Tags Posts tagged with "Melissa Arnold"

Melissa Arnold

The cover jacket of Cucinello’s latest book

By Melissa Arnold

The author with her grandaughter Lia Paris when she was 5 years old.

Regardless of gender, age or hobbies, just about all kids are surrounded by “stuff” — games, toys, dolls and LEGOs are perennial favorites. Joanne Cucinello’s granddaughter, Lia Paris, was no exception in her younger years, her childhood bed literally overflowing with stuffed animals. It’s a cherished memory for Cucinello, a longtime poet, storyteller and resident of Port Jefferson. In late January, she published “Lia Paris Sleeps in a Zoo,” an adorable book for children that explores little Lia’s vivid imagination and those of her stuffed friends.

Tell me a bit about your upbringing. Were you creative as a child?

I grew up in Brooklyn and Queens, and came from a family of five children. I wound up being the caretaker of my younger brothers and sisters, whom I love very much. I ended up having five children myself!

When I was younger, we didn’t have much money, and we learned how to create things out of nothing. All of us were very resourceful and creative. I loved reading and writing, and I always had a pencil in my hand.  

When did you first start writing? Was it a part of your career?

I have probably 10 children’s stories that I’ve written so far, though this is the second one that I’ve published. I’m also a poet at heart — I’ve published a book of poems, and have a blog called “I See the Bridge” that I’ve been writing on since 2007. 

My husband and I had a few hair salons, first in Queens and then out here in Suffolk County. I also grew up cooking beside my mother, and ended up starting my own small catering business. When my children were grown, I partnered with my daughter Lisa to open up Tiger Lily Cafe in Port Jefferson. We’ve been in business for more than 20 years. 

What made you want to write for children?

I love all stories, but I especially enjoy fairy tales. I think they’re very important for children to listen to. Fairy tales can connect with a child on a very deep level. My first book, “Wanda the Wilopent,” is a fairy tale.

The cover jacket of Cucinello’s latest book.

What inspired you to write this book? Is it based on a true story?

It seems like today children never have just one favorite toy. There’s always more being added. That was the case with my first granddaughter, Lia. She and her parents lived with us for the first year of her life, and so I was able to be closely involved with her as a baby. She was a very sensitive child and very imaginative. She refused to put her stuffed animals in the closet, saying that they would start to miss her and cry. 

For a while, Lia and her younger sister, Simone, shared a bedroom. Eventually, her parents turned an office into a bedroom, allowing both girls to have their own room. It seemed that initially she was feeling lonely being the big sister in her own room. Relatives saw how much she enjoyed animals and her stuffed pig, so they began to bring her additional stuffed animals for her collection. Over time, she kept putting more and more of them on her bed, until there was no more room and she ultimately fell out of bed.

How does Lia Paris feel about having a book written about her? 

Lia is 16 years old now, a wonderful human being. She’s been thrilled about the whole process from the beginning. Her little cousins, my grandchildren, are always asking if I’m going to be writing a story about them, too. I do have plans to bring them into stories in the future.

How did you go about getting published?

My first book was self-published, but this time I was published through Austin Macauley Publishers. They were accepting submissions, and I looked at the kind of books they were printing. While they didn’t have any fairy tales, they did have funny, touching stories about children and their life experiences. I had written “Lia Paris” years ago, when she was around 5 years old, and it was dear to my heart. 

What about the illustrations?

Austin Macauley has its own illustration department. I sent them pictures from when Lia was young, along with sketches my niece helped me with. Lia actually has many of the stuffed animals from the story still in her closet, so she got them all out for us to photograph. It was a lot of work, but they did a great job.

Is there a particular lesson you’re trying to teach with this book?

I think there is a lesson in it for both parents and children, that more isn’t always better. Today, we always have to have the latest, greatest thing. And so much gets thrown out. It doesn’t have to be that way.

Who is the book’s target audience?

I think that it would be best for children ages 4 to 7, though younger children can certainly have their families read it to them.

Any more books on the horizon?

Yes, I have plenty of stories that I hope to publish in the future if this book does well. One story is called “My Name is Rainbow,” about a little girl who has a condition called heterochromia — her eyes are two different colors, and she often gets picked on by other children for it. It’s about learning to love yourself and celebrating the things that make you different.

Meet the author at a Spring Local Author event at BookHampton in East Hampton on April 19 at 10:30 a.m. and at a special Storytime event at Barnes and Noble in Lake Grove on April 25 at noon. “Lia Paris Sleeps in a Zoo” is available for purchase online at www.austinmacauley.com, Barnes & Noble and Amazon.

The Stony Brook University Orchestra

By Melissa Arnold

Long Island’s own Billy Joel was once quoted as saying, “Music is an explosive expression of humanity. It’s something we are all touched by, no matter what culture we’re from.”

The Stony Brook University Orchestra has spent decades working to broaden musical appreciation and exposure not just on campus, but in the community as well. Each year, their Family Orchestra Concert invites people of all ages, including young children, to join them for an hour-long performance full of interesting compositions and audience engagement.

This year’s featured soloist, violinist Sophie Bowden

Dr. Susan Deaver is celebrating her 20th year as the orchestra’s conductor and an artist-in-residence at Stony Brook. With careful planning, Deaver programs each concert around a unique theme. “Brainstorming new themes is certainly a creative process. A particular piece might give me an idea, or some aspect of the music can inspire me,” she explained. 

