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Monday, July 18, 2011

Bargain Hunters Flock to Warde High School Flea Market

Bargain Hunters Flock to Warde High School Flea Market
By Mike Lauterborn
(for Fairfield Citizen News)

Fairfield, CT – They searched through boxes, combed through crates and held things up to the light, seeking a must-have item, unique treasure or bargain buy.

Locals flocked to Fairfield Warde High School’s monthly flea market, set up in the parking lot at 755 Melville Avenue first thing Sunday morning, to browse the displays of over 60 vendors that had trekked their items in from New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts and near and far reaches of Connecticut. Held every third Sunday of the month, April through October, the event offers a mix of used and new items, antiques, household goods, jewelry, books, collectables and even fresh fruit and hot dogs. Revenue from the rental of vendor spaces, which go for a very reasonable $25 a pop, goes to supporting Warde sports teams, school trips, scholarships and class equipment. On average, about $10,000 is raised every summer.

“This is the biggest fundraiser of the year for the school,” said Dulce Rabines, co-chair of Warde’s PTA Fundraising group, along with Linda Bernstein. “Because we have to reserve the space a year in advance, if there’s a rainout, there’s no reschedule.”

Overall, Rabines said there are very good bargains to be found and that the event is worthwhile. “There are many interesting things and it’s a great way to support the school.”

Al of “Good Stuff Cheap”, a vendor that has supported the event since it was first conducted five years ago, would agree with that assessment. “Parents here really volunteer to help the kids, the people that run the event are super and the customers are excellent.”

Another vendor, Jerri Wiley of Monroe, selling jewelry, records, kitchen items and crafts, said she has participated in the sale for the past three years. “I get to talk to a lot of people, which is interesting, get out in the fresh air and see what everybody else has,” she said. “It’s a nice way to spend a day, especially when it’s gorgeous like this morning.”

Looking at some New York Yankees memorabilia spread out on one vendor’s tarp, Fairfielder Sam Hunt said, “I like to walk around and see what strikes my eye – crazy Christmas items, joke gifts for stockings… It’s a good place to find that kind of thing.”

Fellow Fairfielder Fred Zweibaum, who was studying a set of unique windchimes, remarked, “I come out to look for offbeat antique stuff or tools. You always hope someone will misprice things.”

Like a busy bee visiting flowers, Trumbull resident Evelyn Kleemichen buzzed from display to display. “I’ve been coming here for five years,” she said. “I look for jewelry or things I need that I don’t want to pay full price for. There’s always an odd item that’s needed. This is a great money saver. I love it.”

Ken Blass, of Shelton, was crouched and turning a Styrofoam buoy over in his hands. “I look at everything,” he said. “There’s a good selection here and it’s fun to just walk around.”

Fairfielder Siobhan Keehan couldn’t wait to get to the sale. “I rolled right out of bed right to the flea market,” she said. “I was really looking forward to it. I saw it advertised a couple of days ago and made it my Sunday morning plan. I’m hoping to find something unique.” 

Black Rocker Lindsey Herod’s interests were business-oriented. “I’m an interior designer and always hit up these types of sales whenever they’re around,” she said. “You never know what you’re going to find – there might be a gem.”

For shoppers plum tuckered out by all the browsing, vendor Kevin Albano, of Trumbull, was on hand with succulent fresh fruit. “This is a good venue for my fruit because you’re in an area that’s a little more affluent than others,” he said. “People are willing to spend a little more. You make friends and acquaintances at the same time. It’s a nice little social event.”

To inquire about renting a space at the Warde Flea Market, call Linda Berstein at 203-258-6978 or Dulce Rabines at 203-258-7497. You can also reach the organizers by email:

A Fine Day for Fine Arts

A Fine Day for Fine Arts
By Mike Lauterborn
(for Westport News)

Westport, CT – Row upon row of cubed white tents, hundreds of works of art, living statues intriguing passersby, the aroma of mouth-watering food wafting in the breeze and the jangle of live music.

These were the many accents to be found midday on a sunny Saturday as day one of the two-day, 38th Annual Westport Downtown Merchants Association’s Fine Arts Festival commenced along the banks of Saugatuck River. Over 140 artists displayed works in seven categories, including oils, mixed media, print, sculpture, photography, pastels and watercolors. Over 5,000 people were expected to visit the fest throughout the weekend. Children were offered their own diversions such as tattooing, face painting, balloon animals and a kids tent hosted by Westport Arts Center. In the food department, Blue Lemon and DaPietro restaurants were both on hand offering lunch-oriented menus.

