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Parents from all over Long Island have the hard decision of what to do with their kids on Halloween, whether going out trick-or-treating or finding something else to do. Stock photo

By Angela Palumbo

Halloween is looking scarier than ever on Long Island this year. Parents, costume shop owners, and even seasonal event planners have had to come up with new ways of having a successful holiday, all while dealing with the consequences of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Halloween events have had to change their programs to follow Centers for Disease Control guidelines, which has been a challenge. Seasonal businesses, including local ones, that usually thrive around Halloween have seen a decrease in customers. Local Facebook groups such as “Mom’s Group – Long Island” and “Northport Moms” are filled with posts questioning whether or not it’s safe to send their children trick or treating this year.

With the number of people infected on the rise nationally, the CDC has released a list of low risk Halloween activities to do this year to decrease the spread of COVID-19. This list has been a guide for local families who, despite the dangers, wish to celebrate Halloween.

Ronald Diamond, in front of his store, Ronjos Magic Shop, in Port Jefferson Station. Photo from Diamond

Costume stores and festive events are depending on the continuation of this holiday to stay afloat, and parents are determined to bring their children a fun and safe time.

Local Costume Stores

Ronald Diamond, longtime owner of Ronjos Magic Shop in Port Jefferson Station, has changed the way his business runs to ensure safety for himself and his customers.

“We have been health conscious for 46 years,” Diamond said. “Right now, the status quo is that there are no try-ons. You cannot try on a costume here anymore. We’re putting a pause on that until we get the clearance and the world is safe, and then we can go back to maybe trying on, or we’ll just continue to keep that, at this point.”

With the changes Diamond has made to his store, which also doubles as a CBD wellness shop, he has not yet seen a change in business this year.

“Right now, it’s too premature to tell, because people wait until the last second to make their purchases,” Diamond said. “The consensus that I got is people are having a party, and they are taking their children trick or treating. Is there a percentage that may not have a party? Yes. How big that percentage is, I won’t know until Nov. 5.”

With the pandemic being a concern for many costume shoppers, Diamond recommends purchasing a cloth face mask that matches the costume people are wearing, to avoid contact with the public.

“This way, you are still wearing a mask and you’re protected, and you can go to the party safely,” he said.

Ronjos is not the only local costume business that has had to change the way they function this season.

Last year, Costume America in Farmingdale rented out around 30 to 40 costumes for Halloween, an important season for their bottom line. So far this year, they have seen 10 rentals.

Costume America in Farmingdale has seen a significant drop in sales due to the pandemic. Photo from Costume America’s Facebook

“It was an extremely busy year last year,” said Shelly Brennan, office manager at Costume America. “The Halloween business did very well”

Not only has Costume America seen a drop in business since last year’s Halloween season, they also had to make changes to the way their store runs in order to try to keep up with CDC guidelines.

“If it’s busy in the store, there’s a sign that says not to come in and please call us,” Brennan said. “When people try on the clothes, we have to air everything out and wash it all.”

Spooky Long Island Events

The Spooky Walk is an annual fundraiser located in Center Moriches and has been around for 31 years. The event runs for two weekends in October; Oct 16 and 17, and Oct 23 and 24. The Halloween event is attended by thousands of locals annually.

The Spooky Walk’s goal is to raise money for Camp Paquatuck, a day camp for children and adults with developmental disabilities. Each year, this event has brought in the most money of all the fundraisers Camp Paquatuck hosts. With the importance of this fundraiser in mind, the executive director of the camp, Alyssa Pecorino, and the camps board of directors, has made it their mission to ensure the Spooky Walks remains, while following CDC guidelines.

“The Spooky Walk was created by the Paquatuck Squaws, which is a group of women who do nothing but raise money for the camp, which is amazing,” Pecorino said. “I think they made $1,000 the first year they did it.”

Now, the Spooky Walk covers a majority of Camp Paquatuck’s operating cost, with last year bringing in $240,000.

This year, with the pandemic changing the way all events run, the Spooky Walk was no exception. Instead of patrons walking through the campgrounds and being approached by volunteers dressed in costumes, the Spooky Walk has transformed into the “Spooky Drive Through.”

“Obviously we can’t have everybody together in a large crowd going through the entire camp,” Pecorino said. “This year we had to come up with something that allowed people to still do it, but in a safe way, and the idea was to have everybody come through in a car. This is the safest possible way to do it.”