This year’s theme, titled Orchestral Contrasts, will showcase differences in orchestral sounds and musical styles.”There are so many contrasts in music to explore — tempo, instruments, dynamics, moods, character, even different types of composers,” said Deaver, adding that the audience will get to experience this with the strings, woodwind, brass and percussion sections.

The orchestra is comprised of 79 undergraduates, 1 graduate student, four teaching assistants and four high school students from the University Orchestra’s Young Artist Orchestral Program who were invited to participate for college credit. While the group does contain music majors and minors, most members are pursuing other fields. To accommodate everyone, the members rehearses just one evening a week for three hours. 

“I have students that are studying biomedical engineering, computer science, astronomy, psychology, and many other subjects — the common thread among them is that they all love music and want to continue to be involved in it,” Deaver said.

An annual highlight of the orchestra concert is a performance from a special young guest — the winner of the Young Artist Program’s Concerto Competition. Since 1996, Stony Brook’s Young Artists Program has allowed students in grades 3 through 12 the chance to hone their musical skills and meet other young musicians, all under the guidance of Stony Brook staff. Most students participate on the weekends, while a separate program is available during the summer.

“The concerto competition began years ago as a way of giving our students the opportunity to play with the university,” said Michael Hershkowitz, Stony Brook’s director of concerts and executive director of community programs, including the Young Artists Program.

The concerto winner can be a student of any age and instrument type. Each hopeful soloist performs for a panel of three judges, which includes Deaver and two impartial judges. Past performers have been violinists, cellists, pianists, winds players, and even vocalists.

This year’s winner is 16-year-old violinist Sophie Bowden, a junior at St. Anthony’s High School in South Huntington. She will perform the first movement of Violin Concerto No. 3 in B minor, Op. 61 by French Romantic composer Charles-Camille Saint-Saens.

“I like to express myself through my violin, and I like how it puts a smile on the faces of others. I perform a lot at nursing homes, especially during the holidays, where residents aren’t able to go out and see concerts. Bringing live, upbeat music to them does a lot to ease their depression; the vibe changes immediately,” said Bowden, who has played the violin since she was just 4 years old. 

Bowden, who said she is thrilled to have been chosen, admitted the audition process for the concerto competition was nerve-racking.  While she’s had smaller solos in the past, this will be her first time performing as a soloist with an orchestra. 

“Working with the university orchestra has really been a fun, challenging, and rewarding experience. I found that playing this particular concerto with a full orchestra was much more difficult than playing it with a single piano accompanist. The Saint-Saens concerto is a romantic period composition, so it’s less structured and restrained than metered works of the Baroque era,” Bowden explained. “For everyone to stay together, we must listen closely and watch the conductor more than usual. Fortunately for me, the university orchestra has many extremely competent players, and Ms. Deaver has been very supportive.” 

Hershkowitz said that the concert provides a fun and accessible opportunity to learn more about orchestral music and what it’s like to be part of an orchestra.

“There aren’t a lot of concerts out there that are meant for families, and that’s what makes this event so special — it’s not too long, you don’t have to worry about whether or not the kids are going to ‘make it’ through the experience. We don’t concern ourselves with concert etiquette, so it’s OK if a child wants to ask a question, gets up from their seat or makes noise,” he explained. “It’s about giving everyone a chance to have an experience with a full orchestra, to watch a conductor in action, to learn a little about different instruments and to hear the music change.”

The 2020 Family Orchestra Concert will be held at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, March 3 on the Staller Center’s Main Stage at Stony Brook University, 100 Nicolls Road, Stony Brook. Tickets are $5. To purchase or learn more, call the box office at 631-632-ARTS or visit www.stonybrook.edu/music.

Photos courtesy of Sophie Bowden

Chloe Bucher

By Melissa Arnold

Like most high schoolers, 16-year-old Chloe Bucher has a lot going on. The Ward Melville High School junior is balancing schoolwork, two jobs, a social life and extracurriculars while also pondering big questions about her future.

In the midst of all that, Bucher has never stopped thinking about others, particularly people with disabilities and special needs. Since she was an eighth grader at Paul J. Gelinas Junior High School in E. Setauket, Bucher has been a part of a Buddies Program that builds friendships and support for special needs students through games, crafts, parties and other activities. 

When she arrived at Ward Melville in 9th grade, Bucher was one of several students who petitioned to launch a similar program for the high school.

“People assume a lot of things when you have special needs — they might think ‘oh, they’re just dumb.’ But it’s not like that at all,” Bucher said in a recent interview. “The Buddies Program in middle school was amazing, and we wanted to keep the inclusivity going. It’s a lot of work to accommodate each person’s individual needs and skills, but it’s so worth it.”

Last week, as local students had a week-long recess, Bucher was hard at work on her latest project — Come Support and Change Lives — a fundraiser to benefit the special needs community on Long Island.

On Saturday, March 7 beginning at 7 p.m., Bucher is hosting an evening of appetizers, drinks, raffle baskets and entertainment at the charming Bates House, nestled in Setauket’s Frank Melville Memorial Park.

Proceeds from the event will support the Developmental Disabilities Institute (DDI), Long Island’s leading provider of educational, vocational, day program and residential services for more than 1500 children and adults living with autism and other developmental disabilities. The organization was founded in 1961 and has since grown into an energetic, multi-site nonprofit agency.

“I really wanted to broaden the spectrum of who I was helping,” Bucher said. “A family friend has a son with autism who benefited from DDI, and I know they do so much for the community. They’re a great team.”

Jean Smith, director of development at DDI, said that the organization is thrilled to partner with Bucher.

