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Get a True Taste of Westport's Saugatuck Area

WESTPORT, Conn. – Try your hand at kayaking, watch a fly-fishing demonstration, get a behind-the-scenes look at a historic firehouse or indulge in free food and wine samples Saturday in Westport's Saugatuck neighborhood from noon to 3 p.m. during the first-ever Slice of Saugatuck Festival .

Organized by Saugatuck area resident and Representative Town Meeting member Matthew Mandell, this free event was created to highlight everything that Saugatuck has to offer, including its retail shops, restaurants and more.

"Everyone talks about revitalizing the downtown scene, and Saugatuck has already seen revitalization," said Mandell, who represents the Saugatuck area on the town's legislative body. "I wanted to be able to promote that and to let Westporters know they have something special here, and don't have to covet Fairfield."

More than 30 merchants along "the slice," which includes Riverside Avenue, Railroad Place and Saugatuck Avenue, are participating in the festival. The restaurants and wine shops will offer free tastings, and retail shops will put out whatever best represents their business. For example, Downunder Kayaks on Riverside Avenue will offer free kayak and standup paddleboard trials and the Saugatuck Rowing Club will offer exercise and rowing demonstrations.

At Luciano Park, visitors can catch fly-fishing demonstrations from Westport Outfitters at 12:30 and 2:30 p.m. and Tae Kwan Do demonstrations from World Championship Tae Kwan Do at 1 and 2 p.m.

Children and adults can tour the Saugatuck firehouse, watch fire safety demonstrations and see and climb onboard an antique fire engine.

"My hope is that everyone who comes will see what we've got here and say 'Wow, I'm going to come back,'" Mandell said.

Because no festival would be complete without music, several bands will be performing throughout the event. The main musical act, Parents With Angst, will perform at the plaza of the new Saugatuck Center on Riverside Avenue.

As much as the festival is about promoting Saugatuck, it's also about celebrating neighborhood pride, Mandell said. "When I-95 came through, it cut Saugatuck in half," he said. "And though it's taken a while, [Saugatuck] found itself again, and there's a lot of pride here."

Frank DeMace, owner of the restaurant Mario's Place, agreed with Mandell, calling Saugatuck the "heart and soul of Westport."

Carmai Rydecki of Saugatuck Wine & Spirits said Saugatuck is "coming into its own," and she hopes the festival will help people see that.

"We are a restaurant and small retail mecca," Rydecki said. "You can't compare us to downtown."

For more information about the festival or to see a map, visit the official Slice of Saugatuck website .

To reach reporter Vanessa Inzitari, send an email to vinzitari@thedailywestport.com.

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