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Port Jefferson Village

A trolley from the Suffolk Traction Company is shown in Patchogue. Although track was laid along Port Jefferson’s Main Street, Suffolk Traction never ran a streetcar in the village. Photo from the Kenneth C. Brady Digital Archive

Port Jefferson was not immune to the trolley fever that swept the United States during the late 19th century.

Orange T. Fanning, Thomas O’Donnell, Charles E. Tooker and other prominent village businessmen met in 1895 and called for the construction of an electric trolley line that would cross Long Island from Port Jefferson on the Sound to Patchogue on the Great South Bay.

According to its supporters, the proposed trolley would provide a connection with the Port Jefferson ferry that sailed to Bridgeport, Connecticut; increase tourism among day-trippers; and carry passengers from the Sound to the Bay in less than one hour.

The project’s cheerleaders also claimed the trolley would enrich property owners along the line and improve transportation by intersecting with the LIRR’s stations at Patchogue, Waverly (Holtsville) and Port Jefferson.

Note the trolley tracks. A procession leaves Athena Hall, crosses Port Jefferson’s Main Street and marches up Spring Street for the 1914 cornerstone laying ceremonies at Port Jefferson High School. Photo from the Kenneth C. Brady Digital Archive

Seeing enormous profits in the trolley venture, parties from Long Island, New York City and Bridgeport organized the Patchogue and Port Jefferson Traction Company on Jan. 29, 1896.

Port Jefferson Traction announced that its 14-mile trolley road would be finished and in operation by April 1, 1903, but several factors kept the project from moving ahead.

Confronted by the high costs of equipment and materials, the corporation delayed work waiting for prices to fall. Word that New Haven, Connecticut, might run a steamboat to Port Jefferson and link with the trolley worried investors in Bridgeport who had backed Port Jefferson Traction’s scheme. 

Arguments also arose over the trolley’s hours of operation, rate of speed, type of roadbed and method of power. The streetcar’s proponents quarreled over whether the line should be built from Patchogue to Port Jefferson or vice versa. 

Mired in endless trolley talk, Port Jefferson Traction was acquired by the Central Long Island Electric Light and Railroad Company. Chartered on Dec. 17, 1903, the new corporation amended the proposed Patchogue-Port Jefferson route to include a Setauket-Stony Brook branch line. The organization also sought to build a power plant in Port Jefferson and develop land in an envisioned “Jefferson Manor” section of Echo.

Notwithstanding its glowing prospectus, Central Long Island never ran a streetcar in Port Jefferson, opening the door for the Suffolk Traction Company and its plans for a Cross Island trolley road.

Incorporated on June 27, 1906, Suffolk Traction soon became embroiled in legal disputes with its competitors over franchises, the LIRR over grade crossings and property owners over condemnation proceedings.

When the court battles finally ended and construction actually began, Suffolk Traction diverted resources that had been earmarked for Port Jefferson to expanding service on the South Shore. As a result, track was not laid along Port Jefferson’s Main Street (Route 25A) until 1909-13, but by then it was too late. Even discounting the years lost to inactivity and sporadic work, the trolley plan was already doomed in the village.

A self-propelled crane enters Port Jefferson’s Bayles Shipyard, East Broadway, April 1918. The crane arrived by the LIRR and then steamed down to the waterfront traveling on the Suffolk Traction Company’s trolley rails and temporary tracks. Photo by Arthur S. Greene; Photo from the Kenneth C. Brady Digital Archive

Automobiles were revolutionizing travel, giving Long Islanders the freedom to explore the open road and making them less dependent on public transit. In addition, Suffolk Traction was facing competition from faster buses that carried passengers between Port Jefferson and Patchogue on the “Auto Trolley Line.”

While managing to run a battery-powered streetcar between Patchogue and Holtsville, a bankrupt Suffolk Traction ceased operations in 1919.

Although the trolley never ran in Port Jefferson, the existing tracks were supplemented by temporary rails and used during World War I to move a self-propelled crane downhill from Port Jefferson’s LIRR station to Bayles Shipyard on the village’s waterfront. 

The rusting trolley tracks, viewed as a nuisance by Port Jefferson’s motorists and pedestrians, were torn up as improvements were made along Route 25A, although rails were still visible at the foot of the village’s Main Street as late as September 1956.