“It is wonderful to see that there are young people in our local community like Chloe, who are passionate about enhancing the lives of individuals with autism and go above and beyond to show their support,” said Smith. “On behalf of the individuals DDI serves, I would like to thank and commend Chloe for her kindness and generosity.”

Bucher is still unsure about what she wants to do after graduation, but is leaning toward becoming an educator. 

“The kids that I work with make me want to do this for a lifetime,” she said.

The Bates House is located at 1 Bates Road in Setauket. Tickets to the event are $50 per person. To purchase, contact Chloe Bucher at 631-521-1478 or by email at ChloeBucher1@yahoo.com. To learn more about DDI, visit www.DDINY.org. 

'Black Opal,' acrylic on canvas, by Bill Durham

By Melissa Arnold

Running a museum is far from simple. Consider this: The Long Island Museum in Stony Brook is home to more than 2,500 pieces of artwork done on paper, 500 paintings and 100 pieces of three-dimensional art. Each piece must be catalogued, maintained, protected and stored. It’s a delicate and meticulous process that takes a lot of work.

Recently, the LIM received a grant from the New York State Council on the Arts to expand and upgrade its storage facilities. They’ll need to clear out some of their existing storage space to prepare for renovation, and fortunately its visitors will reap the rewards of the process.

From Feb. 22 to June 26, the museum will present Off the Rack: Building and Preserving LIM’s Art Treasures, an exhibit of approximately 90 works of art from its permanent collection, in the main gallery of its Art Museum. Many pieces in the exhibit are only put on view rarely, if at all.

‘Dance of the Haymakers,’ 1845, oil on canvas mounted on wood, by William Sidney Mount

“We could have taken the artwork to off-site storage, but we thought, ‘Why not put it on display?’ In order to make more space, we thought this would be a great time to assess the state of the collection and share its history and highlights with our visitors,” said LIM Deputy Director and Curator Joshua Ruff. “This is an opportunity for people to see things they may not have seen before.”

Ruff said that choosing pieces for Off the Rack was a team effort by the museum staff, who sought to put together a cohesive story of how the museum’s collection has grown and evolved over the years.

Visitors will be able to explore a time line of the LIM’s conservation efforts. In addition, each work in the exhibit will include its accession number, which will help teach visitors how the museum keeps track of each piece.

Off the Rack is divided into loose sections celebrating particular themes and standout artists. Not to be missed is a section dedicated to one of the museum’s “anchor” artists, William Sidney Mount. Among Mount’s included works are an 1841 painting of Crane Neck Marsh, which Ruff says is “an example of his extremely detailed craftsmanship while creating a natural setting,” and “Dance of the Haymakers,” a painting of a fiddler playing music for dancing farmhands, which made Mount a household name in 1845. 

Other high-profile artists with dedicated spaces in the exhibit include Arnold Hoffman, Samuel Rothport, Winslow Homer, Joe Reboli and Helen Torr, among others.

There are also sections of artwork focused on coastal and marine environments, abstract work and contemporary artists, including some local Long Islanders like Janet Culbertson, Bruce Lieberman and Dan Pollera.

Ty Stroudsburg of Southold also has artwork at the LIM — her 2000 oil painting on linen “Pumpkin Field at Sunset” is one of many views that have caught her eye on the North Fork.

“I love color. I used to drive around with a sketch pad in my car, and it was always color that would lead me to pull over and either do quick sketches with pastels or take a photograph to use for later,” said Stroudsburg, whose work has hung in exhibits and museums throughout New York and New Jersey for more than 60 years. 

“I didn’t strive for notoriety, I just painted because I love to paint and it keeps me going. I feel extremely fortunate that curators believe my art is worth being a part of their museums,” she added.

For LIM Executive Director Neil Watson, Off the Rack provides the chance to see their continuously evolving collection in a new light.

“As we began to do the work required for the renovations and take pieces out of storage, there were things in the collection I hadn’t seen in several years, and even some pieces I didn’t even know we had,” he recalled. 

“That’s the beauty of this exhibit -— we get to share parts of our collection that people may have never even seen before. Of course, there will be plenty of ‘old friends,’ like the work from William Sidney Mount, but there is so much more to see. Ours is a living collection — it’s not sealed or stagnant, and it continues to grow.”

The Long Island Museum, 1200 Route 25A, Stony Brook presents Off the Rack: Building and Preserving LIM’s Art Treasures, from Feb. 22 through June 26. The museum is open Thursdays through Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sundays from noon to 5 p.m. Admission for adults is $10; discounts are available for children, college students, seniors and the disabled. For more information, visit www.longislandmuseum.org or call 631-751-0066.

Roberta Fabiano
Food, fashion and fun to support a wonderful cause

By Melissa Arnold

Sometimes, you just need to go out and have a good time. Why not do it for a good cause?

On Tuesday, Feb. 25 from 6 to 9 p.m. the Ward Melville Heritage Organization will host its second annual A ‘Taste’ of Stony Brook Village … Ladies Night Out! fundraiser. The special event was created to boost WMHO’s long-standing support of breast cancer research at Stony Brook Medicine.

This year, the evening will be moved to the Three Village Inn, 150 Main St., Stony Brook to better accommodate the expected crowd, said WMHO president Gloria Rocchio. “The response was tremendous and enthusiastic last year when we had our first event at the WMHO’s Educational & Cultural Center. There were almost too many people,” Rocchio joked. “The Three Village Inn will allow us to provide an even better experience.”