Camp Paquatuck in Center Moriches normally hosts a Spooky Walk fundraising drive for Halloween, but has had to change this year due to the pandemic. Photo by Angela Palumbo

Changing the way a 31-year-old event runs did come with its challenges. How successful it will be could be impacted by the necessities of keeping people distanced.
“Normally, we get thousands of people who come through and they pay individually,” Pecorino said. “This year is by carload. Last year it was 20 dollars a person, this year it’s 45 dollars a car, so obviously the amount we expect to generate is going to be less. I’m not sure how much is going to come in, but realistically speaking we’re hoping for half, at least.”

Even though the camp is aware they may not make as much on fundraising at this year’s Spooky Walk compared to years prior, there has been an obvious demand for tickets and participation in the community.

“The first weekend it got very crowded. The last weekend we sold less tickets to make sure people don’t wait in line for three hours to get in,” Pecorino said. “There’s so many people that were excited to get in and participate.”

Long Island Parents

Long Island parents have been trying to decide how they will celebrate Halloween with their children since the beginning of October. Even though there may be disagreements on whether or not it is safe to go trick or treating this year, they all agree that they want their children to have an enjoyable, safe holiday.

Dee Santiago, a single mother to her almost three-year-old son Logan from Patchogue, will not be taking her son trick or treating this year.

“We will be doing an at home scavenger hunt and pumpkin carving,” Santiago said. “I feel like if he was older, maybe I’d try to figure a way out to allow him to go trick or treating, but since he is so much younger, I feel like he doesn’t get too much out of it anyway.”

Santiago stresses the importance of keeping her son safe during the pandemic, but also creating a state of normalcy around her home.

“We respect all around us. We wear masks. And if people choose not to participate, I’m ok with that and my son understands.”

— Dawn Miller-Silke

“During a pandemic I don’t want to put him in a bad situation, but I’m trying to make things as normal as possible,” Santiago said. “It’s hard. Not much is available for Holidays.”

Santiago is not the only mother keeping her child home this year. Nicole Oluwatoyin Lucas, from Baldwin, has a 13-month-old son who she will not take trick or treating on Halloween.

“My whole house had the virus when it first came out and I kept my son and myself healthy this whole time,” Lucas said. “I hope everyone who does it [trick or treat] is careful and safe.”

However, there are Long Island mothers who plan on taking their children out trick or treating this year. Both Dawn Miller-Silke of Kings Park and Jessica Joy Landsman of Lindenhurst want their children to experience as normal a Halloween as possible.

“This isn’t going away anytime soon,” Miller-Silke said. “So, we have a choice. Live, or don’t. We respect all around us. We wear masks. And if people choose not to participate, I’m ok with that and my son understands.”

Landsman will be taking her son Brayden out, but is keeping limitations on the Halloween experience.

“He really wants to go trick or treating, so I’m going to take him just to a few houses,” she said “Then, we will go home and give out candy. I still want him to experience Halloween and have fun dressing up. I’m going to try to make him wear a mask. My husband and I will be wearing a mask. As for giving out candy, I was thinking of giving them in little baggies or making a small little ghost hunt for the kids. But then again, we don’t know if kids will be trick or treating.”

COVID-19 has put an obvious damper on the Halloween spirit, but the community on Long Island isn’t letting that bring them down. Whether its events, costumes, or trick or treating, the celebration will continue, safely.

Angela Palumbo is a Long Island native and recent college graduate from SUNY Cortland with a degree in communications and journalism with a minor in professional writing. Angela is currently studying remotely at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism for her masters in journalism with a concentration in business and economic reporting. 

Bob and Nancy Hendrick inside their new shop, Treasures America’s Artisan Gallery. Photo by Julianne Mosher

By Julianne Mosher

After traveling throughout the country, Bob and Nancy Hendrick knew where their next stop would be — Port Jefferson at Lighthouse Landing. 

Everything inside their new shop, Treasures America’s Artisan Gallery (or TAAG for short), is made in the USA. 

Both artists themselves, Bob Hendrick said that while traveling cross-country to and from California, the pair has seen a lot of talent that is often underappreciated. 

“With big-box stores, we often lose sight of the great people in our country who produce great work,” he said, “But there are people out there with talent who deserve the recognition.” 

The Kings Park couple said they have always loved Port Jefferson and wanted to become more involved with the village. Originally, they thought to open a pop-up shop for the goods to sell but decided on a whim to fill a vacant space at 14 East Broadway in Lighthouse Landing.

