Written by Patricia Servidio Friday, 14 October 2011 00:00
The Mill Neck Family Organizations, who operate a facility at 501 South Broadway in Hicksville to assist deaf adults in communicating, hosted its 50th annual Apple Festival at Mill Neck School for the Deaf on Saturday, Oct. 8 and Sunday, Oct. 9, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Throughout the two unseasonably warm fall days, vendors from all over Long Island, including Karl Ehmer meats and cheese, offered jellies, jams, honeys, baked goods to patrons in attendance. Hundreds of supporters were already at the festival at 10:45 a.m. and ranged from infants in strollers to elderly in wheelchairs, and everybody else in between.
Noted guests were present, such as Doug Geed from News 12 LI and Miss Long Island 2012, Jessica Pinckney. Pinckney loaned a hand for volunteers in the Country Store tent, which served fine dried sausages, loaves of freshly baked breads and cookies and the seasonal favorite: apple cake. The apple cake, according to Pinckney and her fellow volunteer, was all but gone in about 20 minutes.
In addition to the apple cake, a booth selling apple pie, apple crumb pie, coconut custard pie and pumpkin pie was on site; pies much larger than your average supermarket variety boasted thick fillings, crumbly crust and an aftertaste reminiscent of your grandmother’s favorite autumn recipe.
Crunchy, spicy pickles from The Pickle People were located directly at the entrance of the fair, with aromas of garlic and brine greeting attendants at the gate. A small table with many volunteers was also selling apple cider by the pint and quart. Thick and golden goodness mixed with scents of spice and sweet apple tickling nostrils of those who partook in imbibing (a non-alcoholic beverage, of course).
Long Island farmers were present with fresh produce, with seasonal delights as corn, potatoes, carrots, beets and assorted squash. Apple of the Year was the Honeygold, a crisp and juicy fruit with a thin flesh and wonderful crunch.
Bags of apples were $6, but the Honeygold was $10 a bag, and came with a commemorative reusable tote to show Long Islanders, who came out in droves, that they, too, were participating in “going green.”
“Broccoli Rob” appeared with his puppet vegetable pals in the Town of Oyster Bay stage area. A 50/50 raffle booth was set up, offering chances for $10 a ticket. Last year’s 50/50 brought the big winner approximately $10,000. The 2009 raffle winner brought home almost $15,000.
Mill Neck Family of Organizations director, Dr. Mark Prowatzke, was on the scene, and sold tickets for food, beverages and apples. One particularly busy booth served seasonal Pumpkin Spice iced coffee.
Dr. Prowatzke graciously offered a few minutes of his time to explain a few details about the Mill Neck School. Celebrating its 60th anniversary this fall, it has been continuously running since 1951 to serve the deaf. Certified programs are being run; new programs are developed constantly at the school. Mill Neck School for the Deaf services clients from newborn to high school.
A preschool integrated program is also available for young children, which includes a group of classmates who are able to hear. This aids in the development of lip reading and interacting with those who are not deaf. There are special education programs for 3 and 4 year olds with special needs or communication challenges that will run until the child enters kindergarten. Hundreds of volunteers were present, staffing every booth so that patrons would not have the inconvenience of waiting on very long lines. T-shirts and caps were available for purchase; volunteers wore the identical shirts and caps with great pride. Earlier in the week on Saturday, Oct.1, a breakfast was organized for these very special people, who took the time from their own lives to assist in bettering the lives of others. ecognized for service of 20, 30 and even 40 years.
As Dr. Prowatzke noted, this marks the 20th anniversary of his service to the school. His 4-year-old granddaughter eagerly quipped, “Pa is the boss of the Apple Festival!” Her exuberance was apparent in her grandfather’s eyes as he proudly spoke of her, and it was further ignited as he spoke glowing words about all of those who serve as counselors, staff and volunteers for the school.
