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Port Jefferson Village Center

Members of the 2022 prom committee are working tirelessly behind the scenes to bring this local tradition back to life. (Left to right) Janet Stafford, Danielle Friedman, Randi DeWitt and Pauline Spiller. Photo by Raymond Janis

The Earl L. Vandermeulen High School prom, a decades-old local tradition for the Port Jefferson community, is returning on Tuesday, June 28.

Since 1958, the prom has brought community members together in a spectacular send-off of its graduating seniors. The tradition includes a secret theme decided upon by the parents, along with a complete transformation of the school around that theme.

The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted this tradition. Due to the lockdowns and social gathering restrictions put in place at the time, the event was severely limited in its scope and scale. The world is opening up again and so is the prom.

“This year, we’re doing a hybrid version,” said Randi DeWitt, a trustee of the Port Jefferson board of education and member of the prom committee. “Last year, it was just at The Meadow Club. This year, we’re going to do a traditional drive up at the high school as has always been done, but instead of going into the school, they’re going to head to The Meadow Club.”

An open invitation to the public

Reigniting this tradition will require active engagement on the part of the public. Community members are invited to view this year’s theme at The Meadow Club as well as the drive-up ceremony and red carpet event held at the high school. 

“The tradition is that the whole area is filled with community members,” DeWitt said. “Not just the parents of the kids who are graduating, the whole community comes to view it.” She added, “That’s what we wanted to bring back: The sense of community because that is what has been lost for a couple of years due to COVID.”

DeWitt hopes for a large turnout to reward the monumental efforts of parents and the prom committee who brought this tradition to life once again. “We want [the community] to see what we’ve done here — all of our hard work — and then be here for the kids when they walk up,” she said.

A viewing of the decor and theme will be held from 2 to 4 p.m. at The Meadow Club, 1147 Route 112, Port Jefferson Station. Photos of the attendees will begin at 4:15 p.m. at the Village Center. The red carpet event will start at 6 p.m. at the high school, after which the students will head to The Meadow Club for prom night. 

After a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic, Maker Faire Long Island returned to Port Jefferson village on Saturday, June 11, at the Village Center.

Maker Faire LI is an annual festival held by the Long Island Explorium, a science and engineering museum based in Port Jeff. Its purpose is to promote STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education by way of innovations and crafts of people throughout the region and country. 

Angeline Judex, executive director of the Explorium, discussed the surprising success of the event after its two-year pause. “We’re really happy with this event,” she said. “It has turned out really well — much better than we actually expected.”

Proceeds from the event will support the Explorium’s various educational programs. The goal of these programs is to enliven STEM through activities that are engaging and fun. Judex said the Explorium hopes to inspire young people and nourish a lifelong pursuit of STEM. 

“It’s really important for children to be inspired and excited about STEM at an early age,” Judex said, adding, “We focus on enriching and inspiring children from K-6 so that they get excited about STEM because this is the future.” She added, “We want to support the next generation of leaders and scientists who are going to be inspired to solve some of the challenges in the environments we live in.”

Hundreds of makers gathered at Harborfront Park to showcase their own unique contributions to the field. Sejal Mehra, one of the presenters at the festival, displayed what she has coined “engineering art.” Her works integrate aspects of collage, engineering and sustainability studies under a common discipline.

“I create ‘engineering art,’ which is made from recycling old computer and electronic parts or plastic that would have otherwise ended up in the trash to show the beauty of STEM,” she said. “I’m on a mission to change the face of STEM through art.”

Makers such as Mehra offer the necessary guidance for young people to pursue STEM. Through their example of creativity and ingenuity, young people are challenged to change the world themselves.  

“I think it’s really important to have programs like this one to help inspire young minds into a lifelong pursuit of STEM because you never know when or how something is going to spark their love for STEM,” Mehra said. “It is also great for young minds to be inspired by young adults like myself because we were just in their shoes and can help motivate them to pursue STEM. Without programs like this, the amount of exposure to the field and its vast possibilities and intersections would not be possible.”

Mehra’s artwork is currently for sale and can be purchased through her website or by contacting her via email or Instagram.