“This is considered to be one of the top shows in New England,” said Peggy Travers, business development manager for the DMA. “We get over 250 artist applications for this juried event. The DMA’s role is to attract people to town via events – I think it’s working judging by the crowds.”

Added Cathy Colgan, DMA events producer, “The fest reflects Westport’s heritage as an arts community.”

The artists themselves certainly seemed to appreciate the event. “It’s a high quality show,” said Michael Patterson, of Roxbury, CT, a painter that depicts people on streets and beaches, in watercolor and oils. “Visitors know artwork and are art savvy. I normally do well here and have exhibited 10 or 12 times before.”

Matt Evald Johnson, an artist that works in carved steel, from Easthampton, MA, said, “This is my first time doing the show and, so far, I’m getting some encouraging feedback.”

Attendees were equally enthused. “I wouldn’t miss this event,” said Victor Chaves, touring the show with Emily Chin and their daughter Leya, 2. “The artists are fabulous. If something feels right, we’ll considering purchasing. We just bought a new home in town, so we certainly have some new spaces to fill.”

Visitor Ali Hoyt, down from Tolland, CT, with her sister Genna and other family, said, “I’m an art history major at Manhattanville College. This is really cool for me to see, especially assemblages. I’m taking a class in the fall titled ‘Assemblage and Collage’. I’m picking up some ideas here. Pretty cool to see.”

Weekend Fine Arts Festival Show Times: Sat., 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.; Sun., 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Admission is free.

Bookworms Hot for Library’s Summer Sale

Bookworms Hot for Library’s Summer Sale
By Mike Lauterborn
(for Westport News)

Westport, CT – White tents, large fans, herds of people and over 100,000 individual books and CDs.

That was the scene Saturday morning as the four-day 18th Annual Friends of the Westport Library Book Sale got under way. The number of individual book and music items was not the only staggering number. Consider that up to 20,000 people were expected to visit throughout the sale run, 300 volunteers help work the event and it takes a week to get everything set up and organized.

“In 1993, we started off with a little table inside the library and maybe 5,000 books,” said Mimi Greenlee, co-chairman of the event. “Today, we had 650 people in line before we even opened.”

Greenlee explained that all books are donated by area residents and that revenue goes to supplement library programming, help add to its collection and support general library needs. The sale is one of three the library hosts annually – the others are in March and December. Combined, these events raise an estimated $160,000 per year.

“This sale is considered to be one of the top three in Connecticut, the other two being Newington and Southport,” added Greenlee. “Dealers and large volume book buyers hit all three on consecutive weekends.”

New this year is the dedication of separate tents for children’s books fiction/mysteries and audio visual. In the main, over 50 categories of books are featured. Inside the library, special volumes for photography, art and architecture are housed.

The Slowik family of Westport had made their purchases and was sitting in a circle on the lawn near the main tent. “We’ve been coming here for seven years,” said Maria Slowik. “We all look forward to it, and always buy too many books. We like the children’s books and nutrition/wellness oriented manuals. This is a great way to spend a sunny Saturday.”

Browsing the children’s books area with her three daughters, Fatima Barroso of Fairfield thought the sale was a great way to get her kids to be enthusiastic about reading. “They pick out their own books,” she said. Her eldest daughter Ysabela, 9, added brightly, “Books expand your imagination.”

Also squatting on the grass, beside the fiction tent, with her young son and daughter, Kim Ruhnke of Norwalk said she focuses on buying children’s books. “You save a lot of money and there’s a lot of variety,” she said. “Ryan (4) likes books on cars and dinosaurs while Emily (7) likes books on Barbie and Amelia Bedelia.”

Rena Moy, of Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, was busy leafing through titles in the main tent. “I’m here visiting a friend in town, who comes to the sale annually,” she said. “It seemed like a good idea to attend. There’s an amazing selection here – I’m overwhelmed. My kids are busy in the children’s section, my husband is in the sci-fi section and my friends are in the literature area. There’s really something for everyone.”

Book dealer Bill Nadolny, from New Hartford, CT, was in the a/v area amassing a stack of CDs. “I made the 60-mile ride down especially for this sale,” he said. “This is one of the top 10 shows in New England. The quality and quantity of items is both excellent.”

Standing nearby, Diane Lowman had removed a record from its sleeve and was holding it up to check for warping. “I was here to find ‘In Cold Blood’ by Truman Capote for my 18-year-old son, but got mesmerized by everything else that’s here,” she said. “I brought one bag and now I’m on bag number two.”

Book Sale Days, Hours and Prices are as follows: Sat. & Sun. 9 a.m. – 6 p.m., as marked; Mon. 9 a.m. – 6 p.m., half price; Tue. 9 a.m. – 1 p.m., free. 

