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Costumes

The Wading River Shoreham Chamber of Commerce hosted its first Fall Festival Oct. 13, and while cold rain fell throughout the morning, the community still came out in costume to celebrate the arrival of autumn.

While Halloween is still weeks away, kids dressed up in costume as zombies, firefighters, superheroes and many others, to march in a short parade from St. John the Baptist’s Church to the Wading River duck pond. Though not many kids participated in the walk because of the rain, young people still got to participate in a pumpkin decorating contest, crafts and shop at booths featuring local vendors.

Nan Guzzetta's collection of 1920s accessories. Photo by Ellen Barcel

By Ellen Barcel

Coming off the Spirit Tour in Setauket and Halloween, Nancy Altman “Nan” Guzzetta is preparing for the Dickens Festival in Port Jefferson — preparing costumes that is. As owner of Antique Costumes and Props By Nan in Port Jefferson, she provides high-end costumes for a wide variety of events including entire shows, themed weddings, historic anniversary celebrations and a whole lot more. Upcoming events for which Guzzetta will provide costumes include “The Music Man” in East Northport and the Santa Parade and Santa’s Workshop in Port Jefferson to name just a few.

Nan Guzzetta’s famous pincushion. Photo by Ellen Barcel
Nan Guzzetta’s famous pincushion. Photo by Ellen Barcel

Guzzetta’s attention is to detail, historical accuracy being her strong suit. “We don’t do Disney or Star Wars,” but Henry the VIII, that’s another story, or Gatsby, Titanic or Downton Abbey inspired pieces. “I work with museums a lot, for their galas.” When the Long Island Museum in Stony Brook opened its recent Gilded Coast exhibit,  “I costumed people for the gala.” And, she added, “Oheka Castle has a big garden party every year. I costume for that.”

The Dickens Festival honoree was “costumed yesterday,” she added. And “we did the 350th anniversary of Smithtown … we did a descendent of Bull Smith.” Richard “Bull” Smith is said to have drawn up the boundaries of Smithtown in the 1600s when he rode a bull around a tract of land.

Other costumes available include classic movie stars, ancient Egyptian and Roman outfits and even Marie Antoinette. She also provides all sorts of accessories such as fencing foils for the Musketeers, art deco jewelry to go with early 20th century ball gowns and fancy hats to complete an ensemble. She even provides hat pins to hold the elegant head pieces in place.

Antique Costumes is located in a historic Civil War era house, the Captain Henry Hallock house. Hallock was a Port Jefferson sea captain and shipbuilder. The house is sometimes referred to as the Chambers Mansion as it was later owned by Dr. Martin Luther Chambers. The mansion was also the home at one time of the Moose Lodge and the Slavic Cultural Center.

The mansion has a fascinating history all its own. In the 1970s the English band Foghat recorded a number of its gold records there. Billy Joel and Bruce Springsteen also produced recordings at the mansion. Guzzetta added that it was one of the foremost recording studios in the Northeast at the time. The building also has a stage where live productions were once held.

Nan Guzzetta's medieval costumes with headpieces. Photo by Ellen Barcel
Nan Guzzetta’s medieval costumes with headpieces. Photo by Ellen Barcel

Costumes in the mansion are arranged by theme: the children’s room, the Downton Abbey rooms, the wedding room, the red carpet room, the Renaissance room, etc. Tucked between costumes is a door leading to Guzzetta’s personal research library. And through the passage way is the theater.

Filled with energy and a fount of knowledge, Guzzetta said, “Isn’t this fun?” as she showed one room after another filled with costumes.

Many of the events she costumes for will hold prizes for the best costume, Guzzetta said. “I can boast that we have more prize winners than any other.”  She added that a man recently rented a Christopher Columbus costume. He was asked to lead, not only one or two, but six different Columbus Day parades. “He’s sending us pictures.”

But, she also added that “We’re the best kept secret,” around. Why? Because many people don’t like to share their secret. They want people to think that they make their own elegant and historically accurate outfits.