Kenneth Brady has served as the Port Jefferson Village Historian and president of the Port Jefferson Conservancy, as well as on the boards of the Suffolk County Historical Society, Greater Port Jefferson Arts Council and Port Jefferson Historical Society. He is a longtime resident of Port Jefferson.     

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Photo by Julianne Mosher

Butterflies, bees and little birds.

Those are the creatures that have been living throughout some of Port Jefferson village’s pollinator gardens and helping out the local environment. 

Earlier this summer, the village began receiving some complaints that certain gardens were overgrown — the most common one was a small garden outside of the Port Jefferson Village Center that is home to a pollinator and butterfly garden, with a large anchor front and center.

Village gardener, Caran Markson, said she was injured and unfortunately was put on a medical leave. That’s when the village parks department decided to step in and help clean up the garden that some residents were saying was “getting out of hand.”

When Markson found out, she was devastated.

“I take it very personal,” she said. “We should be educating anyone who lives in the village or who visits the village about what the gardens can do.”

A pollinator garden is a garden that is planted predominately with flowers that provide nectar or pollen for a range of pollinating insects. A pollinator garden can be any size and the village is home to many different ones.

These gardens are full of plants that naturally attract, feed and provide habitat for different wildlife, and help the local ecosystem — and ultimately the environment. 

“I had it on a national list through the Pollinator Partnership,” Markson said. “I leave signs about what they do.”

Pollinator Partnership’s is a national nonprofit with the mission to promote the health of pollinators, critical to food and ecosystems, through conservation, education and research.

While Markson was gone, many of the plants were torn out.

“I’m blown away,” she added. “I’m so upset.”

When trustee Rebecca Kassay heard that the garden was cleaned up, she decided to create a task force of volunteers to take care of the pollinator gardens while Markson was away.

An environmentalist herself, Kassay knows the importance of the flowers that line the roads of Port Jefferson. 

On Friday, Sept. 10, she and several other volunteers gathered behind the anchor garden at Harborfront Park to clean up the weeds but keep the specific flowers that are home to monarch butterflies and bees.

Photo by Julianne Mosher

“That’s part of the reason why it’s here, but it’s also here because it’s beautiful,” she said. “With our village gardener out on medical leave, she specializes in the maintenance of these types of gardens on our park staff. So, as someone who worked with these types of gardens for a decade in my career, I’m very happy to step up and lead local enthusiasts.”

Part of the volunteer program is to not only clean things up, but to also educate people who are interested in learning about the benefits of these plants. 

“This is a great opportunity for them to come down and learn about pollinator gardens, while making their village more beautiful at the same time,” Kassay said.

The trustee added that the next several volunteer meetups will continue to “edit” other gardens.

“The plants sort of grow as they want to, and our goal and responsibility as gardeners of a pollinator garden is to edit and make sure it’s aesthetically pleasing for folks who may or may not know the ecological value of the garden,” she said. 

While Markson appreciates the help while she’s absent, she’s still upset that the anchor garden at the center of the roundabout has been changed.

“It was a wonderful garden,” she said. “It’s a little too late.”

Trustee Kathianne Snaden, who spearheads the village’s beautification efforts, said there will be other initiatives to spruce up the village.

“Our end goal is to clean up and plant more colorful flowers, especially uptown,” she said.

Snaden added that Upper Port has been neglected “for too long,” and “a lot can be done in the short term.”

As development begins with the new apartments there, she decided to add stone or cement planters to overfill with flowers. During the holidays, they will add more Christmas decorations as well. 

“There’s no better way to help businesses and have developers come in than to make it look more beautiful now with color,” she said. 

Photo by Julianne Mosher

Snaden added another initiative is to create a children’s garden soon, filled with flowers that were purchased this week from the elementary school PTA’s flower bulb sale. Both the children’s garden and uptown planters are expected to start up soon.

Interested pollinator gardeners can email Kassay at [email protected] to RSVP for the next cleanup opportunities on Sunday, Sept. 26, at Harborfront Park from 2-5 p.m., and on Oct. 17 at the triangle garden at High Street and Spring Street.

Photo by Julianne Mosher

Dozens of people came together to remember September 11, 2001 last week during the Port Jefferson Fire Department’s annual 9/11 memorial early Saturday morning.

