said the course was harder than he imagined. “ The heat made it difficult,” he said. “I’d been training in the morning when it was cooler. I’d been running threes and fives, along with some tens the last couple of weeks. The extra few miles are a killer. But I did it.”