Joining Judex was a group of public officials who offered their support for the museum in its mission to educate the next generation of scientists and engineers. New York State Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket), a geologist by profession, spoke of the importance of Maker Faire in encouraging young minds to tackle the impending challenges of environmental degradation.

“The purpose of bringing us all together is to enhance this community, to imagine possibilities for all of the people who live here and visit here, and to use our imagination just a little bit,” he said. “One of the things that’s very important is the narrative and theme that are interwoven around protecting the environment. We’re situated here in beautiful Port Jefferson on the edge of the harbor, and it is a beautiful place to remember the importance of sustainability.”

Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) was also present for the event. She thanked the Explorium for providing these services and enriching the community.

“I am pleased to be here to support Maker Faire Long Island once again, to support the Explorium, and encourage children and our residents to explore, to innovate, to use their imagination and encourage ingenuity,” she said. “Thank you for all you do to encourage that in children right here in our own backyard.”

Brookhaven Town Councilmember Jonathan Kornreich (D-Stony Brook) recognized Judex for the work she put into making this annual tradition successful once again and for championing STEM and motivating young people.

“I want to thank you not only for the work you did to bring this event together, but for the work you do all year long to create a fun place for kids to do science, to teach kids, to make it accessible to everybody, to bring science to places where maybe it isn’t, and to find new places to suddenly discover science,” the councilmember said.

Kathianne Snaden, Village of Port Jefferson deputy mayor, thanked the many entities that helped make this event possible once again.

“To all of the volunteers, to all of the makers, to the attendees, to our code department, our parks department and our highway department, without all of you coming together to make an event like this happen, we just couldn’t do it,” she said. “To the Explorium for providing cutting-edge technology, programming and hands-on learning for our children, it is just unmatched in this area.”

Village trustee Rebecca Kassay and her husband volunteered as traffic guards during the event. She called it “a pleasure directing parking.”

“As my husband and I stand and direct parking, we look at the children leaving this event and I asked them, ‘What have you made today?’” the trustee said. “Their faces light up and they show me something they’ve made, whether it’s a magnet, whether it’s a whirligig, whether it’s lip balm.” She continued, “It is so important to empower these young people with the gift of demystifying what is in the world around them.”

Englebright concluded the remarks with an anecdote. When the assemblyman was just 14 years old, his science teacher at the time recommended he attend a junior curator program at the Brooklyn Children’s Museum. His decision to heed that advice would reshape the course of his life.

“I became a junior curator and it changed my life,” he said. “The Explorium, this children’s museum, I believe is going to change an awful lot of young people’s lives. Now here I am — with white hair — some years later, and I can tell you of the importance of your programs and the worthiness of everything that you do.”

Port Jeff village trustee candidates during the "Meet the Candidates" forum hosted by the Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce on June 8. (Left to right) Lauren Sheprow, Bruce Miller, Ana Hozyainova, Rebecca Kassay and Gerard Gang. Photo by Raymond Janis

Incumbent trustees Bruce Miller and Rebecca Kassay, who are both up for reelection, will be challenged by Gerard Gang, Ana Hozyainova and Lauren Sheprow in the village election on Tuesday, June 21. 

During a “Meet the Candidates” event held Wednesday, June 8, the five declared candidates presented their visions before an audience of dozens of residents in the Wayfarer Room of the Village Center.

Candidates each delivered two-minute opening remarks, answered questions on various subjects regarding the major issues currently facing the village, and finally made concluding remarks.

The event was sponsored by the Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce. Barbara Ransome, director of operations at the chamber, asked the questions. Seating arrangements and response orders were both determined at random by pulling the candidates’ names out of a bag.

Questions were selected by a panel of moderators that comprised of Suzanne Velazquez, former chamber president; Stu Vincent, director of public relations at Mather Hospital; and Thomas Donlon, director of Port Jefferson Free Library.

Chamber president Mary Joy Pipe was the official timer for the event, signaling to the candidates their remaining allotted time with colored cards. After opening remarks, the candidates debated a range of topics such as term limits, bluff stabilization, Upper Port revitalization, potential redistricting schemes for the school district, among several other subjects. 

