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Harborfront Park

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The annual racing of the dragons took place off the shores of Port Jefferson’s Harborfront Park under sunny skies Sept. 15.

For the fifth time, Port Jefferson Harbor was the scene and The Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce played host for Port Jeff’s Dragon Boat Race Festival. The day-long festival features 34 teams competing in heats with dragon boats provided by High Five Dragon Boat Co., numerous performances including the famous Lion Dance, Taiko and Korean Drum performances, martial arts demonstrations and Asian singing and instrumentals. New this year was a special Ribbon Dragon Dance and musicians playing the traditional Japanese stringed instruments, the Shamisen and Koto.

The event also offers food, children’s activities, displays set up by various vendors and much more.

The festival is the brainchild of Barbara Ransome, director of operations at the chamber, who attended a dragon boat race festival in Cape May, New Jersey, a few years ago.

Choppy conditions in Port Jefferson Harbor forced the cancellation of the race portion of the 2018 Village Cup Regatta Sept. 8,  but the annual fundraiser was a success anyway.

For the ninth year, the Port Jefferson Yacht Club and the Port Jefferson Village Center were the home for the event, which features a parade past the village-owned pier at Harborfront Park, a race out in the open water between sailboats representing the village and John T. Mather Memorial Hospital, and a banquet to conclude the festivities. This year, conditions weren’t conducive to holding the race, but the event still raised about $70,000 for two worthy causes, according to Mather’s Facebook page.

Funds raised by the regatta will be split between Mather Hospital’s Palliative Medicine Program and the Lustgarten Foundation for Pancreatic Cancer Research.

For the sixth year,  actor/director and local resident Ralph Macchio served as community ambassador for the event. Macchio helps to publicize the important work of the two programs funded by the regatta. His wife, Phyllis, is a nurse practitioner in Mather’s Palliative Medicine Program.

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Not even a downpour could stop the participants of the eighth annual Sikaflex Quick & Dirty Boat Build Competition August 12 from testing both their ingenuity and skill in racing a craft they built.

Six teams were given five hours Saturday, Aug. 11 to construct their own small craft out of plywood and calk, even including their own oars. Those boats were painted early Sunday before they were taken out into Port Jefferson Harbor alongside Harborfront Park to be raced against each other. Though for many who participated, a large part of the competition was to see if their boat could actually float.

“We didn’t even float in last year’s competition, so this year was a redemption,” said Queens resident Kelsey Pagan, who along with her partner Dominic Ware, won third place with their boat the Crooked Angler.

Winners of the previous year’s competition, Matthew Debeau and Ken Callirgos, from Port Jefferson, got second place with their spaceship-themed boat named Apollo 1379. Brooklyn residents Keanne Petrie and Jocelyn Cabral won this year in their boat School of Fish. Petrie is a five-year contestant, and this was the first time she won. It was a day of victories for Petrie, as she also was picked in a raffle drawing for a brand-new Sassafras 16 Chesapeake Light Craft Canoe.

“This is really amazing,” Petrie said. She thought about it, and laughed. “Now I just need to figure out how to bring this back to Brooklyn.”

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People arriving to this year’s Eastern Long Island Mini Maker’s Faire in Port Jefferson June 9 were greeted by robed Jedis from the Long Island Saber Guild flourishing with their lightsabers and a true-to-scale Hulkbuster costume as if straight from the screen of the recent “Avengers: Infinity War” movie. It was just the start to a day filled with the strange and the unique as makers from all across Long Island and beyond showed off their inventions and skills to interested guests.

The annual event, hosted by the nonprofit Long Island Explorium, is a celebration of doers, dabblers or anybody who uses their own sweat, blood and tears to create or build something, even if it’s a little off the wall. New to this year’s fair was the Long Island Vegetable Orchestra, which used hollowed out carrots, gourds, cucumbers to play songs, such as The Beatles’ hit “Hey Jude.”

Several robotics teams from high schools across the county showed off creations, from Lego Mindstorms robots that could stop and reverse if it sensed an obstruction in front of it, to a huge shirt cannon from Smithtown High School’s Mechanical Bulls robotics team that fired t-shirts from the Port Jefferson Village Center all the way into Harborfront Park.