The history of the Mill Neck School is of particular interest. Robert Leftwich Dodge and his wife, the heiress Lillian Sefton Dodge were owners of the estate. Mill Neck Manor, or Sefton Manor as it was known at that time, is a majestic Tudor revival mansion that boasts over 34 family rooms, 16 bathrooms, many guest and service rooms. Built in 1923 by the architectures Clinton & Russel, Wells, Holton & George, the mansion cost approximately $2 million to build. The doorway alone, with its unique hardware, is estimated to be between 400 and 500 years old. Each window alone cost over $10,000. Craftsmen from as far away as Italy and Germany helped to build the manse; the first floor alone took two years to build.
In 1949, a group of Lutheran pastors, known as The Lutheran Friends of the Deaf, had the realization that a school for the deaf should be located on Long Island; the only other school at that time was located in Detroit. Because of uncertainty as to where they would house such a facility on Long Island, these pastors “stepped out in faith”, as Dr. Prowatzke mentioned, and the property presented itself quite quickly. The transaction went smoothly between the Lutheran pastors and the family who owned the estate, which had a price tag of $216,000. Because they did not have enough funding to purchase the school, the pastors had to have others cosign on their loans. The 86-acre property has been immaculately maintained since the purchase, and in 1951, the doors were opened for classes to begin. The pastors’ dream was realized, and the birth of a school to assist those who live in silence amazingly occurred.
United Apple of the Hudson Valley donated the apples in a cooperative effort. Any apples that are not purchased by 5 p.m. on Sunday are delivered back to the co-operative, and these apples are recycled into various beverages and baked goods.
All of the Long Island produce came from local LI farmers and some of it was donated from the East End Farmer’s bureau. Produce that was not purchased by 5 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 9 was donated to Long Island Harvest, as leftovers are never wasted at the school. To know that fresh produce will be donated to those in need and not thrown away is the ultimate charity, as Mill Neck proves that paying it forward is still alive and well on Long Island.
All in all, the Mill Neck Family of Organizations – along with its humbly fearless leader Dr. Mark Prowatzke – is an organization that does not just consider students and their families, but the community as well. It was a day incredibly well spent by many accounts.
Friday, 29 August 2014 00:00
Many would consider it rude to play with your food. That is unless, you’re participating in the Long Island Potato Festival. The event, which was held in Cutchogue, NY, included a mashed potato sculpting contest which was dominated by Hicksville’s Sarah Tsang, who won first place in the youth division.
Contestants were allowed to use any tools and materials to help bring their creation to life. Sculptures were left on display throughout the day and voted on by festival goers.
Thursday, 28 August 2014 00:00
Some students returning to school the first day might see a new face on the bus: Hicksville’s new interim superintendent Dr. Carl Bonuso.
“Every year on the first day of school I ride one of the buses. To see the face of a kindergartener on that first ride just reminds you of why you’re in the field,” he says.
Friday, 29 August 2014 00:00
Somehow LSA, the Levittown Swimming Association, has always been a part of our Hicksville summers. My family’s introduction to the organization in 1975 began when our two older daughters tried out for the Parkway Swim Team, one of the nine teams that competed through July and most of August.
It was no small task for the younger girl, swimming her first full lap in the deep end of the pool to qualify at age six, but both girls made the team and donned the coveted gray tee shirts as the trees cast their shadows over the pool water at the end of practice.
Thursday, 28 August 2014 00:00
I’m convinced that the soul and the center of Hicksville is Cantiague Park. And why not? Every weekend it’s a beehive of activity ranging from tennis matches, hand ball games, basketball and baseball games, swimming, hockey and of course ‘the beautiful game’ called soccer. Cantiague has two professional soccer fields that are perfectly manicured and begging to be played on. And they were. This weekend was the finals of the East Meadow Soccer Tournament which is one of the largest youth soccer tournaments in the nation, sponsored by the US Soccer Federation. There were 18 boys and girls teams in the finals and a large staff of referees.
Two of the refs were Steven Orozco and Randy Vogt who told me how soccer had been growing and has now become the second most popular participation sport in America with 25 million of us watching this year’s World Cup. I also met and interviewed Joe Codispoti who along with Tim Bradbury is the head coach of Rockville Centre United, a U16 boys club. This U16 team has a group of standout players led by Jack Graziano, AJ Codispoti and Pat Basile who have been playing together for six years.