The entire candidate forum clocked in at nearly two-and-a-half hours. For more information, click here.

Port Jeff village trustee candidate’s creative approach to decision-making

Gerard Gang is running for Port Jefferson village trustee. Photo by Joe Iasso

By Raymond Janis

This week, TBR News Media sat down with Gerard Gang, candidate in the upcoming Village of Port Jefferson trustee elections June 21. In our interview, Gang discussed his professional background in packaging, his plans to improve senior services, cultural programs in the village, and more. 

What is your background and why would you like to be involved in local government?

First, I want to say that I am honored to be introduced to the public. For those who don’t know me, I live in Port Jefferson and have been here for 32 years. My wife, Patty, and I have raised two children in the school district. She was a teacher’s assistant in the elementary school and is the hearts of many children no matter where we go.

Professionally, I come from a background in fragrance and cosmetic packaging as a design director. I was responsible for both the marketing and the creative services. Combined with my other creative professional skills, this will be excellent experience and an asset to the role of trustee. 

I want to be a representative of the residents. I’m retired and have the time to be involved in our wonderful village and to create ways of communicating better between the residents and the village. I was a member of the economic development council that founded the farmers market, and I was also a member of the [village] Beautification Committee. I am presently on the Six Acre Park Committee, helping to conceptualize the arboretum and walking park in Upper Port. As residents come to know me, they will learn that I am always willing to listen and make the necessary changes within myself for those whom I may represent. 

I also believe that we need to preserve our history, to strengthen our relationships and opportunities, and to optimize our facilities and programs. We need to create new experiences, foster new ideas and increase our revenue to prevent further financial hardship on the taxpayer, who is already struggling with inflation and other economic restraints caused by the pandemic.

A trustee must wear many hats and accept the challenges that no doubt will arise. I am ready, willing and excited to do just that. 

Can you describe your experience working with the Six Acre Park Committee?

I have been on the committee since April. Some of my background is in landscaping. As a child, I worked on a farm for years and all the way through college. My interest was to develop a beautiful arboretum. There’s such a need in Upper Port to establish something beautiful, something to enjoy. 

We have the condos up there and the new apartments being established. Those people need to have a place where they can walk, meditate and just relax. I think it’s so important for the hospital workers up there. On a stressful day, it would be nice to take 10 minutes to take a stroll through something that’s beautiful, something that’s natural. 

How is your professional experience applicable to the work of a trustee?

My experience in packaging — as well as in landscape design, floral design and interior design — has taught me how to focus. 

In package design, especially in the studio where I worked, we worked directly with the printer, so we were actually on board when a color was mixed. My eye is extremely sensitive. People will say, “That’s black,” when it’s actually a blue-black, or it has a little bit of a red cast to it. My keen eye will help to take this beautiful village and move it into the future. 

A design put together by Gang during his time as a design director of fragrance and cosmetic packaging. Photo courtesy of Gang

It is important to me to hold onto the village’s historic character. I believe in the restoration of Upper Port and I hope to be working with the Architectural Review Committee to update design guidelines to preserve the village’s charm, the integrity of the materials used and the colors selected.  

In your opinion, what are the most critical issues facing the village?

The erosion of the bluff and the bond issue is a pretty big topic. I believe in the initial Phase I to establish the lower wall so that we can still have access to the beach. Until all of the information is presented about the upper wall — the drainage and whether to save the club — I will await making any decision until all facts are gathered and until we know what funding is available. 

The other issue facing the village is the decline in student enrollment within our school district. The well-being of our children is very important to me. As a trustee, I will work to make sure that an ample population of students is maintained so that the diverse assortment of programs and activities are available to them. I will foster ideas on the possibility of rezoning the school district to include all of Port Jefferson. In rezoning, we would increase the diversity of our students and, in turn, our state aid while hopefully keeping our school taxes balanced. For many, rezoning would lower their school taxes while enriching our programs and also provide a full-day pre-K program. 

