Arts & Entertainment

Don Law has carved more than 5000 decoys over the years. Photo from LIM
Sarah Broadwell

Take a break from all the holiday preparations and come on down to Stony Brook for the Long Island Museum’s Open House and Decoy Day celebration on Sunday, Dec. 2 from 1 to 4 p.m!  The day includes decoy carving demonstrations, a discussion about fishing on Long Island and live music.  You’ll meet:

  • Captain Don Law a full-time charter boat captain from Hampton Bays who began carving decoys in the 8th grade!
  • George Rigby, Jr., a descendant of baymen who settled on LI in the early 1900s.
  • Don Bennet, whose family has worked the LI waters for more than 100 years.
  • Sarah Broadwell, a full-time fishing captain with the Viking Fleet based in Montauk, who works with students, teachers and recreational fishermen, lecturing about responsible fishing.
  • Stuart Markus, a fixture on Long Island’s folk and acoustic scene.
  • Traditional folk singer Larry Moser.
  • Max Rowland, banjo master and folk musician, who’s family history includes several sea captains.
DEMONSTRATIONS AND MUSIC FROM 1 – 4 P.M.
Free admission all day.
The Long Island Museum is located at 1200 Route 25A, Stony Brook. For more information, call 631-751-0066 or visit www.longislandmuseum.org.

The society’s Conklin House is decked out for the Historical Holiday House Tour on Dec. 2. Photo from Huntington Historical Society

By Heidi Sutton

A beloved tradition returns to the Town of Huntington as the Huntington Historical Society gears up for its 13th annual Historical Holiday House Tour this weekend. Five gracious homeowners from Huntington Village, Lloyd Neck, Cold Spring Harbor and Lloyd Harbor will open their festively decorated homes on Sunday, Dec. 2, from noon to 4 p.m.

The yearly fundraiser “helps us with our mission of preserving Huntington’s history for future generations,” said Huntington Historical Society’s Executive Director Tracy Pfaff Smith in a recent interview.

After visiting the private homes, Pfaff Smith encourages ticketholders to visit the historical society’s 1795 Dr. Daniel Kissam House Museum at 434 Park Ave., featuring a gorgeous lace exhibit titled Poetry in Thread, and the 1750 David Conklin Farmhouse Museum at 2 High St. Both properties will be decorated for the season.

“The Conklin Barn will have its usual scrumptious array of refreshments, and the much-loved Antiques and Collectibles Shop on the Kissam property will be open and fully stocked with unique gift items,” said Pfaff Smith, adding that the Arsenal (1740), located directly across the street from the Kissam property, will also be open for tours. Managed by the Town of Huntington, “The Arsenal is rarely open [to visitors] so this is a special occasion,” she said.

Advance tickets are $35 for members and $40 for nonmembers. A tour map with house locations will be available at the society’s Trade School building at 209 Main St. If available, remaining tickets will be sold the day of the event at the Conklin Barn for $40 for members and $45 for nonmembers.

For more information or to purchase tickets call 631-427-7045, ext. 401, or visit www.huntingtonhistoricalsociety.org.

By Heidi Sutton

Barnaby, Santa and Franklynne in a scene from the show.

This weekend the Village of Port Jefferson will celebrate its 23rd annual Charles Dickens Festival. Among the many events to attend this year will be Theatre Three’s production of “Barnaby Saves Christmas.” Written 15 years ago by Douglas Quattrock and Jeffrey Sanzel, the adorable musical, with its wonderful score and dance numbers, is the perfect way for families with young children to kick off the holiday season.

It’s Christmas Eve at the North Pole and Barnaby, the smallest elf in Elf School, is busy making a toy that Santa requested — a little stuffed bear with dark blue pants, buckles on his shoes and a bright yellow vest. When he realizes that Santa has left without it, he enlists the help of Franklynne, the littlest reindeer, to track down Santa and give the toy to him.

S.B. Dombulbury is up to his old tricks again!

During their adventures they meet Sarah and Andrew who teach them about Hanukkah and the Festival of Lights. They also bump into the sneaky S.B. Dombulbury and his henchperson Irma who are trying to ruin Christmas by stuffing all the chimneys with coal.

