If you suddenly see a rush of advertisements touting Westport’s beautiful beaches, historical landmarks, and fine dining, you have three tween girls to thank! Sydney Newman, Clara Holleman, and Sutton Lindau, three eleven year-old girls who reside in Westport, created a video promoting the town’s diverse charms and entered it into the Connecticut Department of Tourism’s “Still Revolutionary” Fan Favorite Town of the Year contest earlier this summer.
The girls then took to social media and launched a grass-roots campaign to promote their cause, earning Westport more votes than any other town in the state and the title of “Fan Favorite Town of the Year.” For capturing the most votes, Westport will receive additional advertising support from the Connecticut Office of Tourism, an editorial feature in the 2015 Official Connecticut Visitor’s Guide, national and regional public relations support, and an honorary plaque awarded by Connecticut Office of Tourism.
The girls, who have been best buddies since they were toddlers, have boundless enthusiasm for the project and are thrilled at the outcome. “It feels awesome! We are really proud of Westport,” said Clara Holleman, her statement eagerly echoed by both Newman and Lindau. “We are so thankful to everyone who voted,” Newman added.
Inspired by a video created for the town of Niantic, last year’s Fan Favorite Town of the Year, the young ladies began their endeavor by creating a list of their favorite local landmarks which included Compo Beach, the Westport Historical Society, and First Selectman Jim Marpe’s office.
“We made a really long list of everything in Westport, but we couldn’t fit all of it in a three minute video,” explained Lindau, “so we chose 50 of our favorite places that are unique to Westport and started there!”
When filming the video on an iPhone proved tricky, the enterprising pre-teens decided to reach out to the students enrolled in Staples High School’s film and video program. There, they found Claudine Brantley who assisted the trio with filming and editing. Brantley, a 2014 Staples High School grad, is currently beginning her freshman year at Parson’s The New School for Design in New York City. She said that she was eager to participate in the effort. Brantley said, “After being introduced to the premise by both the young girls and my film teacher, I considered how beneficial it would be to produce a short that exemplified the amazing opportunities available in Westport. The girls were not only mature and accurate with their knowledge of our town, but also passionate and respectful to its history and climate. It was really their doing that drove me and all of us to an accurate conclusion.”
After submitting the video, the girls began an extensive public relations campaign to promote the video and encourage people to vote for Westport. “We went around town with flyers with pull-off tabs so people could vote at home and we posted on Facebook and Instagram. We also asked local stores to send an e-mail to their customers asking them to vote,” explained Holleman.
The gracious young ladies want everyone to know how thankful they are that Westport residents took the time to vote for their town, but they do admit that the recognition that comes with being a local celebrity is exciting. Lindau explained, “People stop us on the street and say, ‘Are you the girls that made that video?’ and I say, ‘Yes, that’s me!’”
What’s next for these young ladies? Careers in public relations or filmmaking, perhaps? “We’re going back to school and starting middle school,” said Newman, “so we’re excited about that!”