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America’s First Valentine Card Inspires the First Valentine Fair

Visit Oyster Bay, the Home of America’s First Valentine to Raynham Hall’s Sally Townsend

Ewa Rumprecht and Jolanta Zamecka of Think Long Island First said, “Within minutes of sending our first announcement of the Show the Love Valentine Competition we have received enthusiastic letters from prospective participants. We are thrilled with the response.”

The invitation to the competition said, “Love is all around us in many shapes and forms, and this Valentine’s Day a special competition will give local artists and budding artists-to-be a chance to show what love means to them in the way of the time-honored tradition of the Valentine.”

As she spoke on Dec. 29, Harriet Clark, Raynham Hall Museum executive director, was finalizing the elements of what will happen a month from now. It all begins with their annual benefit which is on Feb. 10.

“The benefit will be held again at the Creek Club in Locust Valley. The theme is the Roaring Twenties and the invitations have a graphic of the dancing Alice Four from our exhibit on the Four Alices in the Weekes family. We are hoping people will arrive dressed in the color red,” said Ms. Clark. “The next days, Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 11 and 12, there are events happening throughout the hamlet and the final evening of the fair is Feb. 14, Valentine’s Day.

“Dottie Simon [Oyster Bay-East Norwich Chamber of Commerce Beautification chair] is lining up restaurants, which will include Canterbury Ales and Jack Halyard’s – so far. We are offering a package deal/Valentine gift through Raynham Hall and any of the participating sites. It includes viewing our Valentine exhibit with a glass of champagne and chocolates; and dinner or brunch packages as well as a goodie bag including items from Chrison & Bellina and the Chocolate Lady,” she said.

To be flexible, the package is offered with dinner for one person with add-ons per person so you can bring the whole family along to the events. It is early in the planning and no price has been set as yet.

“It’s an easy package deal and a reason to come to the home of America’s first Valentine,” said Ms. Clark. “It’s a soft opening for the Valentine Fair and we will probably expand it next year. This year the Oyster Bay High School is participating with a Valentine poetry contest in the form of a Japanese Haiku. Think Long Island First is having a Valentine art contest and hopefully a lot of the shops will be open late that weekend with decorations in their windows,” she added.

That day she was going to Dodds & Eder to get strings of red lights to decorate the museum.

“We’ll have a crossroads banner that will go up near the Theodore Roosevelt statue and the chamber is providing great big red hearts that will combine with the snowflakes on the poles. Over time this should really be a neat thing!

“I’m also talking to the Oakcliff Sailing Center about having a fun party on Saturday night called Love Boat where you could go and have drinks and dance for maybe 50 bucks or so. I will try to get in touch with Dawn Riley today.

“It’s wonderful that everyone is working together. Well- to have a successful hamlet, it’s imperative. Everyone has to work together.

“The new exhibit at Raynham Hall Museum will include our collection of Valentines. Unfortunately, the original First Valentine from Lt. Col. Simcoe to Sally Townsend disappeared early in the 1900s. But we have documentation of it in history books from the 1840s, 1850s, although sadly not the original,” she said.

“What we do have is the entire text and a funny little drawing of two interlocking hearts with his initials and her initials with arrows piercing it and blood drops dripping down.

“The two famous lines from the card are, “to my heart I must resign. Choose me for your Valentine,” she said.

Later that day, Ms. Clark said she talked to Dawn Riley who was in Miami between the holidays and said she will think about it but is not committed to doing the Love Boat party. She added, “This is going to be even better next year. It’s like curry: you put it in the pot and the next day it is even better.”

Valentine Art Contest

The Show the Love Valentine Competition, sponsored by Think Long Island First, will give entrants the chance to win the heart of an admirer on this special day — and maybe walk away with the grand prize in the contest as well.

The competition will be judged by an esteemed jury comprised of three Long Island artists: photographer Alan Henriksen, painter Susie Gach Peelle, and wood turner Harry Wicks. Like the game of love itself, each entry will be judged on creativity and execution - as long as it is from the heart, it qualifies.

Show the Love Valentine Competition will coincide with the first annual Valentine’s Fair in Oyster Bay, Celebrating America’s First Valentine, and all things love..., organized by Raynham Hall Museum, Oyster Bay-East Norwich Chamber of Commerce, and a group of other local businesses.

As things are being planned, the public will have time to enter the Valentine Art Contest. Participants can draw inspiration from America’s first Valentine, penned in Oyster Bay by British officer Lt. Col. Simcoe, stationed at the Townsend family’s homestead (now Raynham Hall Museum) and given to the Townsends’ daughter Sally. Although the original Valentine disappeared in the 19th century, the text captures his feelings for her:
Fairest Maid, where all is fair
Beauty’s pride and Nature’s care;
To you my heart I must resign
O choose me for your Valentine!

“Show the Love Valentine Competition“ is open to students, competent amateurs and professional artists ages - 14-18 (Young Adults) and 18+ (Adults) for entries created on Long Island in varied media. Entry submission period is between Jan. 1 and 31.

In Young Adult section
1st Place - $25 and $25 Think Long Island First gift certificate;
2nd Place - $15;
3rd Place - $10; and
Popular Vote - $10.

In Adult section: 1st Place - $50 and a $25 Think Long Island First gift certificate;
2nd Place - $35;
3rd Place - $20;
Popular Vote - $20.

Winners will be announced the evening of February 9th. Award ceremony takes place at Think Long Island First at 36 Audrey Avenue, Oyster Bay, NY, on Sunday, Feb. 12 between 2 and 3 p.m.

 Entry for submission: Jan. 1 – 31;
 acceptance notification letters will be sent by Feb. 3;
 delivery of accepted work: Feb. 4 to 8; Winner announcement will be made the evening of Feb. 9;
 Popular vote, in person: Feb. 10 to 11; Popular vote winner announcement: evening of Feb. 11
 with an Award Ceremony on Feb. 12.

Please review the rules of the Show the Love Valentine Competition and submit your entries.

“Best of luck and let love reign!” said the Think Long Island First team, located at 36 Audrey Avenue, Oyster Bay. It is dedicated to promoting goods made on Long Island by local artists and craftsmen. By selling things made locally, Think Long Island First lowers the environmental footprint by removing the long distance delivery of products. The company also lifts the barrier of anonymity and non-accountability by introducing to the general public not only the local products but also their makers. Call 584.3155 for more information.