Times of Middle Country

Photo from Town of Brookhaven

Kick off the holiday season at the Town of Brookhaven’s annual tree lighting at the Holtsville Ecology Site, 249 Buckley Road, Holtsville on Friday, Dec. 10 at 6 p.m. The event will feature costumed characters, complimentary candy canes, musical entertainment and a special appearance by Santa Claus who will arrive by helicopter and then assist with the countdown to light the tree. Event sponsors include Texas Roadhouse, Eastern Helicopters, WALK 97.5, WBLI, WBAB and My Country 96.1. Please bring a new, unwrapped toy for a child in need. For more information, call 631-451-6100 or visit www.brookhavenny.gov

File photo by Steve Silverman

The best part of the holiday season can be celebrating with family members and friends. Often alcohol can be part of these events, and if a person doesn’t drink responsibly, their actions can lead to dangers on the road.

If drinking is part of the festivities or ingesting any other substances that can impair the senses, a plan of action is needed before the partying begins. There is no excuse for driving under the influence.

For decades, we have been familiar with sage advice such as having a designated driver, planning to sleep over at the home where the party takes place or calling a taxi. Of course, sometimes the designated driver decides to join in on the fun or it turns out there is no room to sleep at the house. In many areas, especially in our towns, there aren’t many taxi services. Just a few years ago, scenarios such as the ones mentioned could spell danger if a person under the influence decided to get into the driver’s seat because they just wanted to go home.

Nowadays, there is no excuse for driving under the influence of any substance with phone apps to order car services such as Uber or Lyft providing another way to stay safe on the roads.

According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, better known as MADD, there are more than 300,000 drinking and driving incidents a day in this country. According to the grassroots organization, in 2019 this reckless form of driving led to 10,142 deaths that year, which breaks down to almost 28 people killed a day. There are also 300,000 injuries a year due to drinking and driving, according to MADD.

All of these deaths and injuries could have been avoided if the drivers who caused them had a plan before drinking. And, let’s not forget, everyone can play a part in keeping impaired drivers off the road. When hosting a party, make arrangements for your guests who will be indulging themselves. Keep in mind the Suffolk County Social Host Law, which is primarily intended to deter underage drinking parties or gatherings where adults knowingly allow minors to drink alcohol or alcoholic beverages.

The holiday season is a time for celebrating the accomplishments of the past year and the promises of a new year. Let’s keep the roads in our communities safe to enjoy during the next few weeks and all year long.

Taking a solo backpacking tour through Europe proves the scars of COVID-19 are deep

Zurich, Switzerland, along the river Limmat. Photo by Kyle Barr

This is part two of a two part series.

The Netherlands and Denmark

In Amsterdam, the classic Bulldog hostel, just one part of the company known for its pervasive marijuana products, was practically full to the brim compared to other hostels along my route. And still, people kept to their little groups, barely interacting with each other even in the spacious bar area. Rosie, a young woman I met in Amsterdam and fellow American traveler from Detroit, talked of her own lonely experiences after she left friends in Istanbul, Turkey, to travel up to Dutch country.

attendees during a pared-down August pride celebration in Amsterdam. Photo by Kyle Barr

There are ways to mitigate the loneliness. Apps like CouchSurfing have the capacity for travelers to create hangouts. It’s how I managed to meet a group of international travelers all shut together in a tiny apartment in Amsterdam’s canal district for a house party/barbecue, where alcohol and marijuana loosened enough tongues to break through the concerns of pandemic life. Though that’s easier for young people, many of whom crowded along the rain-slick streets just outside the Amsterdam Centraal train station for a slimmed down version of Pride month festivities. None were wearing masks.

There are certainly places that seem to be trying to capture more of what prepandemic life was like. In Amsterdam and Denmark, masks are only worn in places where one can’t stay 1.5 meters away from people. Of course, it’s a policy that is rarely if ever enforced, despite COVID cases peaking to a new high for the Netherlands in mid-July. Despite what Dutch officials have recently said about limiting international travelers who come to revel in the famous smoke-filled streets of the city center, the travelers there are undaunted.


