Ridgefield happenings: Talk on Ridgefield hero, Ridgefield Chorale award, more news

Founders Hall hosts talk on Ridgefield hero Varian Fry, Jan. 20

Former Ridgefield resident Rita L. Frost will give a seminar at Founders Hall on Jan. 20 at 1 p.m., which is open to the public. The topic will be Varian Fry, an American journalist who helped famous artist Marc Chagall and over 2,000 other anti-Nazi refugees - including a number of prominent writers and artists - escape from France between 1940 and 1941 and emigrate to the United States. A former Ridgefield resident, Fry taught at Ridgefield High School and the Joel Barlow School in Easton and died in 1967 at age 59.

Varian Fry was the first American to be named “Righteous Among the Nations” by Yad Vashem (Israel’s official memorial to Holocaust victims) for risking his life to rescue Jews. There are at least twelve books about him, including “A Hero of Our Own” by Sheila Isenberg. There are also at least two films about him, and a Netflix series "Transatlantic” is coming out early next year.

Through her research, Ms. Frost met fascinating people involved with Fry. One was living right in town: Founders Hall member Gys Landsberger, who has since passed away. Gys was coaxed to give a talk with Ms. Frost at the Ridgefield Library and in Newtown. 

Fry’s life became Ms. Frost’s passion after reading of his heroism in Vichy, France in the Ridgefield Press twenty some years ago.  Ms. Frost has met with Fry’s son, along with Dr. Justus Rosenberg, who had worked in Fry’s Vichy office when he was 16 years old. She also hosted Amy Ernst, granddaughter of artist/survivor Max Ernst.

Rita L. Frost is an artist, photographer and poet, formerly from Ridgefield, now living in Newtown with her four cats. Her paintings and photographs are in collections throughout the Northeast and are in the collection of Golda Meir and ambassadors from Turkey and Bulgaria and in numerous corporations. After studying at the San Francisco Art School, Frost moved back to New York City and later had a scholarship to study in Firenze at the Accademia di Belle Arti.

'Eccentric Women of Ridgefield' to be presented at The Meetinghouse

"Eccentric Women of Ridgefield," a joint project of the Ridgefield Theater Barn and the Ridgefield Historical Society, will be presented at The Meetinghouse Jan. 29 at 2 p.m.  Based on the writings and performances of Dr. Darla Shaw, adapted for the stage by Stephen Robbins, and directed by Linda Seay, the show was originally performed at the Theater Barn in November to critical acclaim and audience delight.  

This encore performance features the original cast of Sheri Rak, Benna Strober, Charlotte Hampden and Emily Volpintesta, as well as special guest Barb Fulton Jennes, the Poet Laureate of Ridgefield. The true story narratives spotlight Sarah Bishop, the hermit who lived in a “cave” on West Mountain Road during the period following the Revolutionary War; Mary Louise Beatrice Olcott, who took over her father’s palatial estate, Casagmo, on Main Street in the early 1900s, and worked diligently to improve Ridgefield, and “helped to advance the cause of suffragists across the nation”; Jacqueline Seligmann, a French heiress in the 1940s who came to live on Barrack Hill then “fell from grace,” fame, and fortune to a life filled with hundreds of cats as her only companions; and Carmela Sabilia, an immigrant from Italy who came to Georgetown in 1898, and in the 1920s and 1930s she became known as the Peanut Lady of Branchville Road. 
 
The Meetinghouse is located at 605 Ridgebury Road in Ridgefield. The show is presented without intermission and a reception will follow at Shields Hall. Tickets are $25, and reservations can be made at www.meetinghouse.life.

Ridgefield company appoints general manager for Hilton Garden Inn in Riverhead, N.Y.
 
Guido Kerpel, COO of New Castle Hotels & Resorts in Ridgefield, a leading hotel owner, operator and developer, announces the appointment of Kevin Houlahan as the general manager of Hilton Garden Inn Riverhead.  The seasoned hospitality professional is responsible for the overall management and operations of the upscale property that New Castle Hotels & Resorts started managing in May 2022.  Mr. Houlahan most recently served as the food and beverage director for Hilton Garden Inn Riverhead.  He also held other leadership responsibilities within the hotel’s ownership group, Browning Hotel Properties.   