Another critical issue is increasing village revenue to offset our increases in taxes. I have the knowledge to build upon the revenue in our village by staying within our budget allowances. Through new programs at the Village Center, the country club, the beach and within our village, we have the ability to generate profits that can stabilize our taxes while also providing quality programs for all ages. 

I do support the restoration of Upper Port. It needs to happen and it would be a benefit for all of us as that’s the gateway into our village. I would work with the Architectural Review Committee and with the planning committee to do that. 

What are your thoughts on the availability of cultural programs in the village and is there room for expansion?

There is definitely room for expansion. We have a lot of cultural aspects in the village and one of my platforms is to optimize the Village Center to create more programs and revenue. Through the years, I have been a floral designer, a coordinator of fundraisers, a curator of art exhibits and local art groups. I have the knowledge and the ability to organize events and build upon the revenue of the venue. 

Gerard Gang with a Port Jefferson resident discussing his plans for a council on aging. Photo by Joe Iasso

One of my ideas is to develop new programs at the Village Center. One of them would be to create an opportunity for the disabled and the autistic children to express themselves and communicate through art. My wife worked in the school as a teaching assistant and I know that many of these children express themselves and communicate better through art. I would like to encourage the public to host special events through dinners and senior programs there.

I would also like to create a council for the aging committee. Through educational programs, special events and weekly gatherings, we as a community can address and assist our seniors in their needs. There are so many older people in our village that have been the founders of the village, that have been the strength of the village. It would be wonderful for them to be able to live out their full lives in the village. 

What are some ways in which the Village Center can be upgraded?

The Village Center is a wonderful building. There are so many opportunities there and it’s wonderful to see that two of the class reunions for the high school are now going to be in the Village Center. It’s great to see that it’s beginning to be used for different reasons. All it takes is one person to come in and say, “Wow, this can be a great environment.” 

I have actually done a wedding there. Once you are on the second and third floors, it’s a wonderful environment. It’s beautiful and the view out the window is incredible. With the proper resources and event planners, with flowers and catering, it can be an even more beautiful venue. 

I would like to encourage brides to come in and take a look at the place. If you are having a special event, a party or a family reunion, the opportunity is there. I would like to make some small changes downstairs so that as you walk in, it has that appeal that would make you want to host a special occasion there. 

Gerard and his wife, Patricia, near the Brookhaven Marina and Port Jefferson-Bridgeport Ferry Terminal, above. Photo by Joe Iasso

How can residents play a more active role in decision-making?

As I went door to door, I spoke to so many people about their concerns. I listened to their stories and everything else. What I want to express to so many of the people is that I ask the residents to reach out, to become more active, to communicate and to show up to our village meetings.

The trustees are here to listen to you, so communicate with them. Voice your opinions because your concerns are my concerns and they should be the trustees’ concerns. As I like to say, one positive thought creates one positive word and results in a positive action. As much as you can communicate, it just opens up doors for things to change.

There are so many positive things to look at, to enjoy and to talk about. We should build upon the positives of the village, not just upon the negatives. — Gerard Gang

Is there anything else that you would like to say to our readers?

I actually hope to continue to meet more people. I so enjoy campaigning, meeting so many new people, talking to young people, older people. It was wonderful to come upon the seniors of our village and to listen to their stories. It was just so nice to interact with them because they need to talk and they want to socialize. 

There are so many positive things to look at, to enjoy and to talk about. We should build upon the positives of the village, not just upon the negatives. Like I said before, you take a positive word and it becomes an idea and then it turns into a positive action. 

I hope to become a trustee. It’s in my blood now — the passion that I have to help people and to help the village. 

Photo courtesy of Chris Ryon

A flag once flown outside of the post office in the former Echo area of Upper Port has been returned to Port Jefferson and now resides at the Village Center.

The flag is unique in that it contains only 46 stars. It had flown outside the Echo post office between 1908 and 1912. Chris Ryon, village historian, charted the timeline of the 46-star flag. 

“The 46-star flag came about when Oklahoma became a state in 1907,” Ryon said. “The following July Fourth in 1908 produced the 46-star flag, as stars are always added to the flag on July Fourth. In 1912, it jumped from 46 to 48 stars because two more states were added, Arizona and New Mexico. That flag lasted until Hawaii and Alaska were added in the late ‘50s.”