When asked how things have changed over these 40 years that she’s been in business, she noted that “It’s changed dramatically.” There are fewer themed weddings, for example, but there are many more historic celebrations, like a 100th anniversary celebration in Cold Spring Harbor last year. She recently designed a costume for a book on Nikola Tesla, the 19th century Serbian-American inventor whose Shoreham, Wardenclyffe, laboratory is currently under restoration.

Guzzetta added that with the Internet, her business now is not only local but national and even international.  People sometimes rent here and bring the costumes to “Venice for Carnival or New Orleans for Mardi Gras.” She accommodates magazine and greeting card shoots, as well as commercials. She even rents vintage furniture.

When asked when is her biggest season, Guzzetta observed that the need for her high-end costumes is really spread throughout the year. In planning large events people contact her “well in advance,” but “Halloween is frequently last minute.” But Halloween is not just for kids. More and more adults are attending masquerade balls and parties where costumes are a must.

From Nan Guzzetta's collection of Americana uniforms. Photo by Ellen Barcel
From Nan Guzzetta’s collection of Americana uniforms. Photo by Ellen Barcel

Not only does Guzzetta have costumes, ready to be rented, but “we built them,” as well. “Over the years we’ve collected many vintage items … we rarely rent out the vintage ones,” now, but use them as models for new pieces. “I collect the best of every period and rent it.”

How does she deal with all the different sizes and shapes of her clientele? In some cases, she has several different sizes of a particular costume. In others she will alter them to fit. “All alterations are done here at no extra charge.” In other cases, she does what many theater productions do: There’s a slit in the back and the costume is laced up to fit the wearer. And, if she’s “building” a new costume, she has the renter’s measurements. Usual rental for individuals (it varies for theater productions) is three days, one to pick up the costume, one for its use and one to return it.

“We do teas and tours here,” too. The tea service can include a tour of the restored mansion or a tour and lecture, the group’s choice.

How did Guzzetta, who was a registered nurse, develop such a unique business? A lover of art and history, she opened an antique shop in Port Jefferson acquiring some costumes. But, “when I couldn’t get any more vintage costumes, I began renting (rather than selling) them and then making copies.” But for her, it’s not really work at all. “It’s a joy to come in every day.”

Antiques Costumes and Props by Nan is located at 709 Main Street, Port Jefferson (parking off Jones Avenue). Call 631-331-2261 or go to www. antiquescostumes.com. The business is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays by appointment only and weekends in special circumstances.

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It was a howling good time at the Port Jefferson Harvest Festival on Sunday, Oct. 25. Dogs came out in their best costumes to celebrate Halloween a little early and there were woodcarving demonstrations and activities for kids.

A creepy graveyard will be on the tour during the Haunted Hayrides at Benner’s Farm. Photo by Giselle Barkley

By Rita J. Egan

Scaring up some Halloween fun isn’t tricky when you live on or near the North Shore of Suffolk County. However, beware; some activities are not for scaredy cats.

Those taking a hayride at Benner’s Farm, 56 Gnarled Hollow Road, E. Setauket, will find that things will get a little spookier on Oct. 30 and 31. While visitors will find an array of static figures, including ogres, witches and ghosts, in the fields on any given day this month, the creatures will come alive on Halloween eve and day from 6 to 9 p.m. when the farm offers Haunted Hayrides.

Owner Bob Benner said the event is open to all ages, but he warns that the later the ride is, the scarier it gets. “We have had some people who have been really scared and other people who simply just enjoyed the ride a lot,” he said.

Mr. Benner said the farm staff, along with volunteers, play the creatures that can come out of nowhere and jump toward the hayride or unexpectedly scream. In addition, there are different tableaus, including the farm’s spooky cemetery, where visitors may witness a ghoulish figure up to something evil.

Mr. Benner said the creativity of those in the field always amazes him. “I never quite know what they are going to come up with in terms of scaring folks.” Rides, which cost $6 per person,  leave every 20 minutes. Visit with the animals and have a Halloween treat while you wait. For more information, visit www.bennersfarm.com or call 631-689-8172.