Mark Daniels

Nearly 25 shops and restaurants situated around the picturesque Stony Brook Village Center have signed up to participate in the event, which will include plenty of food and wine tastings, giveaways, basket raffles, a fashion show, live entertainment and much more.

The evening will also feature appearances from special guests. 

Radio personality Mark Daniels, most recently heard on the air at WALK 97.5, will serve as Master of Ceremonies. “WMHO has always done such a wonderful job working for their community,” said the East Setauket resident, who has worked many of their past fundraising events. “It’s an honor for me to be a part of this event, and it’s personally fulfilling to see everyone come together for a great cause.”

Renowned singer and guitarist Roberta Fabiano will also make an appearance. An alumna of Berklee College of Music and self-proclaimed child of rock and roll, Fabiano has appeared on numerous television shows and performed for high-profile audiences, among them five U.S. presidents and the queen of England. 

“I really enjoy doing performances for charity — in the past I’ve played for the Red Cross and the American Heart Association, and I play regularly now at the Long Island State Veterans Home,” said Fabiano, who lives in Stony Brook. “I was there last year when Gloria Rocchio presented the check to Stony Brook for breast cancer research, and I’m so proud to call this community my home.” 

Fabiano can’t say yet what she’ll be playing for the event because she plans her sets intuitively, relying on a crowd’s energy and feedback, but she’s known for playing everything from Cole Porter and Frank Sinatra to Bruce Springsteen, Fleetwood Mac and even Lady Gaga.

WMHO’s commitment to supporting the search for a cure began with Long Island native and mother of seven Carol Martineau Baldwin, whose sons include actors Alec, Stephen, Billy and Daniel Baldwin.

According to Stony Brook Medicine, Carol lost her husband to lung cancer in 1983. A few years later, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. While she now lives in Syracuse, the Carol M. Baldwin Breast Care Center at Stony Brook Medicine is named in her honor.

“Carol approached us 26 years ago with the hope of starting a charity run to benefit breast cancer research,” Rocchio said. “We’ve had one every year since, and have raised $1.5 million for the cause.”

By using these funds as seed money, Stony Brook has received more than $8 million in additional grant money, Rocchio added.

“Each year we get together with the head of the cancer center and meet the researchers who have benefited from our work to hear what they’ve been able to do,” she said. “We are truly making strides and it’s gratifying to be a part of that effort. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if a cure for breast cancer came from Stony Brook?”

Participating shops and restaurants include Chico’s, Madison’s Niche, Mint, Blue Salon and Spa, Wiggs Opticians, Village Florist & Events, Roseland School of Dance, The Crushed Olive, Chocolate Works, Village Coffee Market, Premiere Pastry, The Country House, Crazy Beans, Mirabelle at Three Village Inn, Pentimento, Sweet Mamas, Ariti Kaziris Designs, Stony Brookside Bed & Bike Inn, Holiday Inn Express Stony Brook, Watersedge Dental, Stony Brook Harbor Kayak & Paddleboard Rentals and the WMHO Heritage Gift Shop. 

Admission for the evening is $35 per person. Reservations are required and can be made via PayPal at www.stonybrookvillage.com/tsbv/ or by calling 631-689-5888. 

Music and Art by Naomi Diracles

By Melissa Arnold

Looking at a beautiful painting, photo or sculpture can sometimes evoke strong memories or emotions. For many people, the same is true when listening to music. It’s even possible to have a piece of music conjure up an image in the mind’s eye, or for artwork to seem musical.

The Huntington Arts Council is exploring the intersection of visual arts and music in its newest exhibit, Sights and Sounds: Rhythms and Scales, on view at its Main Street Gallery from Feb. 7 through March 14.

The unique subject has been on business manager Kieran Johnson’s mind for some time.

“The overlap of music and visual art has always been a fascination of mine with my favorite visual artists, both contemporary and historical, having their background in music,” Johnson said. “I was reviewing video and listening to tracks from our monthly Singer-Songwriter Night and decided I wanted to do [an exhibit] about auditory and visual art.”

Artists were asked to consider a series of questions as inspiration for their submissions: Does your work exude rhythm, melody, lyrics, harmony or dissonance from a social, political or musical perspective? Does it elicit a reaction in sounds, words or movement? Does it dance or sway? Does it move or move the viewer? Does it sing? 

Johnson called on friend of the Huntington Arts Council Kevin McEvoy to jury the exhibit. McEvoy has worked with the council in a number of capacities, from a member and past juror to panelist and educator.

“Kevin has been a supportive partner in the work we do for over a decade. He is an incredibly skilled artist and arts educator, and his professional and personal background make him an interesting person to know and work with,” Johnson said.

A Long Island native, McEvoy studied fine arts at Stony Brook University and refined his painting skills while in Chile and Italy. He is also the founder of The Atelier at Flowerfield in St. James.

“I’ve always appreciated the relationship of mutual respect and support I’ve had with the Huntington Arts Council. They are so warm and encouraging not just with me, but with all of the artists who approach them,” McEvoy said. “I’ve painted a lot of musicians, musical instruments and music inspired pieces, and I’m excited to jury an exhibit on a subject I feel passionately about.”

In total, 60 artists from across the country submitted 156 pieces for consideration. McEvoy narrowed the field to 44 pieces by 40 artists. The final exhibit includes oil paintings, pastels, graphite drawings, photography and more.

