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Mill Neck Hosts Successful 50th Annual Apple Festival

Event features vendors and all things fall on Long Island

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.

For further information about the services that Mill Neck Family of Organizations provides, please call 1-800-264-0662, or email This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .


Jaclynn Demas always loved film and television. She dreamed of having a hand in its creative process. and wanted to shape the moving image. The East Williston resident’s obsession paid off after taking home a Daytime Creative Arts Emmy Award for Outstanding Pre-School Children’s Animated Program last month as producer of PBS KIDS’ Peg + Cat.

“I’ve loved TV and was a movie buff since I was a little kid,” she said. “All I’ve ever wanted to do was make films. I was just upset at how things were made. When I got older, I took a lot of courses in TV and video production.”

Get out your needle and thread, glue gun, beads, and paint. Creative Cups, the popular, life-affirming fund raising event of the Adelphi NY Statewide Breast Cancer Hotline & Support Program, is back. This is the fourth time that Creative Cups has happened on Long Island and allows artists, breast cancer survivors, their friends, family members and others to use originality and creativity to transform ordinary bras into works of art. Creative Cups celebrates the lives of those living with breast cancer and those we have lost to this terrible disease. All are invited to participate by creating an “art bra” or becoming a sponsor.

Fran Mulholland from Hicksville along with her friend Emilia Goncalves decorated a bra for last year’s Creative Cups. Their bra was themed “Celebrating Another Birthday.”


Hicksville High School senior Kyle Carroll recently participated in the prestigious Blue Grey Super Combine in Canton OH. Over 7,000 high school football players are invited to combines sponsored by Blue Grey Football throughout the country. Carroll was recognized for his overall scores and abilities during the one on one drills and was honored to have been chosen as one of 140 athletes invited to the Super Combine at the Football Hall of Fame. From there, a select few will be invited to play in the Blue Grey All-America Bowls in December in Texas and in January in Florida.  

The Super Combine in Canton took place on Fawcett Field at the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The combine featured some of the top football prospects from around the country. Carroll fit seamlessly into the drills as he displayed impressive work with fast feet and hip turns as well as skilled ball handling ability.

Madeline Huffman, a fourth grade student at Our Lady of Mercy School in Hicksville, recently became the New York State Free Throw Champion in the Knights of Columbus Free Throw Competition, 9 Year Old Girls Division at the United States Military Academy, West Point.

Huffman’s journey to the state championship began at her home parish, Our Lady of Mercy Roman Catholic Church in January. The local qualifier was sponsored by the Knights of Columbus Joseph F. Lamb Council #5723. Boys and girls ages 9 through 14 competed, each receiving three warm up shots and 15 free throw attempts.


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