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Apple Festival Continues Tradition

The Historical Society of the Massapequas held their annual Apple Festival last week, and despite the grey skies and a cool breeze, local residents turned out in droves and to enjoy this fun and family-friendly event.

Held on the grounds of Old Grace Church on Merrick Road, the Festival is a combination of apples and apple products (such as pies and cider), as well as fresh produce, all from Long Island-based growers. In addition, attendees can peruse the charming wares offered by local craft vendors, take guided tours of the church and its grounds, and enjoy the delightfully whimsical sounds of the Banjo Rascals band.

According to Bill Colfer, President of the Historical Society, the long-standing event, along with their May Strawberry Festival, serves an important purpose to his organization.

“We’ve been holding the Apple Festival since about 1970,” he said. “It’s one of our major fundraising events to keep the Historical Society going…it’s designed to raise awareness in Massapequa of who we are, what we do, and why we’re here.”

Colfer noted that most people are unaware of the age and history of the Massapequas, and it’s the job of the Historical Society to keep the knowledge of that rich history alive and freely available to local residents.

“Massapequa is the first community on the South Shore of Long Island,” he said. “It was founded in 1696 by a single family that was so rich and so powerful that they named a beach after themselves…Jones Beach.”

John Giovenco, a member of the Historical Society and an active member of the Massapequa community, was manning one of the many craft vendor booths at the Apple Festival, where one could discover all manner of charming knick-knacks and do-dads.

“The money the vendors raise goes to certain causes…it goes to scholarship funds, the museum at Old Grace Church, and we support local charities,” he said. “We also have separate vendors here who pay to use a spot, and we sell raffles…that helps us keep the museum going all year ‘round.”

Late Nassau County Legislator Peter Schmitt was a long-time member of the Historical Society and a familiar sight at both the Apple and Strawberry Festivals, always seen manning the hot dog cart; Schmitt’s presence has been sorely missed since his untimely death in late 2012, according to Colfer.

“Peter was the rock of this organization…he hardly ever missed a meeting,” he said. “As long as we were doing this, Peter would be here one way or another, selling hot dogs or something…he was a really hard-working trustee; he loved the Historical Society and we loved having him. It’s a big loss.”

Schmitt’s widow, Lois, was at this year’s Apple Festival, and has taken over her husband’s hot dog sales duties; she said that Peter has always had a deep love of the Massapequas and the Historical Society…a love that she said she wanted to honor.

“I used to always joke that we would never move to Florida because he would never leave Massapequa,” she said. “He felt that there’s tremendous history here that people sometimes forget about, and that’s important, so I’m trying to focus on that.”

To learn more about the Historical Society of the Massapequas, visit www.massapequahistoricalsociety.org.