As director, Sanzel has assembled an outstanding cast to convey the story.

Eric Hughes returns for his third year as Barnaby, perfectly capturing his character as just wanting to fit in, and Michelle LaBozzetta tackles the role of Franklynne (It’s spelled with two n’s and a y — that makes it a girl’s name!) with just the right amount of spunkiness one would expect from a flying fawn. Andrew Lenahan is incredible in the dual role of Santa and Andrew, and Ginger Dalton is charming as both a slightly confused Mrs. Claus and Sarah.

Nicole Bianco and K.D. Guadagno play Crystal and Blizzard, two of Santa’s elves who are constantly hypnotized by S.B. Dombulbury to help him carry out his evil plan and at one point chase Barnaby and Franklynne through the audience like zombies in one of the funniest moments in the show. As a special treat, Jason Furnari, who originated the role of Barnaby, plays Sam the stressed-out head elf. However, it is the comedy tag team of Steven Uihlein as S.B. (spoiled brat) Dombulbury and Dana Bush as Irma that steal the show with their many antics. Their journey to redemption is heartfelt.

Santa’s elves, Barnaby, Sam, Blizzard and Crystal

The nine songs, accompanied by Quattrock on piano, are delightful, with special mention to “Miracles” and “Within Our Hearts.” The costumes, designed by Teresa Matteson and Toni St. John, are fun and festive as is the choreography by Bianco, and the special effects through the use of lighting is magical.

With the underlying message to “be the very best you can be,” “Barnaby Saves Christmas” is a beautiful story of hope, miracles and love. Don’t miss this one.

Souvenir elf and reindeer dolls will be available for purchase during intermission. Stay after the show for a photo with Santa Claus if you wish — the $5 fee goes to support the theater’s scholarship fund — and meet the rest of the cast in the lobby. Running time is one hour and 10 minutes with one intermission. Booster seats are available.

Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson will present “Barnaby Saves Christmas” through Dec. 29. Children’s theater continues with “Jack & the Beanstalk” from Jan. 19 to Feb. 23. All seats are $10. To order, call 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.

All photos by Peter Lanscombe, Theatre Three Productions Inc.

Lidl US and Best Market recently announced an agreement in which Lidl will acquire 27 Best Market stores in New York and New Jersey, including 24 on Long Island.

“Best Market has played an enormously positive role in the area, and we look forward to working closely with Best Market employees to build on that success,” said Johannes Fieber, CEO of Lidl US. “We are excited to expand into many great communities on Long Island and across the New York City area and introduce more customers to our simple and efficient approach to grocery shopping, which will mean high quality and huge savings for more shoppers.”

Best Market stores in our area include Selden, Commack, Lake Grove, Riverhead, East Patchogue, Huntington, Farmingdale and East Northport.

Lidl plans a step-by-step transition process that will begin next year and will involve the remodeling, reinvestment and reflagging of Best Market stores to converted Lidl stores. All Best Market employees in New Jersey and New York will have guaranteed employment opportunities with Lidl following the transition. Team members will be welcomed into positions with the Germany-based chain that offer wages and benefits that are equal to or better than what they earn with Best Market. The terms of the acquisition agreement are not disclosed, and it is expected to close over the coming months.

“Partnering with Lidl on this deal offers our employees a secure future with a growing grocer and continues the great tradition we started more than twenty years ago. We are delighted to be part of such a win-win and Best Market customers have something great to look forward to with Lidl,” said Aviv Raitses, co-owner of Best Market.

Compared to chains like Aldi and Trader Joe’s, Lidl stores have been proven to drive down prices for shoppers in areas where they open new stores. Earlier this year, a study from the University of North Carolina found that retailers in the immediate vicinity of Lidl stores dropped prices on individual products by as much as 55 percent on average in areas where Lidl operates.

Stock photo

By Bob Lipinski

‘I only drink Champagne when in love and when not.’

— Christian Pol Roger

Bob Lipinski

Pol Roger founded the Champagne Pol Roger house in 1849, in Epernay, France. In the ensuing years, Pol Roger has created a name and reputation as one of finest Champagnes in the world. Perhaps the biggest lover of Pol Roger was Sir Winston Churchill, prime minister of the United Kingdom.

