Season’s greetings dear friends and kind readers, and welcome back for another holiday visit here on the Front Porch where we’re still talking about last Wednesday's sensational Downtown Stroll! My goodness, it was just like that "Silver Bells" song with the busy sidewalks, "children laughing, people passing, meeting smile after smile, in the air there's a feeling of Christmas." Wasn't it wonderful?

I popped into Pat Isted's Twisted Vine for a minute to toast the amazingly sparkly Angie Smith who was chatting it up with Nicholas Moore and was tickled to bump into that fabulous fivesome, Judy and Bob Serra, Dottie and Tom Nigrelli, and Susan Capalbo, who were, as always fully enjoying themselves as were the crowds across the street at Wendy Carr's Amigo's and the down the street at Savoy Bookshop and Café too, where Rhode Island favorite Ann Hood was busy signing copies of her new book, "Kitchen Yarns." "I love Savoy," Ann told me later.

Speaking of Savoy, did you know you can request the services of a Personal Shopper who will walk you through the bookshop and patiently give you personalized gift recommendations for everyone on your list? I had the privilege of being assisted by shop owner Annie Philbrick and shop manager/ children's book buyer Kelsey April one morning last week and am happy to report that I found something for all the book lovers on my list! You can do the same by calling the shop or stopping by.

Thanks to the generosity of Chris Champagne, the chef/owner of the popular 84 Tavern on Canal, there was a special celebration/reunion last week at his place. Champagne held a "20 years of 84" party in honor of the first 84 High Street Café, once owned by Mike and Karin Ogle." It was attended by many current and former employees, some of whom who traveled distances to join the fun, Karin told me. "We shared so many stories and reminisced," she said, shared old photos and "as you can imagine lots of laughs were had." Karin recalled the day Mike told her he found a space to open a restaurant. "I was horrified by the thought of opening in a rundown desolate downtown," she said, "so many told us it wouldn't fly." Although the same spot once housed Vero Morrone Sr.'s popular La Casa restaurant back in the day, downtown Westerly had fallen asleep during the late 1990s. "But Mike had a vision and he never lost sight," Karin said, "now 20 years later downtown is alive and vibrant!" Champagne, who took over the reigns from the Ogles and moved the restaurant to Canal Street, talked about Mike's vision for downtown in his toast. The success is in large part due to loyal employees and patrons who keep coming back, said Karin, noting that 84 is now an official brew pub making their own micro brews!

Congratulations to my Sun colleague Catherine Hewett who was awarded the 2018 Media Award from the Connecticut Chapter of the American Planning Association. Ciao bella!

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