The international travel industry grew to new heights up until just before the pandemic, but now many towns, cities and countries are starting to consider whether the general wealth that tourists bring to their homes is worth what they lose in a sense of place and community. The outdoor shopping malls of a city like Bern, Switzerland, are no longer flooded with travelers, and more locals can take the time to walk past the old town and up the hill to the Bern Rosengarten to enjoy a beer and the cool afternoon air with friends and family.

While in Switzerland I stayed with a native Swiss man named Pascal for two nights in his home, just a 20-minute train ride from Zurich. That city, so well known throughout the world as a tourist hotspot, no longer sees the crowds it once did. The surrounding mountains are trekked by locals, with more mountain goats than people. The way Pascal kindly greeted his fellows on the slopes of the Etzel mountain, located on the southern end of Lake Zurich, it seemed that a strong sense of polite community was still alive, and better exemplified away from the international crowds of a national center like Geneva or in the resort town of Zermatt, lingering under the craggy gaze of the Matterhorn.

The Gullfoss Waterfall in Iceland seen from high above. Photo by Kyle Barr

Iceland and back home

On the final leg of my trip into Iceland, I reconnected with my brother. It was the first time I met somebody I knew in seven weeks. We didn’t rent a car and were forced to take guided tours, one running down the brilliant length of the country’s south coast. The other was a tour of the Golden Circle to massive sites around the center of the country. We were the only two people in a van with our tour guide. The other people scheduled for the tour bailed last minute and, instead of canceling, the tour operator still offered us our ride. The pandemic had been hard on tour guides. They are making less than 50% what they had been doing just two years ago. Iceland’s economy, and so many other countries in Europe, relies on tourism. In 2019, over 15% of the workforce in Iceland was in the tourism industry. Many European countries accounted for close to 10% of their total gross domestic product. Some countries, like Greece, accounted for about 20% of their GDP. What will they do if travelers do not show up at the rates they once did in the years to come?

These are big questions and impossible for one person to answer. Instead, as time moves on and the memories start to congeal in my brain, I’m left with an impression: Thousands of people laying under verdigris-covered statues built in a time centuries before, the uncertainty, the questions, sitting amid millions of lives trying to be lived day-to-day, wanting to see a future in which all can take one collective breath.

And like us back in the States, we’re still wanting and we’re still waiting.

Kyle Barr is a freelancer writer and the former editor of The Port Times Record, The Village Beacon Record and The Times of Middle Country.


Jefferson Ferry

Part one of three

Over its 20 years in existence, Jefferson’s Ferry has been home to a significant number of accomplished and creative older adults who have been groundbreakers, innovators, educators and artists. All were original thinkers with a desire to do something that hadn’t been done before, and many of these residents wrote books about their work, which can be found in the Jefferson’s Ferry library collection.

Gerhart Friedlander

Gerhart Friedlander and Barbara Strongin: scientist and activist   

Gerhart Friedlander and his wife, Barbara Strongin, were among the first residents of Jefferson’s Ferry when it opened in 2001. He was a nuclear chemist who emigrated to the United States in 1936 from Munich, Germany, when the Nazis forbade Jews from attending university. Friedlander studied at the University of California, Berkeley, receiving his doctorate in 1942. After gaining American citizenship in 1943, he was recruited to work on the Manhattan Project at Los Alamos, New Mexico. He later worked at Brookhaven National Laboratory for more than 30 years, conducting groundbreaking research on how high-energy particles trigger nuclear reactions. Friedlander also co-authored the textbook “Nuclear and Radiochemistry,” considered a classic in its field, with Manhattan Project colleague Joseph W. Kennedy. The book has been translated into 18 languages, and over the years, was updated twice with other co-authors. He received honorary degrees from many universities and countries and was an active elected member of the National Academy of Sciences.

Friedlander died in 2009 at the age of 93. 

Barbara Strongin

Strongin has spent her adult life dedicated to improving the lives of women and girls on Long Island. She met her husband when he was the chair of the board and she was the chief executive officer of Planned Parenthood of Suffolk County. They both received the Family Planning Advocates of New York State award. One of three founding members of the Women’s Fund of Long Island, Strongin was also an adviser and contributor to the Herstory Writers Workshop. She has co-authored curricula and articles on the Jewish perspective of human sexuality and has been honored by the New York Civil Liberties Union (Suffolk County Chapter) and Family Planning Advocates of New York State. Also, she won in 2011 the Good Neighbor award from The Village Times Herald.

