Kids

Pick out your favorite pumpkin!

From Sunday, Sept. 27 to Saturday, Oct. 31, St Thomas of Canterbury Episcopal Church, 29 Brooksite Drive, Smithtown will be selling pumpkins of all sizes at its giant pumpkin patch! Hours are Mondays through Fridays from 2:30 to 6:30 p.m.; Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sundays from noon to 5 p.m. Pick the best for carving, decorating or painting. Masks are required with social distancing. Questions? Call 631-265-4520.

Photo courtesy of Rottkamp’s Fox Hollow Farm

By Melissa Arnold

With cooler weather on the horizon and a bit of normalcy returning to Long Island, there’s no better time to get out and enjoy some fresh air. If you’re looking for a fun and safe outdoor activity that’s out of the ordinary, a trip to Rottkamp’s Fox Hollow Farm in Baiting Hollow is just the ticket.

This year, the farm has planted a sunflower maze for the first time. Following the success of sunflower mazes grown earlier this summer, co-owner Jeff Rottkamp has planted a new series of mazes that will bloom in the fall.

The family-owned farm has been in business for more than 50 years now, with centuries of agriculture in their blood. Fox Hollow is currently run by Jeff, his parents and brother, with help from other relatives.

In recent years, people have flocked to the farm to enjoy the season’s bounty along with hayrides and corn mazes, but this year, the Rottkamps were excited to try something new.

“I’ve been seeing sunflower mazes popping up online from places all over the country, and I liked the way they looked,” Rottkamp said. “I knew it was something we could do and I thought people would find it fun. We did a brief trial run last summer and the feedback was extremely positive, so we were happy to do it again officially.”

Photo courtesy of
Rottkamp’s Fox Hollow Farm

Setting up any kind of crop maze is a process that requires an imagination and a lot of planning in advance, Rottkamp said. First, you have to select the right field — not too large, not too small, and in just the right spot on the sprawling grounds. Planting begins two months ahead of when they want the maze to be ready.

“Sunflowers need a lot of maintenance and careful watering,” he added. “I come up with the pathways at random each time we plant a field, so it’s a new experience every time.”

There are several varieties of sunflowers in different colors and sizes. In addition to the familiar golden petals, you’ll see sunflowers in shades of pink, maroon and white. Most of the sunflowers will grow to be 4 to 6 feet tall, but there will also be scattered sunflowers around 10 feet tall.

Of course, a maze made of living things can only last so long — sunflowers are only in bloom for about two weeks. To counter this, the farm is planting three different fields of sunflowers at staggered times. When one dies out, the next will be ready to go, and each one is different from the last.

The three fields are also different sizes. In order of growth, they are 1 acre, 4 acres, and 3 acres. But don’t worry about getting lost. “It’s not that kind of maze, it’s not a puzzle. It’s more of a wandering path that you can take your time going through, to take pictures and have a little bit of fun,” Rottkamp explained. “No one will get lost, and this is appropriate for all ages to enjoy.”

Before or after your trip through the maze, be sure to stop by the farmstand and pick up fresh, seasonal produce. Autumn will bring in the last of the sweet corn and tomatoes, as well as pumpkins, winter squash and zucchini, among others.

There are treats for sale as well, including local honey, Tate’s Bake Shop cookies, and fresh pies and donuts from the Jericho Cider Mill.

The mazes will be open for wandering throughout September and into October if the crop and weather permit.

Admission to the Rottkamp’s Fox Hollow Farm sunflower maze is $5 per person. Children ages 5 and under are free. The farm is located at 2287 Sound Avenue in Baiting Hollow. For further information, please call 631-727-1786.

This article first appeared in Harvest Times 2020, a supplement from TBR News Media.