New York State Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) presented the explorium with a resolution commending its work in producing the event. At the same time three volunteers who worked with the explorium on the event received the Presidential Volunteer Service Award for their work in the explorium’s museum. One of those young men, fourth-grader Greyson West, received the bronze reward for working between 26 and 49 hours at the museum.

“We earned the award by our age group and how many hours we participated in volunteering at the museum,” Greyson said. “It feels pretty good to receive it.”

An organizer of the event commended Greyson’s hard work.

“They work with the children, they worked with the community,” Carole Van-Duyn, the explorium’s museum program director said. “Our volunteers taught and engaged with the kids in several events and Greyson helped make it a great experience.”

 

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James Marci sits in his completed Eagle Scout project with his mom, Christine Napolitano, at Harborfront Park in Port Jefferson June 2. Photo by Alex Petroski

Like the Iron Throne in Westeros, Port Jefferson Village now has a roughly seven-feet-tall by four-feet-wide seat that will make any visitors at Harborfront Park feel like royalty. James Marci, 16, a Port Jefferson High School student and member of Boy Scout Troop 454, was tasked in approaching his Eagle Scout Service Project with demonstrating leadership of others while completing something to benefit his community. After months of work, planning and coordination, the harborside park now features what Marci is calling #PJBigChair.

Marci said he wanted to build a landmark for Port Jeff, something that would attract both tourists and locals to visit and take photos on and share on social media using the hashtag, which is actually painted on the massive blue seat in white lettering. He said he got the idea from visiting Cape Cod and heard from others who had visited Vermont and seen something similar in public spaces. The big chair — made out of Douglas fir wood discounted by Riverhead Building Supply — was dropped off at the park June 2 and will be officially permanently installed on the gravel path overlooking the harbor behind the Long Island Explorium and near The Shipbuilder’s Monument June 8. Interested sitters won’t need exact coordinates to locate it though.

James Marci, in chair on the right, sits on his completed Eagle Scout project at Harborfront Park, joined by, from left, his mom, Christine Napolitano, Trustee Larry LaPointe, Mayor Margot Garant, Trustee Bruce D’Abramo and Trustee Stan Loucks. Photo by Bethanie Rizzo

“It’s something that brings people together, and even the finished product will bring people together through pictures, that’s something I like to advocate for,” Marci said. “All of the connections you have to make it’s truly a matter of coordination, because that’s what it says for the requirement, you have to plan and execute, and it’s more of the planning than the execution that makes it a great project. If everything runs smoothly that’s what makes it a spectacle to see, just everything came together. Someone who’s going to come from Connecticut or the middle of the Island is going to see this and is going to wonder how it got here. It’s a story.”

Marci’s mom, Christine Napolitano, said she and her son love the area and have fostered a nice relationship with Village Mayor Margot Garant over the years. She said her son interviewed Garant as a first-grader and wrote her a letter as part of a community project.

“To see him use tools was kind of fun for me, because he now knows how to use a lot of things I don’t know how to use,” Napolitano said. “Letting him be in charge of something was very hard because moms always do everything, but he did it all by himself and I’m very proud of him.”

Marci said the primer and stain for the wood were donated by Benjamin Moore in Port Jefferson Station, and a couple of the employees who helped him out were former Scouts. He said his uncle — Napolitano’s brother — and Village Trustee Stan Loucks and the rest of the board helped him in coordinating and completing the project. He also thanked the family of Bethanie Rizzo, Troop 454 Committee Chair, who allowed him to store the chair in her garage while it was being completed and assisted in transporting it to the park.

“The work that it takes to become an Eagle Scout is just remarkable,” Trustee Bruce D’Abramo said. “I think that the Boy Scouts of America are really training some leaders of tomorrow and it’s not easy to get through all of the steps. I’m just so proud of this boy, and I wish him well.”

This post was updated June 12 to correct that Riverhead Building Supply provided a discount and did not donate the wood, and to amend Christine Napolitano’s input.

