Monthly Archives: September 2014

Celebrity Puppet, “Roadkill”, to Visit Westport Island

The Westport Community Association hosts Ventriloquist Burt Prater

Burt Prater and his puppet, RoadkillDon’t miss this year’s annual meeting and potluck dinner of the Westport Community Association Saturday, September 27, at the Town Hall. All are welcome! The Community Association’s special guest this year — “Roadkill” — promises to give the Island some moments to remember.

“Roadkill” is an opossum who was born in the studios of Axtell Expressions, a premiere puppet design company in Ventura, CA, whose puppets have been on Broadway, in the movies and on stages across the country. Roadkill was “adopted” by Dr. Burt Prater (of South Carolina and Westport Island), when he became infatuated with ventriloquism. They are fast friends and partners who like to make people laugh.

Burt is a retired family physician who now does environmental medicine consulting. While consulting for a medical device company at a convention in Las Vegas, he saw a female ventriloquist with an Italian puppet promoting another medical device. He thought the ventriloquist was awesome and couldn’t stop watching. She noticed his interest and invited him to a ventriloquist convention in Las Vegas as her guest.

Comedian and ventriloquist Jeff Dunham offered classes at the convention, and Burt started taking his classes. His first gig as a ventriloquist was as the comedy act at the Senior Follies in Atlanta – where most of the performers were former Broadway performers. It was grueling but great, although too demanding to do again as a practicing medical professional.

Burt Prater checking the sound at the town hall

Checking the sound at the Town Hall

Burt had selected the opossum puppet, Roadkill, as his partner, because he grew up on a farm in Alabama — so he knew possums and country humor. Roadkill is versatile companion who can help work crowds from cabaret venues, like the Follies, to family venues.

Burt and his wife Joan have been coming to Westport Island for 10 years. They discovered Westport on a visit to his sister and brother-in-law in Cape Elizabeth. During the visit, he and his wife went for a drive and ended up spending a night at the Squire Tarbox Inn on Westport. They fell in love with the Island. Serendipitously, when they were headed off the Island, they saw a sign advertising a home for sale. Although not looking for a home, they decided to check it out. They ended up buying the house, and the rest is history.

The Praters love the Island, their house and the people on the Island (although Burt says you couldn’t get him to stay for the winter with a straight jacket.) They recently moved to South Carolina after many years in Georgia. Join them next Saturday at the Town Hall for some laughs and neighborliness.  The evening begins at 6 p.m.

A Westport Island Farewell

Colby’s Groceries passes into history

Colby's Groceries, probably in the 1950's, when it was operationalAlthough there is not currently a general store on the Island, there have been several over the years. One of them, Colby’s Groceries, still stood until recently. The wear of the years finally forced its current owners to have the decaying structure demolished last month.

There are still residents on the Island who have memories of buying candy and ice cream at Colby’s as children. In 2014, the only sign inside the small structure of its former commercial history was a Cigarette License still clinging to the wall. The license was issued to Ellsworth Colby on February 26, 1947. Earl Grant turned the license over to the History Committee as a momento of the little store’s past. Farewell Colby’s Groceries…

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