‘Spookley the Square Pumpkin’

In partnership with the Smithtown Historical Society (SHS), the Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts presents a performance of “Spookley the Square Pumpkin: The Musical,” the story of a square pumpkin living in a round pumpkin patch, in the open air outdoor space behind the SHS’s Roseneath Cottage, 239 E. Main St., Smithtown on Oct. 10, 12, 17, 18, 24, 25 and 31 at 11 a.m. and 1:15 p.m. Masks are required for this socially distanced production. All seats are $18 at www.smithtownpac.org.

Photo courtesy of Sweetbriar Nature Center

UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL

Sweetbriar Nature Center heads to Stony Brook and Setauket for special family friendly events on Saturday, Sept. 26.

Sweetbriar visits Reboli Center

In perfect harmony with its current exhibit, Wild and Wonderful by Vicki Sawyer, the Reboli Center for Art and History, 64 Main St., Stony Brook welcomes the staff of Sweetbriar Nature Center and some of its resident animals including owls for an outdoor nature talk from 2 to 3 p.m. Rain date is Sept. 27. Free. To make a reservation, call 751-7707 or email [email protected]

Sweetbriar Raptor Sketch Night

Join Gallery North, 90 North Country Road, Setauket for a special Raptor Sketch Night from 3 to 5 p.m. Sweetbriar  Nature Center in Smithtown will bring over birds of prey for a workshop that will bring nature lovers and artists together for a unique evening of sketching and learning. $40 per person, $60 for a family of four includes all materials. To register, visit www.gallerynorth.org/thestudio. For more info, call 751-2676.

The Smithtown Historical Society stepped back in time last Sunday as it presented its annual Heritage Country Fair. Attendees bought tickets for two-hour time slots, and each slot was limited to 50 people. The society adhered to COVID-19 regulations and masks and social distancing were required to take part in the day’s events.

While the historic homes on the grounds were not open for tours this year, Civil War reenactors from the 30th Virginia Infantry, 9th Virginia Historical Society and 88th New York State Volunteers Regiment along with volunteers in costumes were spread out through the property to relay a bit of history.

Alpha Axes were on hand for some ax throwing; Long Island Traditional Music Association (LITMA) performed a Contra Dance; the band Strummin’ and Drummin’ performed; the Island Long Riders put on a cowboy shooting show; Paul Henry sang and played guitar; spinning and weaving demonstrations were held by Spinning Study Group of Long Island; the Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts presented a children’s performance of “Moana Jr.” and more.

Guests were also able to enjoy food from Belgiorno Family Mobile Wood Fired Pizza and Up In Smoke BBQ and visit vendor booths including Kathlyn Spins, Genie’s Treasures, League of Women Voters, Angela O’Connell Wreaths and Owl’s Feather Designs.

All photos by Rita J. Egan

Johnny Cuomo

Reviewed by Melissa Arnold

Johnny Cuomo has worn a lot of hats over the years. He’s a musician, storyteller, nature lover, teacher, husband, father, and each role has had a profound impact on his life. The 46-year-old Mount Sinai resident is full of stories and lessons he’s learned while working with all kinds of children.

Most recently, he’s been focused on how important it is to treat others with compassion in his new book, Katy Didn’t. When a new bug arrives at school, the other bugs won’t accept him — that is, except for Katy the katydid, whose kindness makes all the difference. The book shares a powerful message within an easy-to-grasp and vividly illustrated story. It’s also a great read for young bug lovers, who will be thrilled with the variety of insect characters.

I recently had the opportunity to interview Cuomo about his latest venture.

Did you grow up on Long Island? What was your childhood like?

Yes, I grew up in Stony Brook. Interestingly, when I was a kid I was more interested in sports, like skateboarding, wrestling, and martial arts. I was also very interested in making music, which is a major part of my life today. My artistic interests were focused mainly on singing and playing instruments.

Did you always dream of being a writer?

Not quite. I’ve been able to do a lot of traveling throughout my life, and one of my favorite things is to learn about the folk tales of different places and cultures. I also got to work closely with Native American children on a reservation in California for two summers when I was in my early twenties, and that was very formative for me. Working with those children was what led me to go back to school.

What did you choose to study?