Strongin and Friedlander jointly received the Allard K. Lowenstein Memorial Award from the American Jewish Congress, Long Island Chapter, and were recognized by Newsday as “Long Islanders of the Century: Everyday Heroes.” 

Strongin continues to reside in her independent living cottage at Jefferson’s Ferry. 

Joyce Edward: author, advocate, activist

Joyce Edward enjoyed a long career as a respected and influential social worker psychoanalyst, teacher, writer and activist. The co-editor and co-author of several books showing the value of psychoanalytic theory in social work practice as well as in the analytic consulting room, she also authored a book on her own, “The Sibling Relationship.”

Joyce Edward

Edward holds a Master of Social Work from Case Western Reserve University and earned post-master’s certificates in psychoanalysis and psychotherapy.

“Therapists seek to help a patient understand what’s in their way, what’s keeping them from a congenial marriage, for example, or from exploring career options,” she said. “A therapist is a partner in the work. We do not tell you what to do but help identify what may be blocking you and what you can do for yourself to move past these obstacles.”

Edward attended Antioch College in Ohio, attracted by its then unusual work study program. With the intention of becoming an advertising copywriter, Edward was placed in a salesclerk position at Macy’s as part of her work experience. She was uncomfortable in the post and quickly realigned her course, gravitating toward social work after helping Southerners who were recruited to come to work in a bomber plant up North find housing during World War II. At home she was exposed to acts of kindness, generosity and caring for those less fortunate.

“My aunt, who was a social worker during the Depression, would say of the people she helped, ‘They are just people like us.’ At Antioch, there was an emphasis on helping others. For example, as students we helped integrate a barbershop and the local movie theater.”

Edward did not intend being a practicing analyst. Balancing motherhood and career, she first volunteered at a newly founded small private school for emotionally disturbed children. As the school grew, so did her role.

“It was a major and central working part of my life for 13 years and exposed me to psychoanalytic training,” she said. “As the social worker on the clinical team, I wanted more than a handmaiden role. I questioned the prevailing theory at the time that the cause of autism in children was ‘refrigerator parents’ who were cold and did not connect with their children. I saw the ‘coldness,’ when it was observed, as frequently being the result of living with an autistic child, whose needs are tremendous and time consuming. I realized that I had to get more training to gain prestige and acceptance of my ideas, so I enrolled in an analytic training course of study.”

Upon publishing an article on her thoughts and observations, Edward was asked to write a book on the subject. She wrote “Separation-Individuation” collaboratively with two colleagues, with each contributor writing several chapters. The book was well received and provided the basis for greater discussion and ideas about the developmental process that led to subsequent studies, articles and books.

After 13 years at the school, Edward took a position in the Freeport Public Schools in a program funded by Democratic President Lyndon Johnson’s “war on poverty.” When the funding for this program ceased, she opened a small private practice and continued with this until she retired. During these years she also taught in the schools of social work at Adelphi University, Hunter College and Smith College as well as in two analytic training programs.

With the introduction of managed care into the mental health system, Edward and her colleagues founded the National Coalition of Mental Health Professionals & Consumers. The organization sought to restore privacy and to return to the clinician treating a patient their decision-making role.

Edward has lived in an independent living apartment at Jefferson’s Ferry for more than 14 years. Over that time, she has served on the residents council and the health committee, the social activities committee, the education committee as well as others. Through Stony Brook University’s OLLI program, she enjoys courses via Zoom, which currently include a political discussion newsroom, a music course with essayist David Bouchier and a class on the work of Leonard Bernstein.

An avid reader, she participates in book club discussions, one at the Emma S. Clark Memorial Library and the other at Jefferson’s Ferry. Recent reads include “Hamnet” by Maggie O’Farrell, “White Teeth” by Zadie Smith and works by Edith Wharton, George Eliot, George Packer and Anne Applebaum.