Mr. Houlahan has worked for 30 years in hospitality management and food and beverage director positions in New York.  He recently served as the interim general manager of the Riverhead Residence Inn.  Houlahan has held many other positions with a wide array of companies, primarily hotels, including Hilton and Marriott.  For seven years, he owned and operated a successful corporate catering business that included four corporate cafeterias, food trucks, retail outlets and multiple off-site banquet facilities.  Mr. Houlahan studied business management at Hofstra University.  
 
Hilton Garden Inn Riverhead is located on the scenic North Shore of Long Island, approximately 20 miles from The Hamptons and just a few minutes from Long Island’s Wine Country.  The picturesque area is known for its farms, beaches, orchards, paddocks and vineyards.  Hilton Garden Inn is across from Tanger Outlets and is located near golf courses, Splish Splash Water Park and Riverhead Raceway.  

Hilton Garden Inn Riverhead offers 114 guest rooms along with an outdoor patio and gathering area with a fireplace.  Culinary options include a restaurant serving daily breakfast, dinner and room service, and a full-service bar.  An indoor pool, indoor and outdoor whirlpools that are open year round and 2,100 sq.-ft. of meeting space complete the amenities.  For additional information, visit the company’s website at www.newcastleshotel.com or call 631-727-2733.

Ridgefield Chorale awarded CT Cultural Fund Operating Support Grant from CT Humanities

The Ridgefield Chorale was recently awarded a $6,800 CT Cultural Fund Operating Support Grant from CT Humanities (CTH). CT Cultural Fund Operating Support Grants assist organizations as they recover from the pandemic and maintain and grow their ability to serve their community and the public.

This award launches 2023 with funds needed to support The Ridgefield Chorale’s concerts and community performances in Ridgefield and beyond. The Chorale’s spring production entitled “This is Who I Am” is planned for May 13 at Ridgefield High School.  We welcome new members to join us for our 2023 season.

The Ridgefield Chorale was one of 725 organizations in Connecticut receiving a CT Cultural Fund Operating Support Grant. Totaling more than $8.5M, these grants are part of a two-year, $30.7M investment in arts, humanities, and cultural nonprofits by the CT General Assembly and approved by Governor Ned Lamont.

This CT Cultural Fund Operating Support Grant was provided by CT Humanities, with funding from the Connecticut State Department of Economic and Community Development/Connecticut Office of the Arts (COA) from the Connecticut State Legislature.

Tai Chi, yoga and stretch classes offered through Ridgefield Continuing Education

Tai Chi, Yoga and Stretch classes, starting soon through Ridgefield Continuing Education, help relieve stress, increase strength and flexibility, improve balance, coordination and circulation.  Classes meet in person except where Zoom (or Zoom option) is noted.

Tai Chi Form for Beginners in person starts Feb. 1 (6 to 6:50 p.m.). This is the classic Tai Chi as practiced in China. Instructor Gwen Roman has extensive experience in the Arts of Tai Chi and Jin Shin Jyutsu, has trained with Myles MacVane, Alex Dong, Master Bing, and Wang Feng-Ming, and has taught Tai Chi in Ridgefield since 2005.  

Tai Chi Exercises, a meditation in motion class, using light weights with Rod Barfield, starts Feb. 2 (10 to 11 a.m.) and March 8 (6:45 to 7:45 p.m.).  A Zoom class starts Feb. 7 (10 to 11 a.m.).  Rod Barfield has studied Tai Chi Form under Gwen Roman for about 8 years, done Tai Chi Exercises for decades and taught Form and Exercises for the past 5 years.  

Stretch classes help you relieve muscle tension and gain flexibility. Simply Stretch for All Levels with Mary Sireci (certified in P.E. and Yoga) starts on Feb. 1 at 5:45 p.m.  Her Gentle Yoga class follows at 6:45 p.m. Stretch and Flexibility with Ginger Cox (M.S. in Kinesiology) starts Feb. 7 at 8:45 a.m. at the Annex.