I got my undergraduate degree in education from Dowling College, and then I went on to do a Master’s in history at Stony Brook University.

So how did you start writing?

As a songwriter, I tend to write a tune and then think about lyrics that could go with it. That process forces me to write mini stories. Many years ago, I actually wrote a short story called Moonglow, something I’m still proud of. It gave me a foray into the publishing world. I also put together a CD sharing some original folk tales that I had written, based on the stories and cultures of the people I’d lived with.

Where did the idea for ‘Katy Didn’t’ come from?

Even after I began teaching, I was still really grounded in nature. I’m an avid birdwatcher and the natural world is a daily part of my life. If you’ve ever seen or heard a katydid during the summers here on Long Island, you know they have a very rhythmic chirping. Some people even say it sounds like a repetition of, “katy-did, katy-didn’t, katy-did, katy-didn’t.” I always thought that was clever, and one day I started to wonder if I could work that into a story for kids — that Katy didn’t do something hurtful, even when everyone else was doing it. I ended up having a dream about some of the characters and storyline. I created about 95% of the framework for the story within a week of that dream.

Tell me a bit about the illustrator. How did you find one another?

A good friend of mine has a brother named Benjamin Lowery who is an artist. We became friendly about 10 years ago. I got lucky — it turned out that Ben was working on his portfolio and was looking for stories to illustrate. He heard that I was putting this new story together and asked if he could be a part of it. It was really exciting that we both found something we needed in each other and the timing was perfect. I gave him general themes, and then he sent me sketches. He had an amazing sense of knowing what we needed. When I saw the first full-color picture he created, I said, “This is fantastic — just go for it!” We’ve really enjoyed this process and looking out for each other.

How did you publish the book? Did you pursue self-publishing or find an agent?

It was a touch-and-go process. We had an agent for a while, but it didn’t work out, and we sent it to some publishers, but that didn’t work out either. They gave great feedback, but it wasn’t quite what they were looking for. Finally, we connected with Peter Pauper Press, and they said they were going to share the book at their board meeting because they had a great feeling about it. A few days later, they sent us an email that said, “Katy did it!” It was great. They’ve been a really wonderful, straightforward company to work with. The deadline was just before all the pandemic shutdowns began, so we were very fortunate to get it published when we did.

What message do you want kids to take away from reading your book?

I want kids to know that whenever they go somewhere new, there will always be a person out there ready to welcome them. You may face struggles and tough times, but there will always be at least one person willing to help you through it and support you with a positive outlook, even if everyone else is ignoring or teasing you. It’s also an encouragement to be that person for others, whether you’re visiting the park, at someone’s house or meeting someone from a different town.

Is there a recommended age group?

Kids from age 3 to age 8 will get different things from the book, whether that’s their interest in bugs, early reading, or the message about how to treat people. It’s worth noting that the bugs in the book are drawn in a cute, but scientifically correct way, so there are so many things you can teach and do with it.

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Katy Didn’t is available at many online retailers, including Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Target. For more about the book, visit www.facebook.com/katydidntbook or www.johnnycuomo.com. Teachers and librarians are welcome to contact Cuomo for information about online or in-person educational events by emailing [email protected]

Book Revue in Huntington will welcome Johnny Cuomo and Benjamin Lowery at 7 p.m. on Oct. 15 for a free, online event featuring readings, music, conversation and more. Registration is required by visiting www.bookrevue.com or by calling 631-271-1442.

Movie Night at the Vanderbilt

Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum, 180 Little Neck Road, Centerport continues its movie night series with a screening of “Mr. Popper’s Penguins” starring Jim Carrey on Friday, Sept. 25 and Saturday, Sept. 26 at 7:30 p.m. Admission for those who sit in their cars is $40 per carload, $34 for members. Bring lawn chairs and sit outside: admission is $30 per carload, $24 for members. Come early, bring a picnic to enjoy on the grounds at 6:30 p.m. Snacks and ice cream will be available for purchase. Tickets for this fundraising event are available online only at www.vanderbiltmuseum.org. No tickets will be sold at the gate. Questions? Call 854-5579.