Before the present boundaries, “the post office was right up against the railroad tracks in Upper Port Jefferson,” Ryon said. “That area was called Echo — Echo was a racehorse and that’s what it was named after. The post office was the building on the right when you crossed over the railroad tracks into Port Jefferson Station. That building is still there, but it’s an empty building right now.”

On April 10, Lee Squires Sussman and her son Grayson Sussman Squires met with Ryon to exchange the flag. “This has been in the family and has been passed down through the generations,” Ryon said. “She decided it belonged back in Port Jefferson.” 

A journey through time

Last week, TBR News Media reached out to Lee Squires Sussman for an exclusive interview. Through our correspondence with her, which included a phone interview and an email exchange, she detailed her genealogical background and her family’s place in the local history of Port Jefferson.

“I grew up outside of Washington D.C.,” she said. “My father, Donald Fleming Squires, was the deputy director of the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History when I was a child. When I was 12, we moved back to Long Island, to Stony Brook, because my dad had decided that he really wanted to get back to his roots, and back to science, not administration.” She added that by returning to Long Island, her father sought “to give back to his home community, so he went to work for Stony Brook University.”

In 1965 Donald Squires helped found SBU’s Marine Sciences Research Center, the predecessor of today’s School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences. A renowned marine biologist, he wrote several books investigating the waters outside of New York City and Long Island. “Interestingly enough, as a sidenote, when we moved back to Stony Brook, we moved into a rental house while we looked for a place to permanently live,” Sussman said. “That house was a house that my other great-grandfather, Harry Fleming, built in Stony Brook.” She added, “We really were going back to our roots.”

Village historian Chris Ryon, left, with Lee Squires Sussman, right, and her son Grayson Sussman Squires, middle. Photo courtesy of Chris Ryon

A family keepsake

“My great-grandfather was Charles A. Squires and he was the original owner of the flag,” Sussman said. “It flew outside the post office at Echo, New York. Following his retirement, my granduncle, Dwight Squires, took over as postmaster. When he retired, my understanding is that my great-grandfather had left it with my Uncle Dwight.” 

At some point in time, Dwight had given the flag to Sussman’s grandfather, Charles W. Squires. Charles W. held onto the flag into his mid-90s and passed it along to her father, Donald. When Donald moved to Tasmania, he gave the family artifacts to her.

“All of the pictures, the certificates, the family Bible, the flag and all of that came to me when my dad moved overseas,” Sussman said. “I’ve had [the flag] stored in my living room in a sea chest that has also been passed down through the family.” 

After years of storing the flag, she started considering what to do with this family memento. During the COVID-19 pandemic, a high school friend had referred her to Ryon. The two got in touch and agreed to meet in Port Jefferson to exchange the flag. 

“I have five Squires-related children,” Sussman said. “I discussed with the kids what to do with some of these possessions. We all agreed that the flag would be best back home where it could be viewed. It really was just a matter of finding the right time to get out to Long Island and get it to Chris so that he can display it for Port Jefferson.”

Squires legacy

At around the time when Sussman began having children, she and her father took up a deep interest in the Squires family history. Her father contacted Tiger Gardiner, author of “The South Fork Squires, Long Island, New York.”

“I would say her life’s work was the genealogy of the Squires family,” Sussman said. “She documents the Squires from really early on in Long Island. When my dad left me all of the photographs and items when he went overseas, that’s when I started getting involved in the Squires family research. It was very easy because I had all of the stuff.”

Sussman described the pride of continuing this Squires tradition, documenting and sharing her genealogy for future generations. When asked how she would like the Squires to be remembered, she said for their hard work, altruism and outlook on education, which she said were central to their system of values.

“The values that the Squires family brought to me were that public service and hard work are the foundations for success,” she said. “There were times when members of my family had money and there were times when members of my family lost all their money. When money was tight, they offered help and shelter to people who were less fortunate.”