After about a month of planning, they officially opened their doors earlier this month. 

Inside the store are all handmade gifts and fine art from local to national artisans. 

“We seek out specific items,” he said. “And we want to give the opportunity for local artists to come by and show and sell their work.”

TAAG does custom work, as well, on-site.

While everything inside the Hendricks’ shop is made in America, they want it to be known they are huge supporters of those who have risked their lives keeping the country and its people safe. 

“We’re heavily involved in supporting military, police, firefighters and first responders because they mean a lot to us and to the community,” he said. “We like to give back to those who serve.”

One way they are giving back is by honoring different heroes every week. During the month of September, they offered 20 percent off purchases to firemen, healthcare workers and police officers, thanking them for their service. This week they honored military vets with an extra 10 percent discount.

The back part of the store is dedicated to veterans with its “Wall of Heroes.” The Hendricks encourage customers who have served to come in and sign their names within the stars that decorate the wall. Nancy’s father’s folded burial flag hangs upon them. 

And although they are new, the couple is excited to bring their own art and the art of others to downtown. Up until Oct. 15, TAAG is hosting a contest in honor of the upcoming election and will be creating a painting based on ideas that people in the community can submit. The winning idea will be created on a canvas, and the winner will be presented with the first number framed print.

“We have lot of things in mind for the future,” he said. “We want to support the area.”

TAAG is open Monday through Thursday 11 a.m. until 6 p.m., Friday through Saturday 11 a.m. until 8 p.m. and Sunday 11 a.m. until 5 p.m. 

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Kings Park restaurant owners and Smithtown election officials celebrate businesses receiving new propane heater lamps. Photo from Town of Smithtown

By Julianne Mosher

With the changes in how customers shop and dine across the region, PSEG Long Island wanted to step in and help.

Relish in Kings Park, above, was one of the eight restaurants gifted outdoor propane heaters thanks to the grant given to local chambers from PSEG Long Island. ‘I’m so excited that we were given them,’ manager Kristy Ludeman said. ‘It helps keep everyone at night warm and the guests are really enjoying it.’ Photo by Julianne Mosher

John Keating, manager of economic development with PSEGLI, said that the company began its Main Street Revitalization Program about two years ago with the goal to bring business back downtown. But because of the COVID-19 crisis, PSEGLI saw an opportunity to help out during the changing times.

“We saw a lot of areas were looking at outdoor dining and outdoor shopping,” Keating said. “It has become a lifeline for them to stay in business.”

The Chamber of Commerce Main Street Revitalization Award grants up to $5,000 to chambers and business improvement districts to help purchase durable goods that support outdoor commerce.

“It’s our small way to help businesses thrive,” Keating said.

To date, PSEGLI has paid or preapproved grants for 20 Chambers or BIDs in towns and villages across Long Island — from Sag Harbor to Great Neck — totaling nearly $100,000.

Keating said that when a chamber or BID is approved, the funds are based on a reimbursement process.

“We want to make sure the money goes to durable material that supports outdoor shopping,” he said. “Once approved, they can make the purchase, send us the receipts and then we reimburse them.”

And many of the local chambers have either applied or are considering it. The Town of Smithtown announced last week that the Kings Park Chamber of Commerce was awarded the grant and was then gifted new outdoor propane heaters — the first chamber to do so.

Diane Motherway, executive director of the Kings Park Chamber of Commerce, said that she was surprised to hear that they were the first to use the money for heat. Other recipients used the funds to purchase outdoor tables, chairs, umbrellas or planters, but Kings Park saw what was already implemented and decided to add to what shops have established outside.

“Some restaurants were set up already,” she said. “So, we were trying to think of ways to help since that was taken care of.”

That’s when they thought of the heaters, especially since Town of Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) made an announcement Sept. 17 extending the temporary outdoor dining permit to Dec. 31.

“We’re trying to do our part in any way that we can,” Motherway said.

It was announced that the Nesconset Chamber of Commerce is also a recipient of the award and will be using the funds to gift outdoor heaters, as well.

“We’re trying to help businesses through their chambers,” Keating said. “It’s been a very positive experience because most chambers don’t have a lot of funds to work with — this was something that they could help make a difference.”

Keating added that 90 percent of the Long Island economy comes from small business, so the pandemic caused stress for small shops.

“Our end game is keeping more businesses surviving during the pandemic,” he said.

File photo.

