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Celebrations Roll Out for Longshore

A 60's rock 'n roll party on May 20 kicks off a string of Westport celebrations in honor of Longshore Club Park's 50th anniversary. The rock 'n roll party at the Longshore Club features boogeying (in 60's duds) to band Cracked Ice's renditions of Beatles, Rolling Stones and Motown music. Tickets are $75.

More Longshore Anniversary celebrations roll out from May through July, and possibly to the end of the year. The town-appointed Longshore Anniversary Committee, headed by Scott Smith, was assembled in January and is speedily pulling together salutes to the169 acre park Westporters -- and others -- hold so dear. " Buying Longshore for $1.9 million in 1960, was probably the most significant land acquisition in the town’s history," Smith says.

Displays and a video follow the rock 'n roll party as the next commemorations of Longshore's milestone. Old photographs, art and other materials relating to the park will comprise two exhibits. The Westport Historical Society opens its doors after the Memorial Day parade, to show off  “Treasures of Longshore: The Kids’ Wall” in the Betty and Ralph Sheffer Gallery and “Longshore Memories”  in its Little Gallery. A video profile of the park will also debut at the Historical Society at the end of May. Committee member Brian O'Leary has been charged with collecting and  reviewing all Longshore materials, not just the Historical Society's but those owned by individuals as well.

From June 1 to July 31, "The Art of Longshore" covers kiosks in the Westport Library's Great Hall. A reception (date TBA) inaugurates this collection of Longshore-inspired art, historical photos and images.

The Rotary Club's contribution to the celebration is to honor Herb Baldwin, Westport's First Selectman at Longshore's purchase in 1960, as part of its June 9 golf and tennis park outing. At Longshore Sailing School's 50th anniversary reunion on July 4th weekend, special bricks for a walk will be sold to raise money for Longshore's anniversary. Since the anniversary celebrations are self-funded, donations and sponsorships are being sought. TD Bank has signed on as the rock 'n roll party's sponsor.

The Longshore Committee also plans to commemorate the park's history with a coffee table book and Longshore history website. The website's official unveiling takes place May 1 but take a look now at www.westporthistory.org/longshore50 and you'll get an idea of the wonderful material being collected.  Events co-chair Denise Torv says the book is expected to be a glossy coffeetable-style keepsake with at least 100 historic and contemporary photos and documents relating to Longshore Park.

If funding is found, a fall family park event, perhaps with a Gatsby theme (F. Scott Fitzgerald had a Westport connection - see the website) might also mark Longshore's anniversary. Above all, the committee hopes its efforts drive home how lucky Westport is to own Longshore. And to have had forward-looking leaders 50 years ago, who envisioned it as the recreational oasis it would become. As Denise Torv says, "Our goal is to make our events and for instance, the book, affordable and accessible for people who want to have it. We're a town-appointed committee so that's our goal. The park was gifted to the town so whatever we're going to do is in that spirit."

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