Sussman also recalled the renovations made to her grandfather’s house to accommodate and shelter the needy, adding, “During the Depression, the attic had been made into two apartments and the basement had been made into two other apartments where people who were less fortunate lived. Those values really sunk in for all of us and they’re very clearly part of what made my family members click.”

Civic engagement and public service also mattered deeply. “They were very involved in their community and they also never quit exploring,” she said. “Those are things that are a gift to any community, beyond philanthropic gifts — a sense of pride in your local surroundings and a willingness to help.”

Sussman said her family members were acutely aware of the significance of education and passed down this value to their offspring.

“History is so much bigger than us all. It doesn’t do anyone any good to leave it in a box in the house.” — Lee Squires Sussman

Photo courtesy of Chris Ryon

“There was a sign that was printed in my great-grandfather’s printing shop in Echo that we had a copy of in our house,” she said. “I gave one to Chris. It says ‘We study to please,’ which was an old-fashioned way of saying the more modern ‘we aim to please.’” Interpreting the meaning of this sign to her, she said, “To me this was always an indicator of how important study was to my family.”

Today, the Squires family flag hangs inside the Village Center. Reflecting upon her joy in seeing the flag once again on display for the residents of Port Jefferson, Sussman said, “History is so much bigger than us all. It doesn’t do anyone any good to leave it in a box in the house. This makes me incredibly happy. I’ve shed more tears over the pictures of that flag hanging in the Village Center than I can believe. It makes me incredibly happy to see it back home.”

By Tara Mae

The Antiques and Garden Weekend show, a fundraiser for the Port Jefferson Historical Society, returns after a two-year COVID delay to the Port Jefferson Village Center, 101-A East Broadway, Port Jefferson on Saturday, April 30, and Sunday, May 1, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Transformed into an organized maze of goods and greenery, all three floors of the Village Center will be utilized to host approximately 25 vendors from across Long Island as well as a café. In conjunction with the society, the Suwassett Garden Club of Belle Terre will host a bake sale and provide a verdant trellis of plants, flowers, annuals, and herbs.

Many of the vendors are annual participants who set up shop to sell their wares, including but not limited to rare books, linens, vintage handbags, prints, garden tools and “every kind of jewelry, from costume through the real McCoy,” according to event co-chair Catherine Quinlan.

New vendors are recruited by word of mouth. “Dealers recommended other dealers for the show; a lot of them helped me find vendors for this show. They want the show to maintain its quality,” Quinlan said. Buyers and sellers alike are drawn to the show’s unique setup. Situated along the water, with views that overlook the harbor, the Village Center offers a singular experience for both vendors and attendees alike. “Vendors are able to set up their stands so that the scenic views are their backdrop, which both they and the patrons enjoy. I want people to come and enjoy the lovely setting — the building on the water is so beautiful,” added Quinlan.

Quinlan and fellow co-chair Sandra Swenk, both members of the Port Jefferson Historical Society, connected 14 years ago to raise money for the upkeep of the Mather House Museum, the society’s historic property on Prospect Street.

“Year round maintenance of the Mather estate is a costly undertaking so this show as well as a fall auction are key functions that enable the Society to maintain the buildings and grounds, keep the Museum open for exhibits, and offer tours as well as a consignment shop that is open during the Museum season which begins Memorial Day weekend,” said Swenk.

The women drew inspiration from touring other antique and garden shows on Long Island and observing their practices. “We visited shows scheduled on Long Island and made contacts with vendors who presented a variety of interesting antiques and collectibles that would be appealing to visitors and buyers. We arranged with the Village to hold the show at the Village Center each April,” Swenk said.

Truly a community event, in addition to the support of the garden club and village, the Bridgeport and Port Jefferson Steamboat Company has special rates for ferry riders traveling to the show. “Fred Hall, general manager of the ferry, hangs a banner in Bridgeport to advertise the show and offers discounts to people who are coming for the show: 2 for 1 deals for same day passengers. Mayor Margot Garant is very supportive. I like working with everyone from the village,” she said. “The event is a lot of work, but a lot of fun. It’s about the community coming together and helping us raise money.”