According to Edward, the best thing about Jefferson’s Ferry is the people, the residents and the staff — there are many interesting, knowledgeable and accomplished people. “More importantly is the understanding and support that we offer each other,” she said. “The residents have an appreciation of each other gained through our ages and experiences and have come to recognize what’s important in life.”

Linda Kolakowski is vice president of Residential Life at Jefferson’s Ferry Life Plan Community in South Setauket.

METRO photo

Senator Mario R. Mattera (2nd Senate District), in cooperation with the Middle Country Public Library, is hosting the Stony Brook Cancer Center’s Mobile Mammography Van at the library’s Selden location.  This no-cost breast cancer-screening event will be held from 9 am to 4 pm on Monday, December 6th at the library, which is located at 575 Middle Country Road.

Stony Brook University Cancer Center operates and staffs the mobile van, which is supported by more than $3 million in funding from the New York State Department of Health.  The van provides convenient access to screening services for all women in our area to ensure they get the information and services needed to protect themselves from breast cancer.

This event is for women 40 and older who have not had a mammogram in the past year. To help ensure proper coordination of the event, residents are being asked to schedule an appointment by calling 631-638-4135.

According to information provided by Stony Brook Cancer Center, most screenings are no cost to the patient since the cost of mammograms are covered by most insurance plans.  Any resident without insurance will be referred to the New York State Cancer Services Program.

“Thank you to the Stony Brook Cancer Center and the Middle Country Public Library for taking part in this important event.  Hopefully, this will help residents who may face challenges that prevent them from accessing this very important regular screening get the information they need to protect their health.  Early detection is the most critical protection in the fight against breast cancer and I hope everyone who needs this service will join us on December 6th,” stated Senator Mattera.

For more information on this important event, including eligibility requirements and directions to the library, please visit Senator Mattera’s website at mattera.nysenate.gov.

The tree at Heritage Park in Mount Sinai will be lit on Dec. 5 at 5 p.m. File photo by Kyle Barr

By Heidi Sutton

Enjoy caroling, treats, tree lightings, special visits from Santa, and more on the North Shore this weekend. Check next week’s TIMES … and dates for tree lightings taking place on Dec. 11 and 12.

Cold Spring Harbor

The Cold Spring Harbor Fish Hatchery, 1660 Route 25A, Cold Spring Harbor will host a tree lighting ceremony on Dec. 4 from 5 to 7 p.m. Santa Claus will light the hatchery’s Christmas Tree at 5:30 p.m. Free admission. Suggested donation of $10 per family. 516- 692-6768.


The Greenlawn Civic Association hosts a will host a “Meet at the Tree” Christmas Tree Lighting on Dec. 4 at 3:30 p.m. at the Harborfields Public Library Front Circle. Join them for a celebration that includes holiday music, hot cocoa and treats, and a visit from Santa and Mrs. Claus with the Greenlawn Fire Department. A food/gift card drive will also take place to benefit HACO. www.greenlawncivic.org.

Kings Park

The Kings Park Chamber of Commerce hosts a Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony at Veterans Plaza, King Park on Dec. 4 at 4:15 p.m. Enjoy holiday music selections followed by invocation and welcome remarks from the chamber with hot chocolate and cookies for all. 631-269-7678

Mount Sinai

Join the Heritage Trust and the Mount Sinai Fire Department for a Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony at Heritage Park, 633 Mount Sinai-Coram Road, Mount Sinai on Dec. 5 at 5 p.m. Listen to carols, enjoy hot chocolate and visit with Santa. 631-509-0882.

St. James

The St. James Chamber of Commerce invites the community to a Christmas Tree Lighting at Deepwells Farm County Park, 2 Taylor Lane, St. James on Dec. 4 at 4:30 p.m. with holiday music, pictures with Santa, cookies and hot chocolate. 631-584-8510.

Stony Brook

The Ward Melville Heritage Organization hosts a Holiday Tree Lighting at the Stony Brook Village Center Green, 111 Main St., Stony Brook on Dec. 5 at 5:30 p.m. as part of the WMHO’s 42nd annual Holiday Festival. 631-751-2244.