Upcoming Yoga classes with Registered Yoga Teachers (RYT) include:  Vinyasa Yoga with Emma Tenley on Thursdays (starting Feb. 2) and Mondays at 7:15 p.m. Zoom option available on Thursdays.  Morning Yoga Kickstart with Miriam Zernis starts on Feb. 13 (9:30 to 10:30 a.m.; Zoom option available). Gentle Morning Yoga for Body, Mind and Spirit starts on Feb. 15 (8:45 to 9:45 a.m.) on Zoom. Powerfully Gentle Yoga with Rona Levine starts March 7 at 6:30 p.m.

Cardio workouts available in person at 6 p.m. include:  Cardio Combo (Jan. 30), Total Body Reset (Feb. 7) and Full Body Strength (Feb. 9).  Zoom option will be available in some classes. A new session of Line Dance starts March 1.

Advanced registration is required. These classes meet 6 to 8 sessions. Tuition is $75 to $100. For more information, visit www.ridgefieldschools.org or phone Peggy Bruno at 203-431-2812.

Thrummed Mittens workshop through Ridgefield Continuing Education

A new Thrummed Mittens Workshop for experienced knitters is available in Ridgefield Continuing Education.  

What’s Thrummed? A thrum is a tuft of thread or wool. Using roving which is a continuous strand of loosely twisted and drawn fibers, thrums are created and incorporated into knitting one of the warmest pair of mittens you will ever make. During this two-part session you will learn to increase stitches to create a thumb gusset, decrease stitches to taper the mitten, and use the Kitchener stitch to finish the mitten.

Pre-requisites: In order to participate in this course, you need to know how to cast on, knit, and purl. Class size limited. Register by January 23 so that you can purchase the roving and other materials before class.  This class meets Jan. 28 and Feb. 4 (10 a.m. to 1 p.m.; $76).  You may also join Knitting for Beginners classes starting on Feb. 5 at 3:45 p.m. and Feb. 6 at 6 p.m.  Instructor Lizabeth Doty, a professional educator and former teacher for over 45 yearsm has taught knitting to students of all ages for years.  

Visit www.ridgefieldschools.org for materials list or call 203-431-2812.

Writing a Novel or Short Story courses through Ridgefield Continuing Education

Take Writing a Novel or Short Story, a six-session course offered by author Michael Canavan through Ridgefield Continuing Education, and learn how to successfully create, develop, or complete your novel or short story.  

Instruction first focuses on the basics, such as character development of major and minor character backgrounds, scene creation, and a fully developed plot of all the main conflicts and actions of your story, building scenes that move your story ahead through first, second, and final drafts.  

Instructor Michael Canavan is the author of two novels, a collection of short stories, and nearly a dozen nonfiction books.  He has taught Creative Writing in Connecticut, Massachussetts and New York. He is also a graphic artist and guitar musician.  

Advanced registration is required.  Cost is $148.  Ridgefield seniors age 62 and over pay $126.  Class meets on Mondays, Feb. 6, 13, 27; Mar. 6, 13 and 20 from 7 to 9 p.m. at East Ridge Middle School.  Visit www.ridgefieldschools.org or phone Peggy Bruno at 203-431-2812 to register. 

Informational meeting on 2023 Jesse Lee Appalachia Service Project, Jan. 25

High school teens and adults are invited to an information session on Jan. 25 offering details about a meaningful week of volunteer home-repair this summer with the Jesse Lee Appalachia Service Project (ASP).

This no-obligation meeting will introduce students and their parents – and any other interested adults – to the Appalachia Service Project overall, and especially to the developing plan for Jesse Lee ASP’s 39th year: a mission trip July 1 to July 9.

The one-hour information session will start at 7:30 p.m. at Jesse Lee Memorial United Methodist Church, 207 Main St. Meet in the sanctuary.

ASP is a national Christian volunteer organization founded by Rev. Glenn “Tex” Evans, a Methodist minister, in 1969. Since then, more than 420,000 volunteers from across the nation have participated in weeklong mission trips to make more than 18,500 homes in West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia and North Carolina “warmer, safer and drier.”