Port Jefferson firefighters, EMS and juniors lined up to salute three wreaths placed at the foot of the monument, while the names of Town of Brookhaven first responders who perished during the attacks were read. A bell rang every time a name was said. 

Port Jefferson School District music teacher Christian Neubert and students Kasumi Layne-Stasik and Andrew Patterson paid tribute to those who lost their lives with several moving musical performances. 

Photo by Julianne Mosher

The 12th annual Village Cup Regatta, a friendly competition between Mather Hospital and the Village of Port Jefferson, set sail Saturday on the Long Island Sound all for a good cause.

Presented by the Port Jefferson Yacht Club, the Regatta raised funds for Mather’s Palliative Medicine Program and the Lustgarten Foundation, which funds pancreatic cancer research. 

During the event, held on Sept. 11, the Regatta honored all those who perished in the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the first responders who answered the call, while members of the hospital and village helped crew boats. The race had three classes based on boat size, and this year, the village won. $104,000 was raised and divided between both the Palliative Medicine Program and the Lustgarten Foundation.

Actor, director and local resident Ralph Macchio was again community ambassador for the event. 

Macchio has helped to publicize the important work of the two programs funded by the Regatta for the last nine years. Macchio’s wife, Phyllis, is a nurse practitioner in Mather’s Palliative Medicine Program.

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On Spring Street, the 1944 Hurricane brought down a tree which crashed against the Methodist Church. Kenneth C. Brady Digital Archive

Port Jefferson is no stranger to hurricanes, having been pummeled by the big blows several times in its past. But while most villagers are familiar with named storms such as Carol and Donna, few are aware of the powerful Great Atlantic Hurricane of September 1944 and its impact locally.

At the Port Jefferson Shipyard, yachts were driven ashore by the 1944 Hurricane and a building demolished. Kenneth C. Brady Digital Archive

World War II was the news in 1944, not the weather, relegating stories about an otherwise major storm to the back pages. In addition, the United States was sensitive about releasing information that could benefit the enemy, such as revealing that a defense plant had been battered by wind and wave. With little or no media coverage, the Great Atlantic Hurricane became a forgotten storm, but not by those in Port Jefferson who had experienced its fury.

The hurricane arrived in the village on Thursday, Sept. 14, about 5 p.m., beginning with torrential rains, but did not become a full force storm until about 10:30 p.m. when wind velocities ranged from 75 to 85 mph.

The gusts, combined with a normal flood tide, drove whitecaps from Long Island Sound into Port Jefferson Harbor and over the village’s shorefront, inundating some areas with more than two feet of seawater.

The 1944 Hurricane destroyed the Long Island Ice Company’s refrigeration plant on Port Jefferson’s East Broadway. Kenneth C. Brady Digital Archive

Surf Avenue (East Broadway) was particularly hard hit. The hurricane wrecked the lunchroom and gift shop at Bayles Landing, destroyed the Long Island Ice Company’s refrigeration plant, tore off the back of the Keystone Coal Company’s building, blew away the planking at the Standard Oil Company’s dock, and lashed what was once Wilson’s Sail Loft.

The bulkhead was undermined, plantings were washed away and the pavilion was damaged at Brookhaven Town’s new waterfront park, now Mary Bayles Park, which had been completed just days before the storm.

Seawater entered the Harborview Hotel, covering the ground floor, and the Vandall Building, bringing muck and mud into the Port Jefferson Service Club, a hospitality center for America’s uniformed military personnel.

But Surf Avenue was not the only area in Port Jefferson to feel the hurricane’s savage force. On West Broadway, the storm hammered the South Bay Water Company’s pumping station, the Tydol Oil Company’s pier and the Bridgeport and Port Jefferson Steamboat Company’s freight office. Six yachts stored at the Port Jefferson Shipyard were driven ashore and a building was demolished.

The proprietor of Teddy’s Hotel at the foot of Main Street reported that 36 to 40 inches of water had flooded his cocktail lounge and dining room. In nearby stores, basements were submerged, the deluge spreading up to the police station on Arden Place. At Bishop’s Garage on the corner of Main Street and West Broadway, cars were ruined as seawater fouled their engines.