Wading River

Join The Shoppes at East Wind, 5768 Route 25A, Wading River for a Holiday Tree Lighting on Dec. 4 from 3 to 7 p.m. Stop by to put a letter in Santa’s mailbox, enjoy music and dancing, and more holiday fun including holiday shopping at their Winter Fest. Santa arrives on a Fire Truck to light the tree and take free photo with families. Santa will also be at the Shoppes on Dec. 11 and 18 from 11 a.m to 5 p.m. 631-929-3500

Pixabay photo

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

When she was little, my daughter loved to build sand castles. She’d put wet sand in a bucket, gently pull the bucket back and marvel at the details in the castles that came out.

My son wasn’t as interested in building castles. He derived special pleasure out of stomping on the castles she made. It wasn’t just that it gave him power over the sand: he also felt power over his older sister, who was furious with him for crushing her castles.

While I tried to reason with him, which is almost as effective today as it was when he was two, I came up with an alternative plan that required additional energy from me, but that created peace on the beach. I’d quickly put together a ring of 15 castles, grabbing wet sand and dumping it several feet from where my daughter was working on her creation.

Like a young Olympic sprinter, my son would race over to the collection of castles and stomp all over them, while my daughter slowly built her own city of sand.

These days, it seems, we are surrounded by people eager to stomp on everyone else’s sandcastles.

Sure, it’s satisfying to feel the figurative sand in our toes and to revel in tearing down what other people have created.

But, really, given all the challenges of the world, I think we should ask a few questions of all those people who are so eager to belittle, attack and undermine others. What’s your solution? What are you doing better? How would you fix the problem?

Insulting others for their efforts, their awkwardness or their perceived flaws often seems like a form of ladderism. No one wants to be on the bottom rung of a ladder, so people try to push others down or to shout to anyone who will listen about how much better they are than the people below them. That seems to be a sign of weakness or insecurity, reflecting the notion that other people are below them.

In addition to dumping on others, we live in a society of people for whom hearing views that differ from their own somehow turns them into victims. Surely we have more choices than simply, “I’m right and you’re wrong.” If someone doesn’t agree with you, maybe it’s worth finding out why.

Anger, frustration and hatred, while they may make us feel slightly better in the moment, aren’t solutions and they don’t improve our world. They are a form of destructive energy, like stomping on sand castles.

We should ask more of ourselves and from our leaders. I’m tired of hearing about politicians who will fight for me. I don’t want to send people into office to fight against others who are trying to do the best they can for the country. I want leaders who will learn, listen and, gasp, reach across the aisle in the search for solutions.

While platforms aren’t as sizzling as slogans or take downs, they include ideas and potential solutions.

Civility makes it possible for us to hear and learn.

We have enough threats to our lives without needing to turn against other people or to give in to the urge to crush other people’s sandcastles to feel better. We don’t all have to be best friends, but it’d be nice to look forward to a holiday season and the start of a new year that focused on a shared sense of purpose. We need better ideas, not better ways to attack.

Photo by David Ackerman

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

Since we were thinking of all we are grateful for this Thanksgiving, I can now add one more item to the list. It seems that government officials have finally noticed how important newspapers and media, especially local news media, are, and they want to help us survive. In fact, attitudes on the part of media members toward government have also changed in the last couple of years, thanks strangely to the coronavirus pandemic.

The grim numbers tell the story. According to an article in this past Monday’s issue of The New York Times, there are now 200 counties in the United States without a newspaper. These are being referred to as newspaper deserts. More than 2100 have shut down since 2004. This is in part due to the rise in digital media that has broken the business model of advertising support for local newspapers, with the final blow delivered by COVID-19. According to the Pew Research Center, the number of journalists at newspapers fell to 31,000 last year from 71,000 in 2008.

At the same time, in order to stay afloat, many newspapers have accepted help from the federal government’s Paycheck Protection Program with forgivable loans, assuaging fears of publishers of an inherent conflict of interest in accepting federal help. After all, newspapers are considered the watchdogs of the powerful, including government, on behalf of the people. We have been leery of any quid pro quo by accepting government help until now. But there have been no restrictions or demands put on news gatherers in this program, proving that such support can work if properly administered, and those loans have doubtlessly saved the number of shuttered newspapers from being greater.