Suffolk County Police arrested a man after he pointed a shotgun at a group of people in a commercial parking lot in Kings Park June 2.

Kenneth Kopek was engaged in a verbal dispute with a group of people in a parking lot, located in front of Key Food at 66 Indian Head Road, when he pointed a loaded double-barreled shotgun in their direction at approximately 9:15 p.m. Kopek fled before officers arrived at the scene.

Following an investigation, Kopek, 39, was arrested a short time later at his residence on Shay Drive in Kings Park. He was charged with menacing and criminal possession of a weapon. He was held overnight at the Fourth Precinct and is scheduled to be arraigned at First District Court in Central Islip June 3.

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File photo

Suffolk County Police have arrested a Medford man after he allegedly assaulted a woman and barricaded himself in a Kings Park house for approximately 8 hours April 26.

Mark Reyes entered the home of a female acquaintance, located on Clover Lane, the evening of April 25 and allegedly held the woman against her will overnight. The 33-year-old woman was assaulted and sustained knife-wounds in the incident. She escaped the house at approximately 9:30 a.m. Sunday and was taken to an area hospital for treatment of serious but non-life threatening injures. Two children who were in the house at the time of the incident were unharmed.

Reyes fled the house on foot and kicked in the back door of a nearby house, located at Rumford Road, at approximately 9:35 a.m. Sunday.

A good Samaritan saw Reyes enter the home on Rumford Road and called 911. Suffolk County Police Emergency Service Section officers and members of the hostage negotiation team responded to the scene. Emergency Service Section officers were able to enter the home and bring a 77-year-old female resident to safety while Reyes barricaded himself in an upstairs bathroom. The woman was uninjured.

At approximately 5:45 p.m., Emergency Service Section officers re-entered the home and removed Reyes from the house. Reyes, who had a self-inflicted knife wound, was transported to an area hospital for treatment of serious but not life-threatening injuries.

Reyes, 51, is being charged with criminal mischief, criminal obstruction of breathing, two counts of unlawful imprisonment, assault in the first degree, aggravated criminal contempt, two counts of endangering the welfare of a child, criminal trespassing in the second degree, and criminal mischief in the third degree. Other charges may be pending. He will be arraigned on a later date.

The air was chilly but the sun was bright as hundreds turned out for Kings Park’s 10th Annual St. Patrick’s Parade March 7.

Jim Girvan, this year’s grand marshal, lead the way with dozens of his family members and friends marching in the parade.

More than 20 bands, 15 of which were bagpipes, as well as more than 10 fire departments and several local businesses made their way down the route which starts at the corner of Lou Avenue and Pulaski Road, continues down Main Street and turns onto Church Street and ends down Old Dock Road at William T. Rogers Middle School.

Jim Girvan, this year’s grand marshal, in his Kings Park home Photo by Rita J. Egan

Kings Park resident Jim Girvan was thrilled when he heard he would be this year’s grand marshal in the hamlet’s St. Patrick’s Day parade.

A scene from the 2019 Kings Park St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Photo by Rita J. Egan

“As a Scout in parades, I never thought I would be a grand marshal,” he said, adding that when he was a kid, he would march in fire department parades.

Kevin Johnston, chair of the parade committee, said Girvan was the perfect choice for grand marshal. He remembered Girvan saying that when he was younger, he wanted a place where he had friends, a job and a town, and he found that in Kings Park.

“He epitomizes what we consider Kings Parkers,” Johnston said.

The committee chair described this year’s grand marshal as a delight to be around.

“It’s that Irish smile of his that is just beaming,” Johnston said. “He has a very welcoming and endearing smile and that’s what kind of brings people in.”

The 88-year-old Girvan has a deep connection with Ireland. His father, John Girvan, was raised there, and while his mother Mary McGuckin was born in Scotland, she was of Irish descent.

It’s Kings Park though where Girvan has established deep roots.

His father worked in a naval yard in Staten Island, and as a semiprofessional soccer player, would travel out to Kings Park to entertain patients at the psychiatric hospital. Girvan said when his father broke his leg and lost his job at the naval yard, he was offered a position as a kitchen helper at the hospital and worked his way up to head cook.

That move was a fateful one for Girvan, who has lived in Kings Park most of his life except for two years when he was a nurse in Philadelphia. He and his wife have also raised six children in the hamlet.