The 1944 Hurricane hammered the South Bay Water Company’s pumping station along Port Jefferson’s West Broadway. Kenneth C. Brady Digital Archive

On the west side of the village, a large oil storage tank was toppled at the Swezey Coal and Feed Company’s property on Beach Street. Numerous boats sank in the yacht basin and small craft were later found along area beaches and in the salt meadow off West Broadway, blown far from their original locations.

Trees and utility poles were downed by the hurricane, taking out electric and telephone lines throughout Port Jefferson. On the corner of Main and Spring streets, one old tree cut wires as it crashed against the Methodist Church, but miraculously spared the building from serious damage. Two weeks after the storm, the village was still without full electric service.

The Port Jefferson Fire Department performed tirelessly throughout the emergency, pumping out flooded cellars in the village’s homes and businesses. The dedicated volunteers also provided electric generators at lightless Mather Memorial and St. Charles hospitals.

With so many draft-age men serving in the armed forces, younger citizens assisted police and highway departments in the days following the hurricane. The Minute Men Cadets, a unit of the Suffolk County Sheriff’s office, patrolled downtown Port Jefferson’s darkened streets, protecting property from looters and vandals. Members of the Junior Auxiliary Brookhaven Town Police Department directed traffic in the village and cleared debris from its clogged roads.

The 1944 Hurricane blocked Port Jefferson’s East Broadway with downed utility poles, toppled trees and storm wreckage. Kenneth C. Brady Digital Archive

Although it would be tempting to compare the 1944 storm with other hurricanes that have walloped Port Jefferson, the effect of World War II on the village must be considered, making ranking difficult. For example, was power restored slowly in Port Jefferson because of the widespread damage resulting from the 1944 storm, wartime labor shortages, or both? Regardless, the Great Atlantic Hurricane was hardly a “forgotten storm” among villagers who had lived through the harrowing event.

Kenneth Brady has served as the Port Jefferson Village Historian and president of the Port Jefferson Conservancy, as well as on the boards of the Suffolk County Historical Society, Greater Port Jefferson Arts Council and Port Jefferson Historical Society. He is a longtime resident of Port Jefferson.     

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Photo from Rebecca Kassay

To maintain and keep Port Jefferson village’s pollinator gardens, Trustee Rebecca Kassay has implemented a new program and is looking for volunteers to help. 

According to Kassay, the village is home to several gardens that attract bees, butterflies, insects and some birds that help keep plants and flowers growing. These gardens full of plants naturally attract, feed and provide habitat for different wildlife. 

Starting this week, Kassay is looking for the community to come together and learn about these different gardens. On Friday, Sept. 10 from 2 p.m. until 5 p.m., interested gardeners can meet with like-minded people at Harborfront Park Gardens, to focus on the border along the traffic circle by the Village Center. 

“Whether you’re an avid gardener, or this is your first time working with pollinator plants, we encourage you to join for these hands-on working and learning sessions,” Kassay wrote in the Port Jeff community garden newsletter. 

The program is open to volunteers ages 10 and up. 

“Volunteers will learn about pollinator and native gardens, and their ecological importance, as well as getting to know specific pollinator plants,” she added. “How to care for them, where to source them and more — all while pruning, weeding, digging  and making the village’s pollinator garden’s look as attractive to humans as they look to wildlife.”

There will be two more meet-ups, one on Sunday, Sept. 26 at Harborfront Park and another on Oct. 17 from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the triangle garden at High Street and Spring Street. 

Those interested can email Kassay at [email protected]

Stock photo

The New York State Department of Transportation advised motorists today that beginning the week of Sept. 13, travel lanes will be shifted on State Route 25A (West Broadway) between Nicolls Road (Suffolk County Route 97) and Main Street in the Town of Brookhaven and Village of Port Jefferson, weeknights between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. for approximately three weeks, weather permitting, to accommodate road resurfacing operations.

Motorists should follow the instructions of the flaggers for their safety and the safety of the highway work crew.

Electronic variable message signs have been posted near the work zone and will provide updated information.

Motorists are urged to plan accordingly and drive responsibly in work zones. Fines are doubled for speeding in a work zone.  Convictions of two or more speeding violations in a work zone could result in the suspension of an individual’s driver license.