Tickets are $6 per person, $5 if a member of a party presents the event postcard or online ad. Children 16 years or younger, accompanied by an adult, are free of charge. For more information, or visit www.portjeff-antiques-garden.net.

Nan Guzzetta. Photo by John Griffin

By Tara Mae

The Port Jefferson Village Center’s second floor gallery unveiled its latest exhibit today, March 3. Titled Celebrating Women’s Suffrage and the Timeless Collection of Nan Guzzetta, it recognizes the determined advocacy of historical local suffragists and celebrates the life and legacy of Port Jefferson’s Antique Costume and Prop Rental proprietor Nancy Altman “Nan” Guzzetta, who passed away in 2021. The show runs through March 31. 

Fifteen costumed mannequins supplied by the estate of Nan Guzzetta and a comprehensive display on the suffrage movement by Town of Brookhaven Historian Barbara Russell are the focal points of the exhibit, which consists of textiles, photos, posters, and documents. It was conceptualized by Port Jefferson Mayor Margot Garant. 

‘The sky is now her limit’ by Elmer Andrews Bushnell. Image courtesy of loc.gov

“This serves a twofold purpose: celebrating Women’s History Month in March and honoring and memorializing the life work of Nan, a longtime resident,” said Mayor Garant. “Nan’s work has in particular helped this village for many decades, as she put her trademark costume design on many of our festivals including our traditional Dickens event. This exhibit gives us the ability to open up her displays to the general public with a special emphasis on the women’s suffragette movement.”

Established in 1977, Guzzetta’s shop on Main Street in Port Jefferson Village provided costumes and props for parties, weddings, historical re-enactments, museum exhibits, and other private and public events. The women’s suffrage display was her last project.

“Mom got the mannequins ready for another suffrage exhibit that then didn’t happen due to COVID. They were dressed in the parlor and throughout the house when she died; we preserved all those mannequins. They have been dressed that way for a long time, waiting to go on display,” said Nan’s son, Dave Guzzetta. 

Port Jefferson historian Chris Ryon reached out to Guzzetta’s family to request the use of the styled mannequins for the exhibit. Expertly draped, Guzzetta’s historical replicas add a dynamic element to the display, according to according to Sue Orifici, who is the Graphic, Archival, and Special Projects Coordinator for the Port Jefferson Village. “The show is in part a homage to her contributions to the community,” she said. 

Through her passion for her craft and history, Guzzetta sought to make sure the past, including the stories of suffragists, was not only remembered but alive. “She loved history and bringing it to life,” her daughter-in-law Lorraine said. 

A co-founder of the Port Jefferson Charles Dickens Festival, Nan collaborated with the Port Jefferson Village Center and local educational nonprofits such as the Port Jefferson Historical Society and the Three Village Historical Society, offering her expertise, insight, costumes, and accessories.

“Nan was a tremendous part of our annual Spirits Cemetery Tour, outfitting and designing each costume worn by actors for nearly 20 years,” said Director Mari Irizarry of Three Village Historical Society. “Nan will forever be remembered as a significant contributor toward the fostering of interest in local history and a fuller appreciation of the rich historical and cultural heritage of our community.” 

It was such a shared professional and personal investment in historical education and preservation that connected Guzzetta with Barbara Russell. Like many people involved in the suffrage exhibit, Russell worked with Guzzetta and personally experienced how the intersection of her interests formed her business and her support of the community. 

Annie Tinker

“I met Nan when she first started her business. She called Fran Child from the Port Jefferson Historical Society and suggested a fashion show using her costumes and models from the Society. I think it was circa 1978…I ended up modeling 19th ‘underclothes.’ Trust me, I was well covered up in cotton fabric. It was a really fun event and kicked off Nan’s new business,” said Russell.

Now, once again, Guzzetta and Russell’s efforts complement each other. The mannequins are the three-dimensional component to the pictures and documents that comprise the rest of the exhibit, specifically Russell’s traveling suffrage display, which explores the suffrage movement on a local, state, and national level.  