In 1945, in celebration of the liberation of France, Churchill was served Pol Roger 1928 at his residence in Paris. According to his son Randolph, Winston was so enamored by the Champagne he bought up all the 1928 and 1934 Pol Roger that was remaining.

Every year for his birthday, in tribute to the great friendship between the Pol Roger family and Winston Churchill, he would receive a case of Pol Roger until his death in 1965. The labels of the Champagne sent to England after his death were bordered in black.

To pay permanent tribute to the great statesman, Pol Roger introduced Cuvée Sir Winston Champagne. The first vintage of Cuvée Sir Winston was 1975, released in 1984. The precise blend of Sir Winston is a family secret and is produced only in the finest vintages.

The following are my tasting notes from a press event:

Pol Roger Brut Reserve NV “White Foil”: Blend of pinot noir, meunier, and chardonnay grapes. Pale golden color with a fruity bouquet of green apples and pears. Medium bodied with delicate bubbles and hints of grass and citrus.

Pol Roger “Blanc de Blancs” 2009: 100 percent chardonnay. Pale straw colored with a delicate bouquet and flavor of apples, brioche, chamomile, citrus and ginger. Superbly balanced with a very long lingering aftertaste.

Pol Roger Brut 2008: Blend of pinot noir and chardonnay. Light yellow colored with a full bouquet of Granny Smith apples, citrus, pears and tangerine. Medium bodied and full of flavor. A smooth finish and pleasing, long aftertaste.

Pol Roger Brut Rosé 2009: Blend of pinot noir and chardonnay. Salmon colored with a bouquet bursting of raspberries, wild cherries, pomegranate and oranges. The wine is dry, yet a fruity flavor persists to the end.

Pol Roger “Cuvée Prestige Sir Winston Churchill” 2006: The wine is aged for an average of 10 years before release. An elegant and well-developed bouquet of toasted brioche, jasmine, citrus, toast, pears and anise. Superbly balanced with a velvety texture and lingering flavors of spices, almonds and anise. An excellent Champagne with which to celebrate the holidays.

Bob Lipinski is the author of 10 books, including “101: Everything You Need to Know About Whiskey” and “Italian Wine & Cheese Made Simple” (available on Amazon.com). He conducts training seminars on wine, spirits and food and is available for speaking engagements. He can be reached at www.boblipinski.com OR bkjm@hotmail.com.

By Rabbi Paul Sidlofsky

Rabbi Paul Sidlofsky. Photo by Donna Newman

I like Christmas. There, I said it. This may be surprising for some people to hear from a rabbi, and it may be misinterpreted by others. But it’s true. I like the feeling of this time of year. I enjoy the songs, the lights, watching Charlie Brown and the Grinch and especially the sense of good will that exists.

I also like Hanukkah. I enjoy the gathering of family and friends, eating latkes (fried potato pancakes), lighting the Hanukkah menorah (9-branched candelabrum), playing dreidel (a spinning top game) and feeling a sense of warmth and light in the coldest, darkest time of the year.

But my enjoyment of both holidays does not mean that I see them in the same way. It does not mean that I view Hanukkah as the Jewish Christmas. While I can enjoy aspects of both holidays, I am keenly aware of the need for both Christians and Jews to maintain a distinction between the two holidays, while also embracing a healthy respect for and appreciation of the practices of the other’s religion. And this begins, I am convinced, with a full understanding of what both holidays celebrate.

It is not for me to expound on the true meaning of Christmas. My Christian colleagues are much more equipped to do so. But I do know that the true religious significance of Christmas has little to do with trees and presents, songs and holiday foods. While these are lovely ways to enhance the enjoyment of a holiday, they should not replace the spiritual lessons taught.