After graduating from St. Joseph’s R.C. Church’s grammar school, he said he received a scholastic scholarship to Bishop Loughlin High School in Brooklyn. Girvan said he attended the school for two years until he asked his father if he could go to Kings Park High School. The grand marshal said he loved playing basketball, but couldn’t participate while commuting to the city to attend school, sometimes not returning home until 8 p.m.

He would go on to not only graduate from Kings Park High School but to also be part of the basketball team that won the 1950 Suffolk County Championship, the first time the school won a county title in the sport.

“He epitomizes what we consider Kings Parkers.”

— Kevin Johnston

Girvan went into nursing and worked at the Kings Park Psychiatric Center and then Northport Veterans Hospital. He said he was drafted by the army in 1966 but then was commissioned by the navy to work as a nurse in Philadelphia Naval Hospital, where he supervised the Acute PTSD Admissions Unit.

After two years living in New Jersey with his wife and children, and commuting to the Pennsylvania hospital, Girvan  and family returned to Kings Park. Through the decades the grand marshal has been involved in the Knights of Columbus, Ancient Order of Hibernians, the Kings Park Fire Department and Ambulance Committee and more. To this day, he is an usher at St. Joseph’s R.C. Church.

When it comes to Kings Park, Girvan realizes there has been a lot of development through the years, but he said when it comes to charm, it’s stayed the same.

“We didn’t change that much, believe it or not,” he said. “The town is pretty much the same.”

He and wife Irene, known by her nickname Rene, said they remember when the Northern Parkway ended in Nassau County and Smithtown was filled with farms. They also still call Commack “Comac” as many longtime residents do, the original spelling and pronunciation of the neighboring hamlet.

Girvan has marched in the Kings Park parade before with the Ancient Order of Hibernians, but this year will be special, he said. He and his wife said friends and family are coming from all over to see him lead the parade, including Texas, Maryland and Florida, and many will also walk with him. A good friend from San Antonio recently came up to surprise him for the Grand Marshal Ball that was held back in January.

“The Girvan family feels very good about it, and it will be in our hearts forever this day,” Girvan said.

Johnston said this year the parade will feature more than 20 bands, 15 of which will be bagpipes, as well as more than 10 fire departments and several local businesses.

The Kings Park 10th annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade kicks off at noon Saturday, March 7, rain or shine. It begins at the corner of Lou Avenue and Pulaski Road, continues down Main Street and turns onto Church Street and ends down Old Dock Road at William T. Rogers Middle School.

Rocky Point’s Matt Caggiano battles in the paint as Kings Park junior Nicholas Svolos defends Feb. 5. Bill Landon photo

It was a must win for the Rocky Point boys basketball team in order to make post season play, but Kings Park had other ideas, defeating the Eagles in the final game of the regular season 77-27 Feb. 5.

Kings Park Co-Captain Jack Garside topped the scoring chart for the Kingsmen with six field goals, four triples and seven free throws for a team high of 31 points. Nicholas Svolos followed with 12 while Jon Borkowski banked 10.

Gavin Davanzo led the way for the Eagles with 18 points and teammate Will Platt netted 7 in the League V season finale.

The win lifts Kings Park to 15-1 in their division, 18-2 overall and look to carry the momentum into the opening round of the playoffs Feb. 12.

Rocky Point senior Jimmy Curley (l) runs 3200 meters along with Comsewogue’s Joe Fazio and Kings Park’s Jonathan Englehardt at SCCC Feb. 1. Bill Landon photo

The Mount Sinai Mustangs were the class of the field in the Suffolk County small school championship Feb. 1, sitting atop the leader-board to win the team championship with 66 points at Suffolk County Community College.

Kings Park finished 7th overall just ahead of Comsewogue High School. Shoreham-Wading River junior Blake Wehr placed 2nd in the high jump event clearing 6’ 4” landing the Wildcats 12th in the team standings.

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Kings Park track and field standouts competed in the Last Chance Meet Invitational at Suffolk County Community College’s Brentwood campus Jan. 25.

It was the final meet before the County Championship Feb. 1. Senior Luke Neilson placed first at 3,200m, setting a new school record for Kings Park clocking in at 9 minutes, 56.43 seconds, 14 seconds clear of second place.

Richard Mangogna, also a Kings Park senior, ran the shorter events where he captured the indoor pole vault record clearing 13 feet Dec. 14 at the Armory Track & Field facility in Manhattan. Mangogna is the No. 3 pole vaulter in Suffolk County and has qualified for the State Pole Vault Qualifier Championships at Mount Sinai High School Feb. 6.