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Insider's Guide

Fairfielders Reveal 50 Plus Tips & Favorite Things: Food, Music, Fitness, Style, Fun & More Around Town

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Tom & Ryan Odinak

Pediatrician/Garage Band Rocker and Director of the Fairfield County Cultural Alliance

Ryan Odinak was the first Executive Director at the Fairfield Arts Council then moved on to direct the Cultural Alliance of Fairfield County in Norwalk. When she’s not working, Ryan might be writing, painting, print-making or pursuing any number of other creative undertakings. Tom is a popular pediatrician in town, but on his rare days off he takes guitar lessons, practicing for his moonlighting job as a guitar player in The Distractions, which recently headlined an evening at The Bijou in Bridgeport. If there’s something musical or cultural happening in town, regardless of genre, chances are good that one or both of them will be there.

“She’s been dragging me to gallery openings ever since we met, and I’ve been dragging her to bars and music,” Tom reports.

In one recent week, the couple had attended a concert at the Quick Center (Fairfield University, 1073 North Benson Road), investigated a community drumming circle and quilting and batik exhibit at City Lights (37 Markle Court, Bridgeport), and listened in on a panel, which included Fairfielders Chris Franz and Tina Weymouth alongside José Feliciano and Nile Rodgers, discussing the history of rock and roll in Fairfield at the Fairfield Museum and History Center (370 Beach Road). “They had this interesting conversation about how they’ve made their creative lives here,” Ryan says. “There’s a vibrant creative community where we live, and it seems they’ve really enjoyed being integrated into their community.”

When it comes to music, few venues can beat the Fairfield Theatre Company (70 Sanford Street), according to the couple. “They have great programming—rock, jazz, blues, pop. There’s so much to choose from many nights a week. Usually you’ve got to be in a big city for that,” Tom says. “I like to go to the Quick Center for jazz, classical or international music. We saw John Lithgow do a reading there and it was riveting.” Ryan recommends checking out the Quick’s Open Visions Forum. “I sometimes enjoy being introduced to things that are out of my area of expertise,” she says.

She also appreciates the programming at Sacred Heart University’s Join the Conversation (Edgerton Center for the Performing Arts, 5151 Park Avenue). “Having the universities here is such a cultural multiplier for a town the size of Fairfield,” she says.

She and Tom often cross the town line for music and culture. “I think Bridgeport is important to Fairfield culturally,” says Ryan, mentioning a “first-rate” exhibition on Connecticut innovators she attended at the Discovery Museum (4450 Park Avenue). Tom adds, “There’s a hipness to Black Rock that’s missing in Fairfield, whether it’s the restaurants or the clubs or the bars.” One of Tom’s favorites is Acoustic Cafe (2926 Fairfield Avenue, #3). “It’s so intimate,” he says.

A bit north, in Bridgeport, he likes the Bijou Theatre (275 Fairfield Avenue), which hosts concerts, documentaries, lectures and more, and encourages patrons to bring in food from neighboring Two Boots Cafe (281 Fairfield Avenue). A lot less intimate but a whole lot of fun for the Fairfield guitar player is the Gathering of the Vibes (Seaside Park). “I went all by myself last year, but I saw so many people that I knew. I loved it!”

Back in town, Ryan attends and appreciates many cultural events at the Fairfield Public Library (1080 Old Post Road). “The libraries here in Fairfield have transformed themselves and become real cultural hubs for music, writing, lectures, art,” she says, “and that’s an equalizer, in that a lot of their things are free.”

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