Participating artists include Rose Ann Albanese, Sheri Berman, Zintis Buzermanis, Lisa L. Cangemi, Linda Ann Catucci, Kenneth Cerreta, Kaylynn Chenn, Jody Cukier, Doris Diamond, Naomi Diracles, Vicki Field, Jim Finlayson, Cori Forster, Andrea Fortunoff, Kathleen Gerlach, Roxana Gheorghe, Bill Grabowski, Jan Guarino, Margaret Henning, Nayyar Iqbal, David Jaycox Jr., Wendy June Jensen, Marc Josloff, Julianna Kirk, Beth Laxer-Limmer, Jacques LeBlanc, Stephanie L. Marcus, Kristen Memoli, Margaret Minardi, Mary Nagin, Thais Osorio, Luda Pahl, Eli Rabe, Andrea Rhude, Olivia Rodson, Saul Rosenstreich, Barbara Stein, Victor Vaccaro, Pamela Waldroup and Ella Yang.

“Long Island is a musical place. Our identity is rooted in music and it’s a big part of the culture here, so it’s a natural fit for artists to explore,” McEvoy said. “I tried not to bring any preconceptions of what a piece should look like. Whether it is a lilting line of a kinetic wire sculpture, an atmospheric photo of a violin that almost reads as a mountainscape, or the joyful pluck of an instrument in beautiful pastel colors, indeed, across Long Island, painters, sculptors and musicians are still singing.”

Andrea Fortunoff of Syosset created a digital collage entitled “Dance the Floor: Generations in Rhythm,” depicting dancing people of African heritage in various styles of dress.

“The Huntington Arts Council artist call for Sights and Sounds: Rhythm and Scales spurred me to reflect on the historical synergy between music and dance,” Fortunoff stated in an email. “As an ancient and ephemeral art, dance relies on passing cadence from body to body. My collage is a visual representation of how rhythm and pattern intertwine and are inscribed in a dancer’s memory; reverberating from dancer to dancer through time.”

The exhibit’s opening reception on Friday, Feb. 7 from 6 to 8 p.m. will allow artists and visitors the chance to get to know each other while appreciating the variety of media on display. McEvoy will select a best in show and honorable mention before the reception begins.

“We are thrilled to feature this exhibit and have Kevin McEvoy as the juror. This show is a wonderful depiction of the intertwined nature of art. The work is beautiful and highlights a wide array of artists,” said HAC Executive Director Marc Courtade. “Kevin has been a longtime friend of HAC. His talent, knowledge and contribution to the arts have meant so much to us and the Long Island community. We are looking forward to seeing him at the reception.”

The Huntington Arts Council will present Sights and Sounds: Rhythms and Scales at its Main Street Gallery, 213 Main St., Huntington through March 14. For further information, call 631-271-8423 or visit www.huntingtonarts.org.

Master ice carver Rich Daly will create ice sculptures like the one above throughout Port Jefferson Village. Photo courtesy of Rich Daly

By Melissa Arnold

Now that the holidays are over and the excitement of the new year is beginning to fade, it can seem like the dull gray of winter will last forever. But there’s still plenty to enjoy in the colder months on Long Island, and Port Jefferson is pulling out all the stops to celebrate wintertime at its first Ice Festival next weekend.

Sponsored by the village’s Business Improvement District, the Ice Festival was inspired by a similar event held about nine years ago, said Port Jefferson Mayor Margot Garant.

“We’ve been looking at new ways to advertise the village beyond the holiday season, and one of our members, Marianna Ketcham, approached the board with the suggestion that we revisit the ice festival idea,” Garant said. “People come to Port Jeff because of its close proximity to the water — they want to visit the harbor and take a stroll. We wanted to create an upbeat, active event that would encourage people to come out in the winter as well.”

The village’s merchants were eager to jump on board, Garant said, with special event sales. The highly anticipated Mac and Cheese Crawl sold out weeks ago, but those lucky enough to get tickets will enjoy hot and cheesy pasta samples from 18 different eateries. Some will also offer mac and cheese for purchase throughout the weekend.

“I hope all those who come to visit and shop, realize how much we appreciate their support toward small businesses on Main Street USA,” said Port Jeff BID interim president, Roger Rutherford. “Make sure you find time to come down Port for the Ice Festival to take part in the many different festivities.”

Hop on a horse-drawn carriage and enjoy the village’s icy blue lights. Take part in some marshmallow toasting at the corner of Main and E. Broadway and meet costumed characters including your favorite ice princesses and snow friends. Then warm up with some ice skating at the RINX at Harborfront Park. Periodically throughout each day, professional skaters will entertain and share their expertise with live demonstrations. 

Of course, no ice festival would be complete without an ice sculpture or two, but Port Jefferson isn’t stopping there. They’ve invited New York’s only certified master ice carver, Richard Daly of Ice Memories Inc., to create dozens of brilliant, backlit works of art for the festival.

Each participating business will have an ice sculpture on their property with a theme they’ve chosen themselves. Keep an eye out for Baby Yoda, ice skates, a giant slice of toast and more.

Visitors will also have the chance to watch Daly work. He’ll do multiple live carvings throughout the weekend, including a four-person sleigh and a 3,000-pound throne that you can actually climb on (carefully!) for pictures. Don’t be surprised if he makes it look easy — the Mastic Beach resident earned a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records in 2013 as the world’s fastest ice carver. To break the record, he created 60 sculptures in just two hours, 52 minutes and 12 seconds using 18,000 pounds of ice.

“The work that Rich does is just beautiful, and the sculptures will be incredible all lit up,” said Port Jefferson trustee Kathianne Snaden. “It’s unbelievable how he can create these complex works of art from a block of ice.”

