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Monday, April 23 Opinion

Woog's World / A (fun) summer to-do list in Westport

Spring has chugged fitfully into Westport this year. It's been as on-time and consistent as a Metro-North train. But it's already late May, with Memorial Day quickly fading in the rearview mirror.

Which means summer has already -- if unofficially -- begun. It's a fleeting season -- how can those three months be so short, while winter is so long? -- but it's why many of us love Westport so much.

Yet if you're like most of us, you let summer slip away. You've got great ideas, long lists of to-dos, but when Labor Day arrives (tomorrow), you haven't gotten around to even two of them.

Right now, you can change that. So grab a calendar. Pencil in some dates. Go hog wild. Summer's here, and the time is right for dancing in the street.

OK, you may not want to do that. Westport drivers slow down for nothing, particularly street dancers. But here are a few less dangerous, perhaps even more fun, ideas.

Visit the Levitt Pavilion. For four decades, Westport has hosted free entertainment, six nights a week. Crowds are good, but many faces are familiar. If you haven't headed down to the landfill by the library, you're missing out on a lot. Jazz, rock, country, military bands -- it's like the old Ed Sullivan Show (minus Topo Gigio). NOTE: The newly remodeled Levitt won't open until July. But the renovation is well worth the wait.

Dine al fresco. La Villa and Cru are gone, but plenty of options remain to (literally) "dine out." Arezzo, Acqua, Spotted Horse, Post 154 and Mumbai Times leap quickly to mind as places with outside tables (and, of course, umbrellas). For dessert, head to the river. In less than a month, the plaza outside Saugatuck Sweets has become the go-to place for ice cream, candy and people-watching.

Sail away. Or kayak, or paddleboard. For over five decades, Longshore Sailing School has provided rentals -- and lessons -- for people of all ages and seamanship abilities. For nearly five years, Downunder has done the same. Long Island Sound has always beckoned. Now the Saugatuck River is a cool destination to explore, too.

Go fish. It helps to get up early in the morning, but there is nothing (I am told) like casting a line to make you feel relaxed, sporting, and in touch with your inner Mother Nature. Jetties on the beaches are major draws, but for sheer beauty and solitude you should check out the stretch of Ford Road near the old Dorr-Oliver headquarters.

Try a new beach. Sure, Compo has the cachet (and crowds). Plus Joey's, a playground, basketball courts, a softball diamond and marina. But Westport's other public beaches are hardly chopped liver. Old Mill ----just past Compo, across from Elvira's -- is sheltered, sandy and swimmable. The adjacent Sherwood Mill Pond is none of those, but it looks great. Burying Hill Beach, in Greens Farms, is nearly completely eroded, but it offers great views, barbecue pits, picnic tables -- and no crowds.

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If you're really adventurous, head to Sherwood Island. Connecticut's first state park comprises 238 acres of Westport's finest shoreline. Still, it's as far off our radar as Alpha Centauri. That's a shame. Sherwood Island is a true gem. Its nature center alone is worth a visit.

Shop at the Farmers Market. Like the Levitt, this draws a loyal crowd. But many Westporters treat it as something we "should" do, rather than "do" do. If you're looking for tomatoes or kale, you'll find it here. But there's also meat, baked goods and -- this being Westport -- a lobster truck. Farm-to-table chefs conduct classes and demos. There are discussions about butchering. The Imperial Avenue parking lot is not exactly the most farmer-friendly location. Then again, neither is Union Square.

See a play at the playhouse. Talk about a treasure hidden right in the heart of town! Westporters love the idea that one of America's oldest, most renowned "summer theaters" nestles next to our dog park and post office. But far too few of us actually watch shows at the historic venue. The next production -- "Sing For Your Shakespeare" -- is a very clever revue. Shakespeare-related songs range from Cole Porter and Leonard Bernstein to Stephen Sondheim. It's also a world premiere, which is pretty incredible.

Use your deck. This probably sounds like a no-brainer. But I'm constantly amazed by the number of Westporters who spend good money on chairs, tables, bars and (especially) grills that sit, like silent sunbathers, all summer long. Warm evening after warm evening, weekend after weekend, they look like movie sets. If you don't want to enjoy them, call me. I'll come right over.

Sure, there are lots of things to do in Westport. I've listed some great ones. I'm sure you've got your own. Whatever floats your boat, make time to do them.

Because the day after tomorrow, I'll be writing about winter.

Dan Woog is a Westport writer, and his "Woog's World" appears each Friday. He can be reached at dwoog@optonline.net. His personal blog is www.danwoog06880.