Jesse Lee ASP is open to anyone who will have completed their freshman year of high school this summer. Adults are encouraged to volunteer – both those who have teens participating and those who don’t. You don’t have to be a member of Jesse Lee or any church, you don’t have to live in Ridgefield, and you don’t need to be an expert with a hammer to volunteer. Basic construction skills and safety rules are taught in training sessions prior to going on ASP. There’s also a fund-raising component, and it helps if you like ice cream. 

You don’t have to pre-register for the Jan. 25 information session. 

Previous ASP volunteers need not attend the Jan. 25 meeting. However, they should plan to attend one of the two required “first orientation” meetings tentatively scheduled for Feb. 8 and Feb. 14. Choose one.

For more details, go online to www.jesseleeasp.org or call Deb Ahle at 203-438-6782 or Dave Sigworth 203-438-7501.

Stress reduction program at the Ridgefield Library

At 1 p.m. on Jan. 24 the Library will present an in-person program, “Stress Reduction with Dr. Wendy Hurwitz.”

Stress happens to all of us. Up to 90% of all visits to the doctor’s office are stress-related, according to a Harvard University study.  Stress can be considered as much a risk factor for disease as smoking. Why can two people be in the same situation and respond to stress differently?  Can going through stressful times without stress be a learned skill? Whatever your age or situation, this presentation will provide 10 tips to manage stress. Everyone will learn a technique to minimize stress and maximize vitality.

A graduate of Yale University School of Medicine, Dr. Wendy Hurwitz is a nationally recognized expert on stress. A former medical researcher for ABC News, Dr. Hurwitz is an expert in two fields: Mind/Body Medicine and Energy Medicine. She has a forthcoming book on stress. 

Dr. Hurwitz helps organizations and individuals achieve peak performance by enhancing vitality and wellness. She translates the latest and most sophisticated scientific research into practical, easy-to-use techniques people can use to maintain and enhance vitality even under the most trying circumstances. Dr. Hurwitz has provided training for AT&T, Unilever, Lowe Worldwide, the FDNY, and has been an invited guest speaker at the United Nations.

To register, please visit our calendar at www.ridgefieldlibrary.org or call 203-438-2282.

Dance classes available through Ridgefield Continuing Education

Take a social dance and get ready for your next event! Event Dance Boot Camp, Beginner/Brush Up and Ballroom Dance and Advanced Beginner classes for couples start Feb. 7, in person in Ridgefield Continuing Education. Participants will learn basic Rumba, Cha Cha, and East Coast Swing steps and more. Wear leather or suede soled party shoes.

Instructor Natalie Mazzola is a former amateur 10 dance champion, and a teacher for many years in this area.  She loves to have fun and a no stress attitude toward dance.  

Classes meet Feb. 7, 14 and 28, and Mar. 7, 14, 21 and 28.  Event Dance Boot Camp is from 7:15 to 8 p.m. and Advanced Beginner Ballroom is from 8:05 to 8:50 p.m. at Veterans Park School. Cost is $158 per couple. Advanced registration is required.  Visit www.ridgefieldschools.org or phone Peggy Bruno at 203-431-2812 for information or to register.

Technology classes offered through Ridgefield Continuing Education

Google Docs, iPhone, Excel and Windows classes are available in February through Ridgefield Continuing Education. These classes are small to allow for Q &A. Tutorials are also available. Classes include:

Google Docs (Feb. 2 from 1 to 3 p.m.; Zoom; $40).

Get the Most Out of Your iPhone (Feb. 9 from 1 to 4 p.m.; Zoom; $40).

Excel Introduction (Feb. 1 and 2 from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.; Annex; $80).

Excel Intermediate (Feb. 8 and 9 from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.; Annex; $80).

Excel Advanced (March 1 and 8 from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.; Annex; $80).

Windows 10 or 11 Basics (Feb. 3 from 10 a.m. to noon; Zoom; $40).

More sections - plus eBay, Cyber Security, LinkedIn and PowerPoint classes - are available. Photoshop Elements, Word, Publisher and Access tutorials are available. There is a discount available for Ridgefield seniors age 62 and older.

Visit www.ridgefieldschools.org or phone Peggy Bruno at 203-431-2812 for information or to register.