Urban Air Lake Grove Adventure Park will re-open for business on Saturday, September 26 at 11 a.m., more than six months after it voluntarily closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with new cleaning and health protocols, creating a fun and safe indoor play experience for kids and families.

Located at 3147 Middle Country Road, Lake Grove, behind the Smith Haven Mall, the 48,000 sq. ft. indoor Adventure Park will include the Urban Air Sky Rider Indoor Coaster, a winding track that has young thrill-seekers flying along 30 feet in the air.

“The last six months have been extraordinarily challenging for kids and families. Kids want a place of their own to reclaim their sense of adventure and excitement,” said Urban Air Lake Grove co-owner David Wolmetz. “New Yorkers have proven we know how to get out into the world in a way that protects everyone’s health. We’re looking forward to hearing the park filled with laughter again.”

The park has been thoroughly cleaned and sanitized, including the play spaces, bathrooms and food service areas. Among the new health and safety protocols being put into place:

  • The park will operate at 25 percent capacity, with a new e-commerce ticketing system managing two-hour timed entry for all guests. Tickets are purchased online in advance.
  • To encourage social distancing, tickets will be offered for purchase at the door on a capacity only basis.
  • Guests will be given colored wrist bands corresponding to the time on their tickets and Urban Air staff will monitor the process to ensure all guests are able to safely experience the park and exit at their appointed time.
  • All Urban Air Lake Grove staff will submit to daily temperature checks, wear masks and practice frequent hand washing.
  • All guests will submit to temperature checks upon entry to the park and in compliance with NYS requirements, will wear masks while in the park.
  • Hand sanitizer kiosks have been installed throughout the park.
  • Every hour, play spaces and high touch areas will be wiped down and guests will be urged to use hand sanitizer. All individual-use attractions are wiped down after each use.
  • A new Urban Cafe ordering app is available to limit human to human transaction around food items. Guests can order on their phones and pick up when ready.
  • Plexiglass barriers and social distancing have been installed at ALL point of sale registers.
  • Tables and chairs are all spaced six feet apart in accordance with social distancing protocols.
  • The park HVAC system has been upgraded with MERV-13 anti-microbial filters, as suggested by NYS re-opening guidance.

“We have been working with the local officials and with guidance from the CDC to develop an appropriate reopening plan for Urban Air Lake Grove. After careful consideration, we decided to reopen our park with new health, physical distancing and capacity protocols and new ticketing procedures,” said Keith Handler, Co-Owner of Urban Air Lake Grove. “We believe in the power of enriching lives and creating joy through healthy, active play, and we have been working tirelessly to prepare to welcome you back into a clean, safe and fun family environment. We have always maintained stringent cleaning procedures that we are proud of and we’ve heightened our standards and protocols to keep you and our employees healthy and safe.”

In addition to the wall-to-wall trampoline adventures, adrenaline junkies will thrill to experience the following attractions:

  • High Ropes, an obstacle course in the sky;
  • Spin Zone Bumper Cars, where you can bump into your friends and send them into an uncontrolled spin;
  • The Drop Zone, an enormous inflatable landing pad perched below a series of trampolines;
  • The Runway Tumble Track, a unique attraction for flips, handsprings and cartwheels;
  • The Slam Dunk Zone, which allows guests to emulate their favorite basketball heroes with a trampoline-induced slam dunk of their own; and
  • Urban Air’s exclusive Urban Warrior Course™ and Battle Beam.

Urban Air also features the Urban Café, with food, drinks and snacks available for purchase. The location is available for birthday parties, corporate retreats, team building and private events.

For more information, call 631-861-4125 or visit www.urbanairtrampolinepark.com.