By Alex Petroski

Like a scene from a popular HBO show, Port Jefferson was overrun with dragons for as far as the eye could see Sept. 16. The Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce hosted its fourth Dragon Boat Race Festival at Harborfront Park and in Port Jefferson Harbor Saturday. The annual event features boat races, food, vendors, traditional Chinese ceremonies and customs, and musical performances.

This year 30 dragon boat teams competed in a recreational division, and four club teams squared off on the open seas in a more competitive one. Teams consisted of 20 rowers, one steersman and one drummer for the races around the inner harbor. The festival is the brainchild of Barbara Ransome, director of operations at the chamber, who said she got her inspiration after she attended a dragon boat race festival in Cape May, New Jersey, a few years back.

“We’ve got it down from an organizational perspective,” Ransome said in a phone interview after the event. “Everything went very well and very smooth.”

Ransome said she thought this year yielded larger attendance numbers — she speculated several thousand — than previous years, and said she is happy the event is growing. She said about 140 people utilized a free shuttle service provided to take attendees from their cars to the park, which was about 40 percent more than during last year’s event.

In the recreational group, a team from the Long Island School of Chinese called Huaxia Dragon took home the gold with a time of 58.06 seconds, narrowly edging Seas the Day, a team of rowers from St. Charles Hospital, who finished in 58.10 to capture silver. A New York City-area rowing club called The Collective won gold in the club division with a time of 58.27 in the final heat. The New York City Police Department rowing club came in second, finishing just two-tenths of a second behind The Collective.

Ransome said upon request from teams that competed in 2016, this was the first year racers were separated into groups based on experience levels, and she thought it was a good decision.

Port Jefferson Dragons, a Port Jefferson Village team, prepared extensively for the 2017 race, according to Ransome, so the group was bumped up as the fourth team in the club division. As a modest underdog, Port Jefferson Dragons got on the podium with a third-place finish.

“That was very impressive,” she said. “They did extraordinarily well.”

The Confucius Institute at Stony Brook University, an educational partnership between the school and China’s Office of Chinese Language Council International, was once again a sponsor of the event. According to a staff member at the institute, its directors were pleased with the event.

“We basically support any cultural events in the area that promotes Chinese culture, so it makes sense,” the staff member said.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) sent Assistant Director of Constituencies for Asian American Affairs Joanne Choi to the event as a representative on his behalf. Suffolk County Legislators Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) and Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai), Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) and Village Mayor Margot Garant were among the other elected officials also in attendance.

A maximum occupancy restriction was placed on the village-owned pier for the event, which has been found to need repairs following the 2016 race. Ransome said the guidelines were strictly adhered to, and actually made the event easier for timekeepers and organizers.

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The Long Island Seaport and Eco Center in Port Jefferson held its 7th annual “Quick ‘n’ Dirty” boat build and race Aug. 12 and Aug. 13 at Harborfront Park. The competition allows five hours for teams of two to build boats out of wood on Saturday, which are then painted for three hours Sunday and raced around Port Jefferson Harbor. Port Jeff residents Ken Callirgos and Matthew Deveau came out on top in the field of eight boats, and raced their UFO-themed boat to victory.

The pier at Harborfront Park in Port Jefferson needs repairs, according to a report by an engineering firm. Photo by Alex Petroski

By Kevin Redding

The pier in Harborfront Park will remain open, with restrictions, through the summer.

The Port Jefferson Village board of trustees decided during a public board meeting July 17 to hold off on several significant repairs to the pier until after Sept. 16. On that day, the annual Dragon Boat Race Festival sponsored by the Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce is set to take place. The 2016 version of the event prompted a field assessment of the pier last fall following reports of the 337-foot-long by 12-feet-wide timber structure “shifting” and “swaying” while packed with people waiting to board boats and compete in the event.

Mayor Margot Garant said during the July 17 village board meeting that while Port Jefferson’s Seven Seas Construction, Co., could potentially begin work on the pier in two weeks, she could not “in good conscience” allow the pier to be closed to the public during its prime season for use.