Daly carved his first ice sculpture while in culinary school at Johnson and Wales University. He developed an immediate passion for the craft and was competing on a national level just six months later. “What’s not to like about getting to play with a chainsaw and a blowtorch?” joked Daly. “I can’t even tell you how many sculptures I’ve done in a year. I’ve lost count.”

Each sculpture for the Ice Festival will begin with a sketch. They’ll be carved from 300-pound blocks of crystal clear ice that are fused together by adding a little water. Daly is bringing 25,000 pounds of ice with him for the weekend, he said. 

“I’m looking forward to doing the live carving demonstrations,” he added. “It’s fun to be able to talk with people and answer questions while I work.” 

Ideally, the village is hoping for seasonally chilly weather and even some snow for the festival. In the event of inclement weather, the event will be postponed until the weekend of Feb. 22.

“It can be challenging to be innovative with our events, especially in colder weather, but the Ice Festival really captures the season,” said Barbara Ransome, director of operations for the Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce. “It’s a great opportunity to increase foot traffic in the area and show everyone that Port Jeff is a great place to be regardless of the time of year.”

Port Jefferson’s Ice Festival will be held throughout the village on Saturday, Feb. 8 and Sunday, Feb. 9 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Join them for a weekend of winter fun! For further information, call 631-476-2363 or visit www.portjeffbid.com/ice-festival.

Evy McIntosh. Photo by Bryce Buell

By Melissa Arnold

A natural performer, Evy McIntosh is happiest when she’s on stage or in front of a camera.

The 16-year-old Ward Melville High School junior has already built an impressive resume in the entertainment world, appearing in several shows on the Investigation Discovery channel and Netflix, as well as in supporting roles in films. Beyond that, she’s been in a host of different theatrical plays both in and out of school.

For most teens, that’s where the story would end. But the Setauket resident has big dreams and a heart for others that she wants to share with the world.

Evy McIntosh. Photo by Bryce Buell

Beginning Jan. 17, Evy will join approximately 80 other girls from across the Empire State at Purchase College, where they will compete for the title of Miss New York Teen 2020. It’s the opportunity she always hoped for, but didn’t exactly expect.

“I was always singing when I was little, even if it wasn’t good. Then one day, I can remember watching TV and wondering, ‘How do they do that? How do they get there?’” she recalled. “I told my mom that was what I wanted to do.”

Mom Francine responded as most parents would: We’ll see.

“It was one of those things that just developed over time. Evy started acting when she was around 8 years old, and she became a part of the Performing Arts Studio in Port Jefferson, where she would do acting and voice lessons,” said her mother. “Eventually that led to acting work in Manhattan, and then this opportunity for Miss New York Teen USA fell into our world.”

With years of experience already under her belt and a blossoming professional career in the works, Evy said she was eager to try out modeling work. She thought that the pageant would be a great way to develop skills in that area while getting her name out to talent scouts, who are frequent attendees at pageants.

“I’ve really enjoyed getting to learn more about the pageant process, having my hair and makeup done, and picking out dresses. It’s a great way to meet people in the modeling industry,” she said, adding that she already attended an orientation for nearly 80 Miss New York Teen USA participants to learn the ins and outs of pageantry.

The process of narrowing the field to one outstanding teen actually takes three days. First, there’s a private, closed-door interview that allows the judges to get to know each girl in a relaxed, conversational environment. Girls wear professional outfits of their own choosing and talk about why they’re competing.

“You have to prove to the judges that you really deserve the crown. There is a time limit, and I know I’ll need to practice a lot with that because I can ramble sometimes,” Evy joked.

On the second day, all the girls are taught a dance routine and spend time rehearsing. It’s also when they’ll show off their activewear − the teen competition does not include swimsuits − and eveningwear. 

Then, on Jan. 19, approximately 15 semifinalists are revealed onstage during the crowning ceremony. One last walk in activewear and eveningwear will narrow the field to five finalists, who will answer interview questions. The winner will represent the state as Miss New York Teen USA for 2020 and receive a scholarship package.

Each girl has her own unique focus for the pageant that would become her platform if chosen as Miss New York Teen USA. For Evy, her mission is to create “One Community for All.”

“I have two older brothers, Francis and John Paul, who both have severe autism. I’ve also volunteered with the Dew Drop Inn in Patchogue, a place where kids with special needs can get together and have fun. I wanted to use my platform to stand up for everyone who feels different or insecure and give them a voice.”

Jackie Schiffer, founder of pageant consulting firm Commit to the Crown Coaching, has worked with hundreds of clients seeking to hone their pageant skills. Evy connected with Schiffer through an acting teacher in New York City.

“I’m so impressed by the presence that Evy has. Sometimes, teens can struggle with their confidence, but she has great poise, maturity and openness,” Schiffer said. 

With appearances in countless pageants, including top five finishes, Miss Congeniality awards and multiple titles, Schiffer has seen firsthand how participating in a pageant can benefit a young woman.

“Being in a pageant gives you the chance to get to know yourself and figure out how you want to present yourself to the world,” she said. “And goal setting is a big piece as well. It’s great if winning is one of the goals, but it’s also about individual, personal growth. It might be about becoming a better communicator, feeling more confident, developing body positivity or promoting a cause you really care about.”

Schiffer added that she’s excited to see how Evy will make an impact in the future.

“We need role models for young women. Women can sometimes be socialized to believe their voice matters less than others, and Evy wants to help give a voice to others. She’s a great role model for other girls.”