By the same token, Hanukkah, which I am qualified to write about, is not about spinning tops, fried foods and gift giving, though these are all fun customs. It is about the story of a small group of Jews, the Maccabees, well over 2,000 years ago, winning the right to practice their religion freely, symbolized by the rededication of the holy Temple (“Hanukkah” means “dedication”). This episode has nothing to do with the true meaning of Christmas, and only happens to fall at the same season because it was common to hold festivals of light at this time of the year. Hanukkah is a stirring story of freedom, but it nonetheless remains a minor festival in the Jewish calendar. Its elevation to a level of such prominence is due solely to the fact that it is marketed to compete with Christmas from a commercial standpoint. And this speaks to a problem in our society in general, as well as presenting a challenge for Christians, Jews and all people of faith alike.

I address this issue to a general audience, rather than specifically to my congregation, because I believe that it is important for all people of faith, whatever their religion or heritage, to reclaim the true meaning of their holy days. Rather than falsely seeking to unite ourselves through the idol of materialism, focusing on the trappings of the various holidays, let us instead form a true bond with one another by each celebrating our respective holy days and recognizing their real significance. By doing so, we strengthen our own religious conviction and are then able to enjoy the beauty and teachings of other faiths without feeling that our own faith is undermined.

I, for one, am opposed to calling a Christmas tree a holiday tree. I am opposed to Christians feeling pressured to water down their religious beliefs because others may feel offended. But I am also opposed to anyone who mistakes proud displays of faith with the right to impose such faith on others. Celebrating Christmas, or any holy day, should be encouraged, as long as it is done with the understanding that we all choose to practice, or not practice, our faith in different ways.

Ironically, for me, Christmas helps reinforce the true message of Hanukkah, just as the true message of Hanukkah, I believe, strengthens the celebration of Christmas. We are so fortunate in our community and country to have the freedom to worship and celebrate freely. May we appreciate this freedom by expressing ourselves appropriately, while also embracing those of other faiths who choose to do the same, but in a different way. By so doing, we will truly find warmth and light at this season.

Rabbi Paul Sidlofsky is a rabbi at Temple Isaiah in Stony Brook.

New York City Ballet’s Brittany Pollack and Daniel Ulbricht are this year’s special guests. Photo courtesy of New York Dance Theatre

New York Dance Theatre, under the direction of former New York City Ballet soloist Frank Ohman, will present its 37th season of “The Nutcracker” at Hofstra University, 1000 Hempstead Turnpike, Hempstead, on Saturday, Dec. 15 and Sunday, Dec. 16 with performances each day at noon and 5 p.m. 

Special guest artists Daniel Ulbricht and Brittany Pollack of New York City Ballet return to perform as the Sugarplum Fairy and her Cavalier.   

Over the years, Frank Ohman has created original dances and scenes that have been incorporated into the ballet, but as a former student and soloist under George Balanchine he is one of a select few authorized to use the original pas de deux choreography of his mentor. Ohman will continue his tradition of playing the role of the grandfather in the party scene that opens the ballet.

The role of Clara’s mysterious godfather Herr Drosselmeier will be played by former New York City Ballet soloist Robert Maiorano.   

With the elegant Christmas party scene, the drama of the magical growing Christmas Tree, the Battle of the Toy Soldiers and Giant Mice, the live Snow Storm and the brilliant dancing in the Land of the Sweets, “The Nutcracker” appeals to all ages.

In all, a cast of 80 children, preprofessional and professional dancers will bring this classic story ballet to life on the stage of the university’s John Cranford Adams Playhouse. The children’s roles are performed by students of the Frank Ohman School of Ballet in Commack, representing a variety of towns in Nassau and Suffolk counties.

Tickets for this full production ballet are $42 adults, $32 seniors and children 12 and under. To order, visit  www.ohmanballet.org or call 631-462-0964. 

A bypass trust was designed to prevent the estate of the surviving spouse from having to pay estate tax. Stock photo

By Nancy Burner, Esq.

Nancy Burner, Esq.

For a traditional married couple, the estate planning has become simpler in many ways. Before the estate tax was increased on both the state and federal level, we were fixated on saving estate taxes. Simple techniques like bypass and marital trusts and insurance trusts called ILITs were the gold standard in estate planning. Today many of those types of plans are irrelevant and maybe even harmful in an estate plan.