Naval Academy Trainees Drop Anchor at Cedar Point Yacht Club

Naval Academy Trainees Drop Anchor at Cedar Point Yacht Club
By Mike Lauterborn
(for Westport News)

Westport, CT – As they washed and polished the railings, decks and trim on the majestic sailing craft in the late afternoon sun, you could see the spirit of camaraderie, responsibility and duty developing among them. These young, clean-cut boys were learning the ways of the sea while being groomed to be future leaders of our great naval forces.

Early afternoon Friday saw the arrival at Cedar Point Yacht Club at One Bluff Point of the Valiant, Courage, Intrepid and Commitment – identical, virtually brand-new 44-foot long sailing vessels built by Pearson Composites specifically for the use of the United States Naval Academy for its training purposes.

The vessels and their respective crews of approximately 10 men per boat actually arrived from Annapolis, Maryland, Thursday evening but had to spend the overnight anchored near Cockenoe Island until they could be led in by a guide boat piloted by retired Marine Mike Lindberg. The skippers of each boat include Bill Erikson (Intrepid), Donna Sengelaub (Commitment), Matt Barnes (Valiant) and Lt. Commander Joe Slaughter (Courage). Their crews were mostly midshipmen, with varying levels of experience, and all in the 18 to 21 age range.

The visit was coordinated by Lindberg, fellow former Naval officer Ron Silverman, Westport Chamber of Commerce’s Heather Cavanagh and Cedar Point Yacht Club Manager Trey Lang, and served as a reward and break for the sailors for guiding their watercraft up the coast.

“Crew members are training to be commissioned officers in the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps,” explained Navy Commander (RET.) Sengelaub. “Their paths begin as midshipmen 4th class and they can be officers in as little as four years, after graduating with a Bachelors in Science degree. Each May through August, Academy enrollees have one cruise, one month of training and one month of leave.”

Sengelaub said the on-board experience is designed to teach teamwork. “This is seamanship in its purest form,” she said. “Crew members may not know each other as they start with the basics of sailing and navigation. We teach them leadership, how to take action and plan ahead, and how to respond to equipment failure and emergencies. They may never have worked on an engine or sewn a sail before.”

Sengelaub said Valiant skipper Barnes, a Midshipman First Class who is just 21, is a prime example of the caliber of sailor the Academy can produce. “He entered the program three years ago with no sailing experience and is now responsible for 10 men at sea, most of whom are novices,” she said. “It’s a remarkable achievement.”

Another fine sailor is Courage’s captain Slaughter. The 35-year-old was a C-2 cargo plane pilot and aircraft carrier shooter. Now he skippers one of the four training boats and is a professor in the history department at the Academy.

These two men are not alone as shining examples. Midshipman 2nd Class Scott Rowe, 20, and Midshipman 1st Class Phoenix Geimer, 21, are hard at their heels proving their merit.

“My dad was air force enlisted for a while but our family really wasn’t a traditional military family,” Rowe said. “I found out about the Academy, its traditions and its sense of service. It appealed to me and I learned to sail during what they call ‘Plebe Summer’, an indoctrination for freshman. This is really my first time to lead. We’ve been through some storms and rough sailing. This is a great group – we really learn to rely on each other, especially on this type of vessel. You gain a sense of ownership of the boat, and confidence level.”

For Geiner’s part, he said, “This is the original Navy experience, dating back to the Navy’s formation in 1775. My grandfather went to the Academy. Every year when I was kid we would go to his class reunion. His classmates were a bunch of great people and inspired me.”

Geiner continued, “Our sail here was very fast – fifty percent faster than we expected. Every job on the boat is mirrored in the real Navy, from supply officer to skipper, so it’s real training in that sense.”

For organizer Lindberg, the boys’ visit recalled memories of his own Academy experiences before going on to fly fighter jets as a captain in the Marine Corps. “This is a chance for these guys to experience a large sailboat and get out in the ocean,” he said. “It’s a wonderful development and learning experience. I graduated from the Academy 40 years ago and wanted to make sure this experience remained part of Academy training.”

The group’s agenda for the weekend included a Friday evening barbecue with a racing group called the Flying Scots, an overnight with area host families, a free day Saturday, a Club dinner Sunday and a breakfast Monday hosted by the Chamber of Commerce, Touch of Salt catering and Aitoro Appliances. They will then catch the current at Hell’s Gate, the confluence of the Harlem River and East River in New York, and make the return to Annapolis.

“Cedar Point and local Westporters have given us a very warm welcome,” exclaimed Lindberg.