For up-to-date travel information, call 511, visit www.511NY.org or download the free 511NY mobile app.

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Photo from Port Jefferson Fire Department

While members of the Port Jefferson Fire Department were out helping residents during Hurricane Ida, they had their own issues back at the village’s firehouse. 

According to the Port Jefferson Fire Department, water from the storm made its way into the firehouse, flooding the inside and submerging its antique Engine 3 in three feet of water. 

The 1946 American LaFrance’s engine crank filled with water and might have been completely ruined if it weren’t for the help of a fellow fireman.   

Danny Gruosso, a volunteer with the Terryville Fire Department and resident of Port Jefferson Station, said that this isn’t the first time he’s worked on the vintage truck known as, “The Frog.”

Photo from Port Jefferson Fire Department

Being a member of the adjacent department and a heavy equipment diesel mechanic by trade, Gruosso was asked before the COVID-19 pandemic to check the vehicle out since it was having some issues.  

“Then I get a phone call on Friday after the storm that the truck was underwater,” he said. “They called me in a panic, and I said, ‘Don’t touch it, leave it alone. Leave it in the parking lot and I’ll be down there soon.’”

Gruosso headed down to the firehouse and pulled the engine’s filters out. He drained the oil and refilled it, flushed it and cleaned it. After a three-day-long process, he was able to save the motor. 

“I was thankful that the storm was low tide because if that would have been saltwater, it would have been bad,” he said. “I still have a couple more things to just look over, but for the most part, she’s ready to rock and roll.”

A tedious project, he was happy to help out. 

“Between the two departments we’re like a family,” he said. “We always look out for each other, and we have a lot of respect for each other. It’s a good thing.”

While the antique engine survived this storm, Gruosso said he’s ready to help again if Port Jefferson sees more flooding during the rest of this season.

“I told them, if we’re going to get another storm, I’m coming down. I’ll take the day off and personally drive down here and drive it back to my house,” he said. “It won’t fit in my garage, but I live up the hill and I’ll put it in the driveway with my other trailers.”

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The Townsend House was located in Port Jefferson at the southeast corner of today’s Main and East Main streets. Photo by George B. Brainerd, photo from the Kenneth C. Brady Digital Archive

Members of the Tile Club, a group of New York City artists, arrived in Port Jefferson on Oct. 26, 1881 and spent a week in the village sketching the local scene.

The Century Magazine chronicled the artists’ Port Jefferson sojourn in “The Tile Club Ashore (February 1882),” a lighthearted narrative featuring 20 drawings.

During the Tile Club’s sojourn in Port Jefferson, they stayed at this hotel, which bears a striking resemblance to the Townsend House. Sketch by F. Hopkinson Smith, sketch from The Century Magazine

The article is actually a composite account of the cosmopolitan Tilers’ two trips to Long Island, one by tugboat in summer 1880 to an undisclosed location on the North Shore and the other by train in fall 1881 to Port Jefferson.

Blurring time and place, the story was written by Tile Club member William Laffan as if there had been a single excursion. 

Besides recounting the adventures of the Tile Club in The Century Magazine, Laffan also promoted Nassau and Suffolk as vacationlands in travel guides he had written while a passenger agent for the Long Island Rail Road.

Laffan had lauded Port Jefferson for “its sandy shore, its still woods, and its placid bay” in The New Long Island, an 1879 LIRR handbook, and continued to extoll its appeal in The Century Magazine, describing the village as a “conservative, steady-going, sensible settlement,” “rich in historical interest” and “a delightful place.”

After deboarding the train at Port Jefferson’s railroad station, the Tilers walked down a path to an inn where the kindly landlord assigned the artists “to neat and comfortable bedrooms,” charged them “astonishingly low” rates and encouraged the Tilers to make as much noise as they liked.

Although the hotel is not identified in Laffan’s article, F. Hopkinson Smith’s sketch of the establishment, The House of the Reckless Landlord, bears a striking resemblance to a vintage photograph of the Townsend House which was located on the southeast corner of today’s Main and East Main streets.

Seeking artistic inspiration in picturesque Port Jefferson, the Tilers “invaded the town in every part” and found “there were no closed doors to them.” Unearthing a “bewildering wealth of material” in the surroundings, they drew the village’s orchards, hills and valleys, sail loft, pebbly beach, shipwrecks, and residents, including “a great jovial sea-dog with a skin of leather.”