“One display is six panels on the centennial of women’s right to vote in 2017, organized by the New York State Library, New York State Archives and New York State Museum,” Russell said. “The other standing display is from the National Archives. The town has loaned both displays to the Port Jefferson Harbor Education and Arts Conservancy.” 

Individual local suffragists, such as Alva Vanderbilt Belmont and Annie Rensselaer Tinker, are highlighted in the exhibit. Belmont, a wealthy socialite who parlayed her social status and money into fighting for women’s suffrage, founded the Political Equality League and co-founded of the National Woman’s Party. She opened up her lavish Oakdale estate Idle Hour for fundraisers, networking, and strategizing. 

Tinker, a member of the Woman’s Political Union, who summered in Poquott, participated in meetings, rallies, marches, and theatrical benefits for women’s suffrage. She also established and trained a women’s cavalry.

These individual profiles and details enhance the human interest element that Guzzetta strove to embrace with her costuming, combining art and entertainment with learning. “She really loved the historical, the theatrical. She really wanted to be sure that everyone had fun. It was not enough to be appropriately dressed. She wanted people to have fun … people had to have fun,” her widower Charles said.

Guzzetta’s joy in sharing stories and making history more tangible were hallmarks of her business, one that Dave and Lorraine hope to continue. “There is a plan and we are in the middle of organizing… We are hoping there is a call for her work, that it is able to sustain itself,” Dave said. 

Celebrating Women’s Suffrage and the Timeless Collection of Nan Guzzetta will be on view on the second floor of the Port Jefferson Village Center, 101-A East Broadway, Port Jefferson through March 31. The Center is open seven days a week, from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Join them for a reception on Sunday, March 6 from 2 to 4 p.m. For more information, please visit www.portjeff.com/gallery/ or call 631-802-2160. 

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Photo by Julianne Mosher

When Port Jefferson Village trustee Kathianne Snaden heard that the Port Jefferson School District had to cancel its annual Halloween dance for the middle school, she knew she had to take action. 

Just two weeks before the festive holiday, the district chose to cancel the event due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Snaden, along with the Port Jefferson PTSA and the Port Jefferson-Northern Brookhaven Arts Council, decided within just a few days to hold the Halloween dance, which was also canceled last year because of the pandemic, at the Port Jefferson Village Center. 

“When the school says, ‘We can’t do it,’ I say, ‘How can we?’” Snaden said at the event, held on Friday, Oct. 29. “We came together and just made it happen.”

Inside the first level of the Village Center, nearly 150 students dressed as everything from a group of inflatable dinosaurs to the cast of “Winnie the Pooh.” Outside, where the ice skating rink is installed, a tent was set up for an indoor/outdoor experience. 

Candy was put out for students to snack on and a DJ played music for dancing. 

“We have these beautiful assets, like the Village Center, and they should be used for things like this,” Snaden said. “That’s why they were built, and this is perfect — the kids are having a blast.”

While the district had to cancel the dance, Snaden said they were instrumental in getting the word out.

“It was a great collaborative,” she added. “It was perfectly orchestrated and it worked out.”

Photo by Julianne Mosher

It was a day full of fall festivities on Saturday, Oct. 23 when the Village of Port Jefferson hosted its 2021 Harvest Fest that showcased tons of Halloween fun, while supporting local businesses.

From 10 a.m. until 3 p.m., the Port Jefferson Harbor Education & Arts Conservancy held a window painting contest to decorate the outside of the Village Center. Nearly two-dozen children grabbed their paint and brushes to show off their favorite Halloween-inspired art skills that included everything from steaming hot chocolate in a mug to ghosts, skeletons and a creepy toy doll.

While the kids got artistic, parents traveled throughout the village to taste and enjoy chowders from participating restaurants in a chowder crawl, along with seasonal beverage tastings from the Port Jeff Brewing Company, The Whiskey Barrel and Port Jeff Liquors.

Along with pumpkin carvings and trick-or-treat bagging, families were able to go on a secret scavenger hunt — which featured an appearance from the Pirates at Large.

The afternoon ended with a costumed dog parade along East Main Street, where furry friends dressed to the nines from rainbows to spooky spiders.

— All photos by Julianne Mosher