“I’d hate to have my pier closed for two months in the summertime,” Garant said, estimating the repairs will now take place during the fall or winter.     

According to the evaluation reports of the Bohemia-based engineering firm P.W. Grosser Consulting Inc., the group commissioned by the village in Oct. 2016 to assess the pier, there was “severe section loss” to pilings or columns driven into the sediment that serve as a foundation for the platform; a missing nut and washer for one beam-to-piling connection; rusted connections between pieces of wood; and a split in at least one cross-bracing beam.

The pier, which was originally built in 1996, was last modified in 2004, according to the firm’s report.

All findings were referred to as “significant structural deficiencies” and it was advised they be addressed immediately. During an Oct. 20, 2016, meeting, Village Trustee Bruce D’Abramo said he was in favor of doing just that.

“They’ve called the village’s attention to a couple of issues [with the pier], I think that if we ignored it, it would not be good,” D’Abramo said.

P.W. Grosser at that time also recommended the enforcement of a maximum occupancy of 180 people for the pier, which was estimated to hold up to 200 during last year’s festival.

At the recent meeting, Garant said the occupancy restriction will be implemented for this year’s event.

“During the Dragon Boat Race there would be absolutely no more than 150 people at a time on that pier,” Garant said. She added that the pier would no longer be open to spectators, only race participants.

When asked how members of P.W. Grosser felt about the delay in repairs, Senior Vice President Paul Boyce said he was unable to speak on the matter until getting the village’s consent. The village board did not respond to requests to interview Boyce nor inquiries as to how it plans to fund the eventual repairs.

The October report stated the “overall structural condition of the pier was considered good to fair.

Alex Petroski contributed reporting

On a sun-splashed Saturday afternoon, members of the community young and old had the chance to get outside and exercise their imagination at the third Eastern Long Island Mini Maker Faire. The popular event, hosted by the Port Jefferson Maritime Explorium June 10, saw demonstrations using robots, interactive activities, exhibits and performances from various “makers” at the Village Center and outside at Harborfront Park.

The Port Jeff maker faire is a scaled down version of the larger Maker Faire brand, which hosts worldwide events similar to the one in Port Jeff. According to the Maritime Explorium’s website, more than 100 makers and 2,000 participants attended the 2016 Mini Maker Faire, and even more were projected to show up this year, although final totals were not readily available.

Some of the makers on display included Funtown Studios, which brought an interactive fireball sculpture; robotics teams from the Sachem and Smithtown school districts; electricity and magnetism demonstrations by representatives from the Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe in Shoreham; an underwater robotic demonstration by SeaPerch; representatives from Stony Brook iCREATE, an innovation facility designed to encourage “innovation and entrepreneurial nature” of the Stony Brook University campus community; and many more.

Before the 2016 faire, Stephanie Buffa, a volunteer board member at the Explorium, explained the importance of the message of the event and the museum as a whole.

“Everything is at our fingertips,” she said in a phone interview. “If you’re sitting at the dinner table and somebody asks a question, you ‘Google’ it. It’s so easy to get answers that way…it’s so easy to get caught up in all of these pre-packaged things that we forget to sort of, do it yourself. You can be creative in so many ways. You don’t have to be a good artist and be able to draw beautiful pictures to be creative and to make things.”

Lauren Hubbard, founding president and former executive director of The Maritime Explorium, who is listed as a producer of the faire, said the day was a success, though attendance numbers are not available as of yet. She said in a phone interview the goal of the event is to show local people of all ages they have the creativity to be makers.

“It’s really about highlighting the entrepreneurial spirit,” she said. “It’s a great opportunity for young people to see how that process happens, how to create something completely new.”

Photo by Gerard Romano

SMOOTH SAILING Using a Nikon D7100 with an 18-200 telephoto lens, Gerard Romano of Port Jefferson Station took this image of students from the Stony Brook School sailing in Port Jefferson Harbor near Harborfront Park on March 26. James Smith’s sculpture depicting the village’s shipbuilding history is in the foreground.

Send your Photo of the Week to leisure@tbrnewspapers.com.

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