Arthur Quartley sketched A Corner by the Harbor which shows one of the shipyards that graced Port Jefferson’s waterfront during the late 19th century and Alfred Parsons portrayed one of the village’s quaint cottages in A Sea-Side Homestead.

Sketch by Arthur Quartley of a shipyard that once graced Port Jefferson’s waterfront; sketch from The Century Magazine

While the Tilers were so-named for their painted ceramic tiles, they did not limit themselves to this medium, evident in J. Alden Weir’s vibrant Port Jefferson, 1881, a pencil and watercolor on paper.

Before leaving Port Jefferson, the Tilers honored the genre painter William S. Mount by visiting his Stony Brook house, sketched by Smith in Home of the Artist, a charcoal on paper.

Published at a time when Port Jefferson was transitioning from a shipbuilding center to a vacation spot, Laffan’s article depicted the unspoiled village as a haven for artists but also as a tourist destination.

His story in the mass-circulation Century Magazine put Port Jefferson on the map and introduced its readers to the village’s beautiful countryside and harbor, inexpensive accommodations, and rail connections, but most important, to Port Jefferson’s welcoming residents.

Kenneth Brady has served as the Port Jefferson Village Historian and president of the Port Jefferson Conservancy, as well as on the boards of the Suffolk County Historical Society, Greater Port Jefferson Arts Council and Port Jefferson Historical Society. He is a longtime resident of Port Jefferson.

Golfers dressed as caddies at a previous Putt & Pub Crawl. Photo from PJ Rotary Club

By Julianne Mosher

It’s going to be a “hole” lot of fun. 

The Port Jefferson Rotary’s Winter Golf Classic fundraiser is usually held every January, but for 2021 they’re taking it to the village on Sunday, Sept. 12.

The fourth annual Putt and Pub Crawl is a community favorite where golfers from amateurs to professionals can golf inside and outside of nine of their favorite restaurants and bars in downtown Port Jeff. 

“This is one of our biggest fundraisers,” said president of the rotary, Robert Dooley. “It’s a bunch of likeminded people who come out to have fun and support our local businesses.”

The Port Jeff Rotary Club serves the local communities of Port Jefferson, Belle Terre, Port Jefferson Station and Mount Sinai. The club’s foundation gives awards and scholarships to local students, works to alleviate hunger in the community through food drives and collections and helps support local nonprofits. 

According to Dooley, the Putt and Pub Crawl started a few years ago when the Rotarians were thinking of new ways to fundraise and help local people, businesses and the community. Normally held during the village’s off-season, the golf outing is geared to bring business to the restaurant scene during a slower time of the year. 

“Port Jeff in the winter is normally a slower season,” he said. “So we let those businesses kill it in the summer, and if there’s any way we can help create a bump in sales during the winter, we’re there to help.”

That’s when the rotary teamed up with business owners to set up golf holes inside and outside their stores, so people could play, drink and eat in an easy, slow-paced event that appeals to everyone. The first outing was in January 2017.

“We tried to do something a little more active, presented this idea, and it turned out that 100 people came that first year,” he said. 

This year, the event was rescheduled from January to September due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“You go at your own pace to restaurant to bar to restaurant,” Dooley explained. “It’s nothing that’s overly competitive — just having a good time and raising some money in a fun, casual setting.” Each restaurant creates its own setup, and many get creative with it. Some fan favorites include a station outside the Port Jefferson Brewery, Tommy’s Place and one inside Barito Tacos & Cocktails. 

Upon arrival and check-in at Danfords Hotel, golfers receive an itinerary with three drink tickets and appetizers for participating locations. 

Starting at 10:30 a.m. and concluding at 6 p.m., the Putt and Pub Crawl is an all-day event where participants can come and go as they please. The event wraps with a reception where various awards are given out including best dressed team and best and worst golfers.

“People are chomping at the bits to help people and organizations in need, and to have fun with their loved ones,” he added. “This is an opportunity to help the community and have fun while doing so.” 

For more information or to purchase tickets, visit www.portjeffrotary.com. Please note this event is for individuals 21 years of age or older.