Bypass trusts are trusts created in the estate of the first spouse to die. So, for example, if a husband died when the exemption was $1.0, his will left $1.0 million in his bypass trust to protect his exemption (the amount he could pass to a nonspouse tax free) and then the balance would be distributed to his surviving spouse tax free. The idea was that when the second spouse died, she would have her own exemption and the monies in the bypass trust would pass tax free to the next generation.

If the exemption was $1.0 (or more) when the survivor died, then both the bypass trust amount and the exemption amount when the second spouse died would escape estate taxation. This is the most common type of estate plan that was utilized in the last 25 years and many clients still have these documents in place. In instances where the first spouse has died, there still exists a bypass trust for the benefit of the surviving spouse. For those couples with these types of estate plan but with assets under $5.25 million, it’s not too late to change them.

But, what if one spouse has died and the surviving spouse is still alive with assets in a bypass trust. Is there more planning to be done?   

Assume a couple in 2000 with $1.8 million worth of assets. Husband died and $1.0 million was payable to the bypass trust under his will for the benefit of his wife. According to the terms of the trust: (1) she can have all the income, (2) she is entitled to distributions for her health, education and support, and (3) a trustee can distribution all the trust assets to her for any purpose, even if the trust is depleted. The purpose of this trust was clearly to shield the first million of the estate from estate taxes when the surviving spouse later died but gave the trustee the power to make unlimited distributions to the spouse.

Now also assume the wife has, in the intervening years, protected her own $800,000 from the cost of long-term care by placing those assets into an irrevocable trust. In the meantime, the bypass trust has grown to $1.6 million dollars. There are two glaring problems: Capital gains tax and cost of long-term care.

When the surviving spouse dies, the assets in her irrevocable trust will be counted as part of her taxable estate. If she dies this year, she will have a New York state estate tax exemption of $5.25 million (increasing to $5.49 million in 2019) and her federal exemption is $11.18 million. Clearly, she does not have a taxable estate. Her assets will pass tax free to the next generation. However, the assets in the bypass trust will have a capital gains tax for any growth in principal.

Assuming the capital gain of $600,000 and a capital gain rate of 33 percent, there could be a capital gains tax of just under $200,000. If the bypass trust assets were not in the trust, but in the surviving spouse’s estate, there would be no estate tax and no capital gains tax. In this case, assuming no other facts, it would be best to distribute the assets to the surviving spouse and allow the assets to obtain a “step-up in basis at her death.”

The second problem with the bypass trust is that the broad distribution rights under the trust makes those trust assets available to pay for the spouse’s long-term care. She has protected her own assets, but likely the $1.6 million is available to be spent down. In this case, if the trustee were to distribute the trust assets to the surviving spouse, she could add those assets to her irrevocable grantor trust. She would enjoy the income in the trust, her estate (i.e., her heirs) would get a step-up in basis on her death, and the assets could be shielded for the cost of nursing home care or catastrophic illness after five years.

This same scenario applies in the case of insurance trusts that were created during the life of the first spouse to die. The trust was likely intended to shield the surviving spouse’s estate from estate taxes, but the increased exemptions make the insurance trust unnecessary. There is an income tax return due each year that is a burden in both time and money. There is no step-up in basis at the death of the surviving spouse, and the assets are probably not protected from the cost of long-term care.

While the trusts in this example give the trustee wide latitude in distributing trust assets to spouses, not all trusts are the same. If the trustee does not have the power to distribute outright to the spouse, there may be an alternative way to accomplish these objectives. New York state has a very generous decanting statute that may be utilized to “fix” the trust. It may not be too late.

Nancy Burner, Esq. practices elder law and estate planning from her East Setauket office.

A common grackle collects mud from the banks of the Swan River in East Patchogue to use to build its nest. Photo by Luke Ormand

By John Turner

As the famous philosopher Yogi Berra once said, “You can observe a lot by just watching,” and between the passage of the 2,018 common nighthawks we tallied over the 41 days of the 2018 season at the Stone Bridge Nighthawk Watch, we had plenty of time to watch and observe.

One of those observations involved the daily movement of large mixed-blackbird flocks, flying north each evening, their destination being the communal nightly roost they established in the reed (Phragmites) beds at the southern edge of Conscience Bay, just north of the Grist Mill in Frank Melville Memorial Park in Setauket.

