Wednesday, July 24, 2024


Bob LeRose on the Blues and Healing

By James Lomuscio

The day after his 54th birthday, Bob LeRose sat in his Norwalk restaurant Bobby Q’s and talked about miracles. Image
Bob LeRose at his Norwalk restaurant. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for

“I made another one,” he said.

Two years ago, LeRose had a 20-pound, cancerous tumor that had been deemed inoperable removed from his thigh.

“I’m sharing it, talking about it now; I’ve had seven surgeries in eight years,” he recalled about trips to Sloan Kettering in New York City, Montefiore Hospital in Bronx, New York and immunotherapy sessions in Austria.

Finally, he put his faith in a Hackensack, New Jersey surgeon willing to remove the tumor followed by immunotherapy.

“You just have to live your life,” said LeRose whose restaurant Bobby Q’s had been an 11-year mainstay on Westport’s Main Street before the new landlord forced his move in 2016.

In July 2017, with LeRose in and out of hospitals and follow-up visits, Bobby Q’s moved to Merwin Street in Norwalk.

“It’s actually a miracle we got this place open,” said LeRose, a native of Riverside who now lives in Stamford with his wife Kelley.

They have two grown daughters, Alexandra, 23, and Meghan, 20.

Another miracle, he said, is that his brainchild that began when he was president of the Westport Downtown Merchants Association (WDMA) — Blues, Views & BBQ — has prevailed.

This Labor Day weekend will be its twelfth year in the downtown at the Levitt Pavilion and Jesup Green. It is set for Saturday, Aug. 31, from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sunday, Sept. 1, from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Last year the festival was run by the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce and the year before, the WDMA.

Despite his illness, LeRose remained the festival’s founding presence.

“I booked the bands; I did the fundraising,” he said. “I booked all the bands from the hospital bed.”

This year, LeRose is taking control again, partnering instead with Westporters Peter Propp and Crispen Cioe. All of the proceeds, he said, will go to the Staples Tuition Grants Program.

“I felt it was important to grab the reins again with the blessing of the Levitt Pavilion,” he said.

Approvals for this year’s festival at the Levitt, however, did not come through until the end of May. As a result, LeRose and his partners had to move fast, even scaling back the festival from including its signature barbecue competition run by the Kansas City Barbecue Society.

Hence, the name this year is “Blues & Views Festival.”

“That’s not to say that we won’t bring it back, but not this year,” he said.

Bobby Q’s tent will be the only barbecue presence among the eight food vendors in the Jesup Green parking lot, along with children’s bouncy amusements, a local musician showcase and an artist’s market. LeRose added that Bill Harmer, the library’s executive director, has been supportive, keeping the library’s cafe open during the event.

LeRose said he prefers this year’s scaled-down approach.

“Last year we tried to make it too big, and we lost parking,” he said.

Prices were too high, as well, he said, $65 at the gate Saturday and $55 Sunday. This year it is $50 at the gate on Saturday and $40 Sunday, with advance tickets selling for $40 and $30 respectively.

LeRose says the new prices are a good deal.

“When you think about 12 bands over two days, and if you love music, there’s no better deal,” he said.

Among the Levitt Live bands scheduled for the weekend are: Anders Osborne, Neville Jacobs, Kat Wright, Jake Kulak & the Low Down, Brass band, High & Mighty and The Main Squeeze.

Before the lunch crowd would rush in on a recent morning, LeRose mused about his strong connection to Westport, and how his business still donates food to different groups and causes.

“Even though we have a physical location in Norwalk, we’re ready and willing to support our Westport friends and to welcome the next generation of Westport,” he said.

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