Tiffany Scarlato

Posted on 02 February 2011

Tiffany Scarlato

By Kathryn G. Menu

The lifelong Sag Harbor resident and former member of the Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees talks about offering herself up as one of the brave souls participating in The Frosty Plunge at Windmill Beach during this weekend’s HarborFrost, provided she can raise $1,000 to support the Sag Harbor Volunteer Ambulance Corps.

So why support the Sag Harbor Volunteer Ambulance Corps this way? Why not join as a volunteer?
I can’t join. I am too chicken. My good friend Denise Schoen, who is a member of the corps, and I once traveled to France and England together. When we were in France someone was hit by a car right in front of us and Denise, of course, ran towards the guy lying in the road and I ran away from him. She had been asking me for years to join, and I told her over and over again, ‘I can’t, I can’t.’ And she would say, ‘Yes, you can.’ After that day, she agreed, ‘I can’t.’

A number of organizations and volunteer groups have felt the affects of the downturn in the economy in recent years. In terms of the ambulance corps, how has the recession impacted their bottom line?
I know donations through fundraising for the ambulance corps is down 25 percent this year and they need a new ambulance, which is one of the reasons I decided to do this. A lot of people don’t realize much of what funds the ambulance corps is private donations.

Leading up to the event, are you preparing for the plunge? Is there training involved?
No. I am going to put my bathing suit on and hope for the best. I have never done anything like this before. I usually don’t put a toenail in the water until July. I feel like it is better if I don’t spend too much time thinking about it, so I have decided not to worry until I wake up on Saturday morning and my husband turns to me and says, ‘Are you really going to do this?’ My son honestly thinks I am nuts. I will have some support though. My 14-year-old niece, Daja Scarlato, is going to do it with me.

So bikini or wetsuit?
I think I am going with a one-piece bathing suit. I actually already have it picked out and it is ready to go. I did make some grand statements at The American Hotel this weekend that hopefully no one picked up on. For example, that if I raise $5,000 I will wear a bikini.

You launched this campaign on Facebook, and by spreading the word to friends in the community. Why do you think people are so apt to support you in this endeavor? Is it for the ambulance corps or just to see you freeze your butt off?
I think it is probably a bit of both. I am hoping more people do it to support the ambulance corps, but I think there is some secret part of people who are doing it because they would like to see me freeze my butt off.

How much, approximately, have you raised so far?
Honestly, I don’t have a clue. I am not sure if some people are sending checks directly to the ambulance, but I do have a lot of verbal commitments and a lot of people who said they will bring cash by the office before the plunge or even money to the event. I do know that Sag Harbor Chamber of Commerce President Robert Evjen said he has collected $500.

What is your game plan for the day of HarborFrost? How will you mentally prepare and will alcohol be involved?
I am going to prepare myself with lunch and a couple of Guinness at The Corner Bar.

And afterwards?
I am headed back to The Corner for more Guinness. Depending on how cold I am, it might be more than a couple.

This is the first year for HarborFrost, although organizers hope it will become an annual Sag Harbor tradition, alongside HarborFest. Do you see your role this year as being one that could become a tradition as well?
We will see how much money we make for the ambulance corps and how I feel after this year’s plunge about doing it again next year. I will definitely participate in HarborFrost in some shape or form next year. I love that we have events like HarborFest and now HarborFrost — it’s one of the things that makes Sag Harbor special. I am happy the plunge has created some excitement about the event, because I think until recently that was kind of lagging a little bit.

How important is having events like HarborFrost to Sag Harbor, from an economic perspective, but also as a community event?
I hope it has an economic impact. I know a lot of restaurants are participating with a $20.11 prix fixe menu and I do believe the fireworks will draw people into the village — that and hopefully that a bunch of lunatics are jumping in the water at the village beach.
It’s a difficult time and a difficult time of year, so I think this is also just about bringing people together. I feel like I can barely watch the news these days, there is so much going on, it sometimes feels like the world is falling apart. It will be nice to have a community get-together with so much turmoil in the world. I think people take comfort in that, and will come to HarborFrost for that reason alone. At least I hope they do. I don’t want to freeze my butt off for no reason.

Sag Harbor Village seems to be awash in volunteers, from those who serve the ambulance corps to the fire department and local not for profits. As a lifelong resident, why do you think the village is seemingly immune to the kind of apathy we see elsewhere?
I think it is because we have good people here. It is really that simple. I think people want to be a part of Sag Harbor, keep it beautiful, vibrant. The people who live here love Sag Harbor, and we don’t have the kind of issues going on here that you see elsewhere that can sidetrack people from that. Here, people drive down Main Street and they ask themselves, how can I be a part of this community. It is really as simple as that.

HarborFrost will be held on Saturday, February 5 from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. with The Frosty Plunge taking place off the village beach next to Long Wharf at 3:30 p.m. Hot soup will be provided by Phao Thai Kitchen, and hot showers at the Sag Harbor Gym.

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