Joined by European starlings, red-winged blackbirds and brown-headed cowbirds, the flocks, numerically dominated by common grackles, would stream over us at the Stone Bridge and then, as they passed over the northern bridge at the northern end of the pond, descend abruptly to land on the narrow and slightly arching stalks of the Phragmites.

Their predictable movement each night of the Nighthawk Watch reminded me of another characterization, this one by the famous scientist Rachel Carson, who described the regular movement of birds such as these blackbird flocks as “faithful commuters” in the sky.

As they flew over us, the members of the flock vocalized continuously with quick sharp calls and we wondered why they might do that. One answer for the continuous calling may be a way for a bird in a flock to let neighboring birds — in front, behind and to the sides — know of its presence, helping to maintain a buffer between the birds, thereby reducing the chance of collisions.

Maintaining this space is vital given the fact the several dozen to several hundred members of the blackbird flock are moving through the sky together, at 20-30 miles per hour, separated by mere inches. Makes you wish drivers on the Long Island Expressway were so talented, no?

One evening recently my wife Georgia and I walked to the north bridge to watch the blackbirds spill from the sky into the reeds. They descended into the marsh on both sides of the meandering tidal creek that flows from the spillway at the bridge. A constant cacophony of squeaks (one call sounds like a rusty gate opening), rasps and whistles filled the air as the birds called incessantly. Having landed, the grackles and other blackbird species must now be vocalizing for a different reason, but frankly we have no idea.

Scientists conjecture that crows murmuring together at the end of a day in a winter communal roost do so to exchange information about the day they just experienced, such as what predators they encountered and food sources discovered. Could this be at least a partial answer to explain the thousands of garrulous grackles vocalizing into early evening, as they settle in to sleep for the night in the marshes of Frank Melville Park? Could there be other reasons? Maybe, but we just don’t know.

I often encounter grackles in different settings, as evidenced by a recent walk in the county park just north of the Sherwood-Jayne House. Heading up the west side of the property, I came to an opening in the forest where a small flock of 20 to 25 grackles was feeding on the ground. They systematically flipped over leaves, pieces of bark and other woodland debris searching with their beautiful golden-yellow, black-centered eye, for food which for them consists of a variety of small insects, other invertebrates like slugs and worms, caterpillars, small salamanders and fruits and seeds, which collectively make up their omnivorous lifestyle.    

If you are an astute observer of grackles you might notice that adult birds vary in their coloration. Not surprisingly, males are showier than the females, their plumage infused with a purplish iridescence. But you might occasionally see, especially during the colder months, individual grackles tending to have more of a bronzy-colored tint to their feathers, rather than purple. The latter bird is referred to as the “bronzed grackle” while the former is the “purple grackle.” For many years they were considered different species but are now recognized for what they are — interbreeding color morphs of the same species.   

If you leave the friendly confines of the Three Village area and travel to the Island’s South Shore, you might encounter another grackle species native to Long Island — the boat-tailed grackle. This larger species, a breeder amid the salt marshes of the South Shore bays, gets its name from the keel shape tail tip of the bird, quite visible when a male flies directly away from you.

Want to experience grackles and their blackbird brethren closer to home though? Just head to the bridge next to the Grist Mill in Frank Melville Park (www.frankmelvillepark.org) as dusk descends on an autumn day and face north toward the dense phalanx of reeds. If your senses aren’t overloaded by the sound and movement, perhaps you can figure out what the birds are saying to each other.

John Turner, a Setauket resident, is conservation chair of the Four Harbors Audubon Society, author of “Exploring the Other Island: A Seasonal Nature Guide to Long Island” and president of Alula Birding & Natural History Tours.

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Cast call

Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson will hold open auditions for “The Miracle Worker” on Thursday, Nov. 29 at 7 p.m. and Sunday, Dec. 2 at 10 a.m. All roles open. Readings will be from the script. Please bring picture/resume. Read-through will be held Feb. 28 with full rehearsals beginning on March 2. Performances will be held from April 6 to 28. For further information and full details, call 631-928-9202 or visit http:theatrethree.com/auditions.html.

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