“I don’t think we’d be having this conversation [about government support for local media] if it were not for the impact of Covid and the role that it played in accelerating challenges the [news] sector has faced,” said Damian Radcliff, a professor at the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communications in The Times.

A tax credit for local newspapers was one of the main items in the Local Journalism Sustainability Act, a bipartisan bill that appeared before Congress in 2020 and was reintroduced this year. Among its supporters was local U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY1). When it stalled, it was then put into the latest $2.2 trillion package, as a payroll tax credit, the giant bill having passed the House and now awaits its fate at the hands of the Senate.

Why should the government help newspapers?

For starters, there is early precedent in United States history. The Postal Act of 1792 gave newspapers significantly cheaper mail rates. The maxim about an informed public being the cornerstone of democracy still holds. A free press is enshrined in the First Amendment, and the way to help pay for it was, and still is, by reduced postage. To this day, newspapers that are so designated because they carry a significant percentage of news, as opposed to only advertising, move at the rate of first class mail. 

As for local news that most directly affects everyday life, who but the local news outlets would routinely cover local school board, town board and civics meetings? It is in the local news where births, deaths. graduations and weddings are noted. Local student sports teams, student musicians and academic accomplishments are proudly published, as are local cultural events, exhibitions and fairs. In addition to holding local officials accountable, local newspapers define the boundaries of a community and strengthen its bonds.

Other ways that government can help news outlets include placing advertising from their various agencies. Such a program helped newspapers in New York City this past year for a total of some $10 million, at the behest of Mayor de Blasio. Although counties already advertise legal notices in newspapers, those are not usually equitably placed but rather are saved for the partisan papers by the party in control. A legislator in New Jersey suggested giving residents a $250 deduction on their taxes if they subscribed to a local news outlet.

I can tell you that were we to receive any sort of financial help from the government, it would go directly toward publishing more local news for you.

Above, a light display at the drive-thru Smith Point Light Show

By Tara Mae

Suffolk County’s festive light shows have returned to illuminate the holiday season. Whether you prefer a starlit stroll or a cozy car trip, the unique displays at the Vanderbilt Museum, Smith Point County Park, Suffolk County Farm and Education Center, and Splish Splash Water Park offer peaceful reprieves from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. 

Bright Lights

A scene from Bright Lights at the Vanderbilt Museum.

Now in its second year, Bright Lights, a magical holiday celebration, returns to the Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum and Planetarium, 180 Little Neck Road in Centerport.

A collaboration with Redmax Events, the display is open  form 5 to 9 p.m. Fridays to Sundays through Dec. 19, and Wednesday and Thursday, Dec. 22 and 23. The event features holiday lights, wandering carolers, festive music, tasty treats, and themed light-up displays. 

Santa Claus and his friends, including reindeer, snow people, gingerbread people, nutcrackers, and elves, will all be there, portrayed by costumed actors. The Posey School of Dance will perform The Nutcracker on Dec. 17, 18 and 19.

“We’re thrilled to invite everyone to kick off the holiday season and celebrate with us. The decorated Estate grounds will become a winter wonderland,” said Executive Director Elizabeth Wayland-Morgan. “As you walk through the estate at night, it’s as if you’re entering a magical children’s book.” 

Admission for members of the museum is $20 per adult, $10 per child age 12 and younger, children under the age of 3 are free. For nonmembers of the museum, admission is $25 per adult, $15 per child age 12 and younger, children under the age of 3 are free. Tickets may only be purchased online. For more information, visit https://www.vanderbiltmuseum.org/events/bright-lights. 

Smith Point Light Show

Above, a light display at the drive-thru Smith Point Light Show

Girl Scouts of Suffolk County’s annual holiday drive-thru display, the Smith Point Light Show, will be held daily (except Dec. 24, 25, 31 and Jan. 1) through January 9, from 5 to 9 p.m. Located at Smith Point County Park Campground 1, William Floyd Parkway in Shirley, it features 1.5 miles of lights on the beachfront land that is part of Fire Island. 