If you would like to support Evy, she is seeking business, professional and personal sponsors to help achieve her goal. Sponsors will be acknowledged in the Miss New York/Miss Teen New York USA 2020 program book. Visit www.gofundme.com/f/evy-mcintosh-miss-new-york-teen-usa-2020 or email fjpe3@yahoo.com for further information.

Above, Phyllis March and Antoine Jones in a scene from Theatre Three’s ‘Driving Miss Daisy.' Photo courtesy of Theatre Three Productions Inc.

By Melissa Arnold

For many people, it can be challenging to get to know someone of a different culture or background. This was especially true in the decades leading up to the civil rights movement, when expected social roles, biases and assumptions were commonplace. Playwright Alfred Uhry presented this struggle in his classic drama, “Driving Miss Daisy.” The show begins in 1948 in Georgia and chronicles more than 20 years in the life of Hoke Coleburn, a genteel and optimistic black chauffeur, and his client, a standoffish Southern Jewish woman named Daisy Werthan.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning play is set to open at Theatre Three on Jan. 11. Directed by Linda May, it co-stars Phyllis March as Daisy, Steve Ayle as Daisy’s son Boolie and Antoine Jones as Hoke, a role his father Al Jones played on the same stage 25 years ago.

The 41-year-old actor has enjoyed a successful career in professional theater, following in the footsteps of his siblings and his late father. Since returning to Long Island a few years ago, the Setauket resident has become a familiar presence onstage at the Port Jefferson theater.

When did you first get involved with Theatre Three?

I did my first show for Theatre Three when I was a child -− it was a production of “The Pied Piper” and then when I was a teenager I was in “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.” 

Did you ever aspire to play Hoke?

Evelyne Lune and Al Jones a scene from ‘Driving Miss Daisy’ in 1995. Photo courtesy of Theatre Three Productions Inc.

I never saw that for myself, no. I am about 20 years too young for the role, and that was a concern. Beyond that, I saw my father perform in this role for two separate productions, and during rehearsals there were moments where I had to stop and consider if I was acting or simply recreating what my father had presented. He was effortless. The character and this part of history were both very special to him as a man that was born in the late 1920s. He knew personally and deeply what “Driving Miss Daisy” was trying to accomplish. To stand on the stage he stood on 25 years later is a singular experience. 

Was it intimidating to step into the role knowing your father also played Hoke?

It would be one thing if this was just a role that my father played, and I waxed and waned between missing him and being sad that I don’t get to see him perform again. But I also have a broad background in African American studies, both from college and just in life, and the continuing relevance of “Driving Miss Daisy” is something I don’t take lightly. And I’m working with two other people that also understand their role. Legendary actors that most people are familiar with have played the role of Hoke, and there is an expectation that you better be able to do it.

How do you like working with the rest of the cast? 

Phyllis March and Steve Ayle both have a long history at Theatre Three. They’ve been there for many years and are really part of the theater’s legacy. We are not the type of people who do theater just to make these sporadic connections that come and go. These are very earnest people with busy lives and jobs − Steve runs his own business. They came to do these roles because it means something to them to commit, do hard work, and give people something they can walk away with that’s more than just entertainment. It’s a gift to work with such hardworking people.

What do you enjoy most about the play?

We’ve spent a lot of time in rehearsals talking about who the characters are and where they’ve come from and how they got here. One of the greatest aspects of the play is that you don’t get the low-hanging fruit. 

Alfred Uhry has written a play that presents complicated people. It reveals a racism that isn’t mean-spirited or easy to identify. These are essentially good people who, whether through nurture, nature or a lack of exposure, are forced to realize that maybe they aren’t quite where they need to be. I think that’s where most of us are, and I think that’s the brilliance of the play. 

Daisy Werthan isn’t a racist, but as far as Hoke is concerned, she’s got a long way to go. Even Hoke himself is a product of structural racism, and he talks about it. He doesn’t like the Creole people because he feels like they don’t strive for education or to move off their land, but he doesn’t understand that they’re just as much victims of racism and the lasting effects of slavery as he is. We talk a lot about that, and the gift is that we get to expose that nuance.

Do you have a favorite scene?

My favorite scene for Hoke is when Daisy learns that her synagogue is bombed. To sympathize with her, Hoke reveals something deeply personal that affected him in a profound way. It’s meaningful because it gives a clue about how Hoke got to where he is now, He’s had a lot of profound experiences that he needs to keep close to the vest, but that isn’t something Daisy has experienced.

Do you identify at all with Hoke’s personality or experiences?

I don’t know that I can identify. One of my problems is that Hoke can’t simply turn around and say, “This is a problem that I’m having, and I want to address what’s going on so I can feel like I’m in a more productive, positive place in the future.” He doesn’t have the words or the power. He isn’t even allowed to be frustrated. The humanity of the play constantly keeps us in check.

What of yourself have you brought to the role?

I don’t know how to answer that, but the director, Linda May, has a very unique perspective because she’s also an actor. She’s able to move us along in a way that is actor logic. She’s put some difficult observations in front of us. One of mine was that my voice would tend to rise in pitch, and she would tell me to bring it down because it didn’t sound grounded. It was like I was a slave-type character with no spine. I have to work very hard in my own mind to not think, “This feels too simple.” Not everything is Shakespeare or has that kind of depth. If you want to see bits of my personality, maybe you’ll find them if you see the show, I don’t know.  

Why do you think ‘Driving Miss Daisy’ has been so successful over the years?

