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Guided Walking, Kayaking Tours of Historic Saugatuck This Weekend

Westport Arts Center and Westport Historical Society partner in sponsoring tours this Saturday and Sunday around this historic neighborhood and river.

The and the have teamed up to present a , and a guided kayaking tour of the Saugatuck River this Sunday, in order to help promote their programs and create a unique educational experience for people who want to learn more about Westport's rich history.

Led by , the town's historian, and Loretta Santella Hallock, a native Westporter who was raised in this largely Italian enclave during the 1950s and 1960s, the Saugatuck Walking Tour and Wine Tasting will be held at 4 p.m., Saturday, August 27.

Participants are asked to meet on the southbound side of the Saugatuck Railroad Station, where the tour will begin. Following the one-hour excursion, everyone is invited to the Riverhouse for wine and light appetizers.

Then at 9 a.m. this Sunday, August 28, there will be a guided kayak and paddleboarding tour of Westport's waterways, starting at Down Under Kayaking, 575 Riverside Avenue.

These tours are the last of a held this summer to promote WAC's current visual arts exhibit by renowned artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude, which concludes Sept. 4.

, visual arts director at WAC, said that the arts organization is constantly seeking innovative programs and activities to better serve the community in collaboration with other local organizations and businesses.

“One of the two main projects that we are highlighting is entitled 'Over The River,' and is intended to be a site-specific installation on the Arkansas River in Colorado," During said. "I thought that highlighting our own gem — the Saugatuck River — was a perfect way to bring the art back to our own community.”

With its proximity to the water, Saugatuck was once the “hub of Westport's shipping industry,” said Susan Gold, executive director of the Westport Historical Society.

“Historic Saugatuck was once Westport's most vibrant neighborhood," she said. "It was the home of many Italian families whose rich culture permeated the restaurants and small shops. The journey through Saugatuck will give you a great flavor of what manufacturing took place and how this lovely neighborhood is undergoing a renaissance again. At the Westport Historical Society, our mission is to share our town's rich cultural heritage and our walking tours are a perfect way to experience our town's past."

After the tour's conclusion, people will drive themselves to the Riverhouse for the second part of the program. WAC's Marketing Director said the Center is pleased to have the River House restaurant join in this weekend's activities.

“Their food is just delicious,” she said. “Guests will enjoy wine and sangria and perhaps a selection of mixed drinks, plus a few hors d'oeuvres. Those wishing to stay for dinner will also receive 15 percent off of their bill.”

On Sunday, before the kayaking tour, During and Gold will greet kayakers and paddleboarders with some of During's tasty, homemade muffins.

Following light refreshments, Gold, who is a certified yoga instructor, will lead participants in warm-ups. A post-paddle and kayak cool-down will also take place following the adventure.

"Our tour down the Saugatuck River with our co-host the Westport Arts Center is another way we can combine our talents and interests," she said. "We are very happy to offer this kayak adventure that allows people to connect with their town in a meaningful way. Our intention is to increase understanding of our town's rich resources like the Saugatuck River, which is truly one of the key players in Westport's evolution as a town."

In addition to spearheading Saturday's walking tour, Raymond will also deliver a brief commentary about the history of the Saugatuck River — its pristine shoreline and hidden estuaries and bird sanctuaries — on Sunday afternoon, before participants hit the water. An environmental expert will also be on hand to share expert knowledge about osprey, peregrine falcons, egrets, blue herons and other birds that are frequently seen in the area.

Reservations are required and, according to Crouse, there are no longer any double kayaks available.

"Although is a new business in Westport, the company has successfully operated in nearby Rowayton for years,” Crouse noted. "People can learn a little bit of everything on this tour — how to kayak, some yoga stretches, and a bit of history of the area as
well.”

Anyone interested in a renting a single kayak and/or stand up paddleboard for the event should call WAC at (203) 222-7070 ASAP. 

The walking tour is $20. Tickets for the kayaking tour are cost $40 per person. Reservations for both events are required and can be made by calling (203) 222-7070 or online at www.westportartscenter.org.

Cost of the tour includes a single or kayak or paddle board rental and reservations should be made by calling (203) 222-7070. All proceeds from the tours will go to support the programs of both the Westport Arts Center and The Westport Historical Society.

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