Opinion

From a Rye oldtimer

Mark your calendars on Sunday, Sept. 3. At the Rye Recreation Park, the Leaders of Tomorrow Educational Enrichment Organization, founded in 1992, and the Rye Recreation Department will host the 24th annual Summerfest, a field day of fun for kids of all ages.

The Summerfest field day is an event which brings together hundreds of Rye’s residents from 1 month old to 101 years young, which is modeled after the old William H. Ball Field Day which ran from Labor Day 1919 until Labor Day 1979. Local residents Doug Carey and Mike Kennedy, who had founded an educational enrichment organization to promote community service through all­volunteer workshops and programs, decided to try and resurrect the “end of the summer community event” that so many generations of Rye residents had enjoyed.

The first ten Summerfest field days were held at Gagliardo Park from 1994 to 2003, and to celebrate the centennial of Rye’s incorporation as a village in 2004, the Leaders of Tomorrow organization moved the field day to its current venue at the Rye Recreation Park, or affectionately known by longtime Rye residents as “51 Milton.”

The Summerfest is an afternoon of old­fashioned, low­tech activities, including booths offering face­painting, bean­bag toss; races and contests, including the 30­yard dash, potato sack races, a water balloon competition, ice cream eating contests, a bare­handed wooden bat baseball game, and a wooden racquet tennis tournament; a local history exhibit; and finishes with the annual honoree ceremony and two hours of live music.

Jerry and Martha McGuire have graciously donated and supplied the hot dogs and fixings for every Summerfest that has taken place in Rye. Cold water along with Longford’s Own-Made Ice Cream and the traditional Rye Fire Department “spray” keeps everyone cool and refreshed during the day.

Over the years, many Rye residents have been honored during Summerfest during a ceremony that has taken place toward the end of the field day, oftentimes during the intermission of the live big band music program. The first honorees were the 1938 New York state runner-up Rye Colleens softball team; each attending member was presented with a scrapbook of their season compiled by the students of the Leaders of Tomorrow Educational Enrichment Summer Program.

This year’s honoree is a longtime community service leader and resident Ralph Vellone. Mr. Vellone has been involved in numerous activities, and for more than 25 years organized and directed one of the finest summer baseball opportunities in the entire nation for local student athletes that were trying to continue at the collegiate and/or professional level. For many years, it was simply known as the Rye Pepsi Tournament, or affectionately as Mr. Vellone’s tournament.

Leaders of Tomorrow also has sponsored an annual educational enrichment summer program for 25 years; created and maintained four public gardens; has donated, planted and cared for more than 50 trees in Rye, mostly at Gagliardo Park; and has organized a variety of specific all­volunteer activities such as the annual Fourth of July program at the Rye Free Reading Room and other service projects that try to “build bridges” and strengthen the ties that make Rye such a healthy community to live in.

All prizes for the Summerfest are donated by local residents and merchants. Hundreds of Rye residents have volunteered over the years to insure the success of the Summerfest, striving to fulfill one of our goals: that every “kid” goes home with multiple prizes.

All events for the Summerfest, including the John Carey Jr. Memorial Music Program featuring the Reddy Valentino Big Band Orchestra, are free to all Rye residents. This is due in large part to the unselfish generosity of local residents who donate and those who volunteer their time, both of whom demonstrate how much they care about our community. We hope that you will consider making a donation of prizes or to sponsor an event or activity for this year’s Summerfest. For more information, please call 996-5082 or 967-2535.

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