Over at F&W Schmitt’s Family Farm in Melville, 26 Pinelawn Road, a mad doctor who encountered a book of ancient texts has taken over. Visitors to The Haunted Mansion of Melville will encounter otherworldly creatures as well as various oddities during their spine-chilling visit.

Outside, those who dare can explore The Haunted Corn Maze where the physician dumps his patients who may or may not be dead. There’s also a high-intensity live stage show, “The Experiment,” that gives spectators the opportunity to witness some of the doctor’s experiments on his patients.

The show, which is enhanced with special effects, isn’t recommended for those with heart conditions or those who cannot handle intense situations. Tickets are $19 for the mansion, $11 for the corn maze, $5 for “The Experiment” and $30 for a combo ticket. Open Thursdays and Sundays 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. and Fridays and Saturdays 7 p.m. to midnight through the end of October. Visit www.schmittshaunt.com or call 631-271-3276 for information, including hours for their less scary, daytime show for children.

For more hair-raising Halloween moments, head over to The Darkside Haunted House at 5184 Rt. 25A, Wading River. The indoor and outdoor attraction, which spans over 14,000 square feet, features movie-quality sets and bone-chilling special effects. While The Darkside Haunted House is not recommended for children under 12 years old, an early matinee from 1 to 5 p.m. on weekend days, with the lights on and no live actors, is available for the little ones as well as the weak of heart. The Darkside Haunted House is open weekdays and weekends until Nov. 1. Tickets start at $18. For more information and hours, visit www.darksideproductions.com or call 631-369-SCARE.

For a tamer treat, join the animals at Sweetbriar Nature Center, 62 Eckernkamp Dr., Smithtown, during their annual Halloween Spook-tacular. Children are encouraged to wear costumes as they spend the day walking through the ghostly garden, and participating in the scavenger hunt, story time, crafts and sensory activities. New this year, visitors can travel the Jack O’ Lantern trail decorated with hand-carved and glowing pumpkins. The Spook-tacular is scheduled for Friday, Oct. 23, and Saturday, Oct. 24, from 7 to 9:30 p.m. and costs $7 per person. The center will also offer a Not-So-Spooky Spook-tacular on Oct. 24 from 3:30 to 5 p.m. For more information, or to contribute a carved or uncarved pumpkin, call Eric at 631-979-6344, ext. 302.

Spooky stories will fill the halls of the museum of the Hallock Homestead Farm, 6038 Sound Ave., Riverhead, during its Haunted Museum Tours on Friday, Oct. 30, at 4:30 p.m. More than 250 years of Hallockville Homestead dark secrets will be exposed, including the death of the Phantom British Officer.

During the tour, one may hear the hair-raising sobs of the broken-hearted Spectral Bride searching for her lost love, and guests may even encounter the ghost of the dishonest Regretful Rumrunner, doomed by his own poisoned drink. Based on historical fact, local folklore and urban legend, the tour was created by professional actress, costume designer and museum educator Colette Gilbert.

Beth Motschenbacher, assistant director, said this is the first year the museum is offering the tour. “I hope people enjoy seeing the historic homestead in a different light and learning a little bit more about the darker side of folklore,” she said.

Tours, which depart from the Hudson-Sydlowski house, last 50 to 60 minutes and run every 15 minutes until 7:45 p.m. Advance reservations are recommended. Geared for all ages, admission is $7 for adults and children age 10 and under are free. For more information, call 631-298-5292 or visit www.hallockville.com.

Port Jefferson jumped into a time machine over the weekend, hosting a new event that celebrated the local culture, traditions, history and achievements.

Heritage Weekend saw historical fun at several locations throughout Port Jefferson and Belle Terre, including at the library on Thompson Street, at the Cedar Hill Cemetery and at the Port Jefferson Village Center, where vintage cars lined up for the Hill Climb on Sunday before making the 2,000-foot ascent of East Broadway to Belle Terre Road.