“It’s the 18th annual show at Smith Point. The Girl Scouts partner with Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone to put it together. Many of the lights and displays were designed by girl scouts who won a special contest and then assembled by Girl Scout staff. The show benefits the Girl Scouts of Suffolk County, including funding for programs, campgrounds’ maintenance, stewardship system, and community outreach,” Multimedia Designer for Girl Scouts of Suffolk County Elena Rios said. 

Tickets are sold online or in person. Via the website, tickets are $22 per car and $25 per car at the gate. No cash transactions will be accepted. For more information, visit www.smithpointlightshow.com or call 631-543-6622. 

Winter Wonderland

Winter Wonderland at the Suffolk County Farm and Education Center in Yaphank first appeared in 2020, and offers a self-guided walking tour through the grounds of the interactive, educational, working farm, which is a Cornell Cooperative Extension.

Above, a holiday scene from walk-thru Winter Wonderland at the Suffolk County Farm

Visitors may enjoy the light show, farm animals, and photo opportunities as well as hay rides, hot chocolate, and a  lantern craft to take home. The event will take place on Dec. 4, 11, and 18, from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.  

“Experiencing the farm at night is super unique and special as we [normally] close at 3 p.m. daily. The farm is magical at night,” said Director of the Suffolk County Farm and Education Center Vicki Fleming. 

To attend the show, pre-registration is required. Tickets are $15 per person for people age 3 and older; children under the age of 3 have free admission. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit https://suffolkcountyfarm.campbrainregistration.com. The event ends at 7 p.m.; the last admitted entry is at 6 p.m. For more information, call 631-727-7850.

Located at 350 Yaphank Avenue, Yaphank the farm provide hands-on, research-based learning to participants in its immersive programs, with a focus on agriculture, animal sciences, STEM history, healthy living, and life skills. 

Riverhead Holiday Light Show

Above, a light display at the drive-thru Riverhead Holiday Light Show.

Now in its fourth year, for the first time the Riverhead Holiday Light Show will be held at Splish Splash Water Park, 2549 Splish Splash Drive in Calverton. The display runs at 5 p.m. on select dates through Dec. 30.

“We’ve got dozens of dazzling, larger-than-life holiday themed displays to delight the entire family! The show is entirely new this year, so returning guests and new visitors alike will be amazed. Visitors are welcomed to bundle up in their car and tune their radio to enjoy the synced light performance as they travel the more than 1 mile route through the Holiday Light Show™,” Marketing Director of Bold Media Madeline Oliveira said. Bold Media produces the event and puts on other holiday light shows throughout the country. 

The Riverhead Holiday Light Show syncs to the holiday music playing on participants radios and the displays dance along to the music. And as the largest water park in New York, with over 95 acres to its name, Splish Splash offers plenty of space for a melodious, merry drive.

Tickets are available at http://holidaylightshow.com/riverheadticketcard. General admission is $23 per vehicle and allows admittance for a certain date and time slot. VIP admission is $35 per vehicle and allows admittance for anytime the show is open. For more info, call 631-210-6711.


Families opened their doors to each other during Thanksgiving, eager for a long-awaited reunion and hoping to keep out COVID-19. Stock photo

Despite the desire to relax, remove masks and go on with life, the pandemic, even prior to the emergence of a new, mutation-laden variant, has become a central concern among government and health care officials.

The stock market has felt the effects of concerns over the Omicron variant, hospitals are sending off some positive tests to check for the new variant, and the federal government is restricting travel from several countries in Africa.

While health care officials anticipate the inevitable presence of confirmed cases of Omicron in the United States and New York, they had already seen an increase in confirmed cases and had increased the need for treatment.

At St. Catherine of Siena Hospital in Smithtown, the hospital provided monoclonal antibody treatment for 32 people the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, according to St. Catherine Chief Medical Officer Dr. Mickel Khlat. That is up from an average of four to five a day just a few weeks earlier.

That increase comes not only from a rise in group activities indoors, but also from a reduction in the immunity conferred by vaccines that are less effective after six months.

