WESTERLY — The idea popped into Lauren Sposato's head one morning when she was vacationing in Florida with her boyfriend and his family.

They were having breakfast at a restaurant, Sposato recalled earlier this week, when she noticed a rather large, thick, colorful book on a table nearby.

Intrigued by the book: "The Pop-Up Story of Delray Beach: The All-American Village by the Sea," created by paper engineer Roger Culbertson, she walked over for a closer look.

"I had to pick it up," Sposato, the community relations and social media coordinator at Dime Bank, said earlier this week.

When she did, it fell open to the book's center, and up popped a tall, cheerful, multicolored carousel cutout with a circle of flying horses around the center, and flags streaming from the top.

"It clicked," said Sposato, who is also a member of Westerly's 350th Committee, the group organizing this year's celebrations and events in honor of the town's 350th anniversary. "'This could be Westerly, I thought.'"

Sposato immediately picked up her phone and began sending texts and photos of the book to her friend and mentor, Lisa Konicki, president of the Ocean Community Chamber of Commerce.

"She knows me," said Konicki with a smile one afternoon last week as she sat in the chamber offices with a copy of Culbertson's book in front of her. "This is my new baby." 

As soon as she saw Sposato's iPhone photos, Konicki said, "I got a bee in my bonnet."

She picked up her phone, made a few calls, and before long, had secured enough funding and support for a "Westerly Pop-Up book." The Ocean Community Chamber Foundation and the chamber partnered to produce the book, and several generous donors committed to contribute to its creation. Then Konicki set about hunting down an artist and a paper engineer interested in taking on what she called a "marathon project." 

She found a paper engineer in Texas. Then, after reviewing portfolios from 11 artists, local artist Lisa Szaro was selected by a panel of judges.

"It's a dream come true," Szaro said Friday afternoon. "It's been on my bucket list to illustrate a children's book ... and I think this is an adult-children's book."

Szaro, who serves as director of art education at the Ocean House, said that as soon as she got word that she had been chosen, "visions immediately began popping up."

"It's going to be an incredible keepsake," said Szaro who sent off the Watch Hill drawings to the paper engineer just this week.

Konicki said her initial goal was to raise $35,000, but with "all the moving parts," the new estimate is closer to $47,000, she said. Plans call for 1,000 copies to be printed.

Although the plans and total cost are still in flux, Konicki said, some decisions and elements are firm. For instance, the book's centerpiece will feature a three-dimensional pop-up Babcock-Smith House Museum with a timeline of Westerly underneath. There will also be an "Arts & Culture" page with slots designated for the Granite Theatre, the United Theatre, the Knickerbocker Music Center, the Westerly Library & Wilcox Park, the Chorus of Westerly and the Artists' Cooperative Gallery of Westerly. Another page will be designated for Misquamicut Beach, and another to Watch Hill. Some chamber events — like the Virtu Art Festival, the duck race and Riverglow — will also be featured. 

"Is this not the coolest thing you've ever seen?" she asked as she turned the Delray Beach book's pages, revealing colorful, intricate cutouts and pop-up spreads featuring the community's historic sites, cultural landmarks, beaches and tourist favorites in fun, fact-filled fashion.

"What is not to love about this book," she continued, as she opened to the same carousel page that caught Sposato's eye back in Delray Beach. "I haven't been this enamored about a project in a long time."

"It's bold, it's vibrant, it's playful and it's whimsical," she said, "but it's respectful and historical at the same time. There's a balance. And it's perfect for Westerly's 350th."

Konicki said the Westerly Pop-Up Book should be ready by Dec. 1, just in time for the holidays.

"It will be a family heirloom," she said. 

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