Photos courtesy of Urban Air Lake Grove

Vanderbilt Movie Night

Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum, 180 Little Neck Road, Centerport continues its outdoor movie night series with a screening of “Ice Age” (Rated PG) tonight and Sept. 12 at 8 p.m. Admission for those who sit in their cars is $40 per carload, $34 for members. Bring lawn chairs and sit outside: admission is $30 per carload, $24 for members. Feel free to bring a blanket and arrive at 7 p.m. to picnic on the lawn. Snacks and ice cream will be available for purchase. Tickets for this fundraising event are available online only at www.vanderbiltmuseum.org. No tickets will be sold at the gate. Questions? Call 854-5579.

 

By Heidi Sutton

Doot Ba Da Ba Da Doot Doot Dah! Zip! Boink! Hubba-wha!? Guess what show is back in town?

Through Sept. 13, the Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts presents a socially distanced outdoor production of Mo Willems’ Elephant & Piggie’s ‘We’re In a Play!’ on the grounds of the Smithtown Historical Society. The author’s award-winning, best-selling children’s books about Gerald the elephant and his “bestus” friend, a pig named Piggie, fly off the pages and on to the stage for an adorable musical experience young children will love.

With script and lyrics by Willems and music by Deborah Wicks La Puma, the show centers mostly around Elephant and Piggie’s We are in a Book! but draws from other stories including I Am Invited to a Party! Elephants Cannot Dance!, Should I Share My Ice Cream?, Listen to My Trumpet! and I Love My New Toy!

Directed by Courtney Braun, the fast-paced production follows Gerald and Piggie’s rollicking adventures as they solve problems and learn friendship etiquette with the help of The Squirrelles, Ice Cream Penguin and Delivery Dog.

With every new situation, every dilemma, every disappointment or triumph, the pachyderm and swine prove that they are best friends over and over again and, more importantly, demonstrate to children in the audience how friends should treat each other.

When Piggie is invited to a party hosted by the Squirrelles, she brings Gerald along so he won’t feel left out. When Gerald gets an ice cream cone and it melts before he can share it, Piggie appears with two ice cream cones. When Piggie plays the trumpet badly and everyone at the party leaves, Gerald stays to support her … and so on. Each scene ends on a positive note.

Logan O’Leary is wonderful as Gerald. Funny, engaging, polished, with an incredible singing voice, he portrays his good guy worrywart character perfectly. “I hope nothing goes terribly, horribly, best-friendship-ending wrong in the next hour!”

Aubrey Gulle is amazing as Piggie, Gerald’s “best, best, best, best, best, best, best, best friend.” Always smiling with a powerhouse voice, she shines in every scene with boundless energy.

The two actors are backed by a terrific supporting cast — the harmonizing Squirrelles: Gabrielle Arroyo, Lorelai Mucciolo and Gabriella Fugon; Alia Romanelli as Ice Cream Penguin; and Zachary Podair as Delivery Dog,

The songs and their heartfelt lyrics are the heart of the show. Each number, from the terrific intro, “Lucky to See You,” to the toe-tapping “Swimmy! Fancy!,” “Elephant in the Room” and the big show stopper “Ice Cream Hero” are executed perfectly with musical direction by Melissa Coyle.

Costumes by Ronald Green III are subtle but effectively reflect the character’s animal traits with gray pants, vest and shirt for Gerald; a pink dress for Piggie, brown dresses for the Squirrelles, etc.

Towards the end of the play the cast suddenly discovers they have an audience. Breaking the fourth wall, they invite the crowd to join in the fun by clapping, shouting out “banana” and doing the “Flippy Floppy Floory” dance, a perfect ending to a hilariously fun afternoon.

Recommended for ages 3 to 8, performances of Elephant & Piggie’s ‘We’re In a Play’! will be held on the grounds of the Smithtown Historical Society’s Roseneath Cottage, 239 E. Main St., Smithtown through Sept. 13. Running time is one hour with no intermission. Masks are required. Tickets are $18 per person. For a complete schedule and to order tickets, visit www.smithtownpac.org.

All photos by Courtney Braun