Six weeks ago, unvaccinated patients represented 80% of those who received monoclonal antibody treatments, said Dr. Khlat. Recently, the percentage of vaccinated people who receive antibody treatment has risen to 50%.

“If you got the vaccine six or seven or eight months ago, your immunity is waning,” said Dr. Khlat.

Dr. Gregson Pigott explained that monoclonal antibody treatment could be lifesaving.

“The key is to seek treatment soon after a COVID diagnosis,” Dr. Pigott explained in an email.

The percentage of positive tests in Suffolk County has been rising at a rapid pace, mirroring the positive tests for the nation. The percentage of positive tests on a seven-day average reported on Tuesday, Nov. 29, was 5.3%. That is up from a seven-day average of 3.7% just two weeks earlier and 2.4% a month earlier, according to data from the Suffolk County Department of Health.

Dr. Susan Donelan, medical director of the Healthcare Epidemiology Department at Stony Brook Medicine, explained that this is likely a result of variable acceptance of vaccination opportunities, inconsistent or poor mask usage compliance, increased indoor activity, initiation of indoor heating and general pandemic fatigue.

At the same time, hospitals on Long Island and around the state are preparing and monitoring for the potential arrival of the Omicron variant, which the World Health Organization recently deemed a variant of concern in part because of the number of mutations to the spike protein. These mutations could alter the dynamic in the Stéphane Bancel indicated that vaccines may not be as effective against this variant.

Pigott suggested that too little is known to determine how effective the current vaccines would be against the new variant.

“We will learn more from the World Health Organization and the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] in the weeks to come,” Pigott explained in an email.

Dr. Adrian Popp, chair of Infection Control at Huntington Hospital/Northwell Health, said numerous mutations don’t necessarily mean this variant is any worse.

“It’s important to see what is the effect of these mutations,” Popp explained in an email. The answers to whether the strain is more virulent or if the vaccines are less effective are still unknown. The next few weeks could provide a clearer picture, Popp said.

Doctors urged residents to become vaccinated and, if eligible, get the booster.

“My message to the public is to still get the vaccine,” said Khlat. “I wouldn’t tell people to wait” until companies like Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson and Moderna develop vaccines or boosters for the latest variant. COVID is a “killer. I want everyone vaccinated as soon as possible.”

At the same time, hospitals are actively monitoring positive cases for the potential spread of the Omicron variant into the area.

Since the emergence of the new variant on Nov. 26, “Stony Brook’s labs have been hard at work in pursuit of an answer” to whether any patients have contracted the variant, Donelan explained in an email.

Stony Brook routinely sends 10 random samples of positive COVID swabs each week to the Wadsworth Virology lab for genomic sequencing. The hospital epidemiologist reviews the available electronic medical record of all positives to identify any patient who may have key characteristics, such as traveling in areas in which Omicron is more prevalent.

“Our lab is working directly with Wadsworth to facilitate rapid sequencing of any samples with high suspicion,” Donelan added.

Scientists are also trying to determine whether this variant has different symptoms and outcomes from the original virus.

The mRNA platforms from Pfizer and Moderna have the ability to pivot rapidly in the manufacturing process in response to changes in the genetic sequences of the virus.

Thanksgiving and holiday effects

With families coming together over Thanksgiving, health care professionals anticipate that the number of cases will rise.

“Thanksgiving gatherings, historically, have provided an annual springboard for cross-transmission of all sorts of respiratory viruses,” Donelan wrote. “This year shouldn’t be expected to be different.”

Pigott added that he would anticipate that the number of positive cases
would rise.

As for travel during the December holidays, Pigott advises people to practice prevention strategies that include washing their hands frequently, wearing masks in public indoor settings, keeping their distance as much as possible in public and when people don’t know the vaccination status of others.

Khlat suggested that people didn’t necessarily need to cancel any holiday travel plans because of the new variant. He urged people to “be smart” and make sure they wear masks on airplanes and remain aware of their surroundings.

“We can’t be prisoners,” he said. He also recommended that people stay home if they have symptoms like sniffles or a cough.

Khlat, who is planning to travel in January, will bring along hand sanitizer and may wear an n95 mask.