I think part of why Daisy Werthan and Hoke Coleburn are so lovable as characters is because when the show begins, they couldn’t do anything about the circumstances they were in and had been born into. But by the end of the show, both of them have made a tremendous arc that many people in their situations wouldn’t have accomplished. Many Jewish women had black hired help and there was no evolution to their relationships. And someone like Hoke would have never had an opportunity to develop friendships with the people they worked for. 

Daisy and Hoke have a spirit within them − Daisy being hard and inflexible, Hoke being this bundle of positivity that wants to get along − and they managed to change when so much in their world was terrible. They were able to see great things in each other, and sometimes that’s the hardest thing to do. We label each other and put them in categories and we don’t have to think about them again … but through sheer force of will, they overcome.

Why should people come see this show?

Alfred Uhry has written a timeless, celebrated and well-performed 90-minute slice of history. It’s a great writing that shows people don’t have to be perfect as long as they keep trying, and it’s when we stop listening to one another that things get messy. It shows that people are at their best when they listen. 

“Driving Miss Daisy” will run from Jan. 11 through Feb. 1 at Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson. Tickets range from $20 to $35. To learn more or to purchase tickets, visit www.theatrethree.com or call 631-928-9100.

Half Hollow Hills senior writes children’s book celebrating local history
Author Jay Nagpal;

Reviewed by Melissa Arnold

It’s Jay Nagpal’s senior year at Half Hollow Hills High School in Dix Hills, and like everyone else in his grade, he’s got a lot to do. There’s classwork to finish, college applications to mail, a social life to keep up and the future to consider. But in the midst of all that, he’s also taken up an unexpected task. 

On Nov. 30, Nagpal published his debut book for children, “Miss Kim’s Class Goes to Town.” The 17-year-old wrote the book in hopes of sharing his knowledge and enthusiasm for local historical sites with the next generation. The book plays out just like a real class trip, with questions from students and helpful commentary by “Mr. Robert,” an actual historian in Huntington. 

The informative storyline coupled with cartoonish, fun illustrations will capture the imaginations of local children.

What came first for you, the interest in writing or history?

 It was history. From a young age, I was lucky enough to do quite a bit of traveling with my family, and we would always make a point of going to the historical sites or museums in the places we were visiting. We’ve gone to Rome, Paris, London and many other places in Europe that are rich in history. I think being exposed to that at such a young age is what’s given me such a great interest in history now.  

Do you have a favorite historical time period?

It bounces around, but years ago I was very interested in ancient history like you would see in Rome. Later on, I became more interested in the American Revolution, and last year I spent a lot of time focusing on World War II and postcolonialism.  

Why did you decide to write this book?

Last year, I started to see that while I was really passionate about history, a lot of other people just aren’t. In my history classes, I noticed that many of the other students weren’t engaged in the material, and I started to wonder if there was something I could do to engage kids in a meaningful way. I thought that I could create a platform that focused on local history and stir up interest around that for people my age.

Ultimately, I founded the Dix Hills-Melville Historical Association. It was uncharted territory for me, but I had tremendous support from the Huntington Historical Society and the local school district. Robert Hughes from the Huntington Historical Society supported me from the very beginning. I compiled all the important historical sites, landmarks and archives with their help, and created a website that would provide me with a forum to write features and blog posts about history. For example, we just celebrated Walt Whitman’s 200th birthday in May, so it was important to write about that on the website.

Are any of the children in the book named after people you know?

A lot of the names in the book have meaning to me. Early on, one of the students mentions a teacher named Miss Martin. That’s a reference to Karen Martin, who is the archivist at the Huntington Historical Society. Mr. Robert, the town historian, is directly based off of the real Robert Hughes. Dylan is my friend’s brother, whose parents published the book, and some of the other students are also named after friends of mine.  

What was it like to see the book for the first time?

It was a surreal feeling, for sure. After months of going through the entire process of publishing and putting everything together, it was so rewarding to finally see the finished product. 

How long did writing take?

I started over the summer, and the book was published about six weeks ago. A lot of the research had already been done in founding the historical association, so I already had the information I needed.

How did you go about getting it published?

A close friend’s parents actually run a publishing company called Linus Learning, and they were very open to the idea of publishing my book. 

What about the illustrations? Did you do them, or did you work with someone else?

I’m definitely not an artist, and one of the great challenges of the project was finding the right illustrator. I ended up going online and using a service called Fiverr to connect to a very talented illustrator who lives in Sri Lanka. Her name is Thushari Herath, and she really did a phenomenal job. There are a lot of cultural differences between us, so we had to talk about things like what side of the road the bus would drive on, what classes would look like, how people would dress and so on. It took a bit of extra effort, but it was all worth it because she’s so talented.  

What is the recommended age for this book?

Older elementary school kids will probably get the most out of it, starting at about third or fourth grade. My goal was to be as accessible as possible, though, so people older or younger than that shouldn’t feel discouraged to read it.

What’s next for you? Do you want to write more books?

Right now, I’m focusing on finishing up my college applications. I’m looking to stay somewhere in the Northeast that has a strong history program − I’d like to pursue some kind of research track through graduate school and maybe a Ph.D. down the road. I’m not totally sure about anything yet, but that’s what I’m thinking about lately. 

I hope to do something like this book again in the future, especially if it makes an impact on local students.

Where can we learn more about you?

I share information and thoughts about local history at www.dixhillsmelvillehistory.org. 

“Miss Kim’s Class Goes to Town” is available online at Amazon.com, at Huntington Historical Society events and at the gift shops of historical sites around Huntington.