Tag Archive | "harborfrost"

Having a Ball at HarborFrost

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Matt Giuffirida and a frosty ice blue rum punch made specially for HarborFrost and the first Frost Ball, to be held at Muse next Friday, February 8.

Matt Giuffirida and a frosty ice blue rum punch made specially for HarborFrost and the first Frost Ball, to be held at Muse next Friday, February 8.

By Emily J. Weitz


When Muse in the Harbor hosted a party in the heart of HarborFrost weekend last year, it was its introduction to Sag Harbor. Chef and owner Matt Giuffrida may have enjoyed several years in Muse’s original Water Mill home, but he always dreamed of opening a restaurant in his favorite East End village – Sag Harbor. A year ago, it finally happened. Perhaps that’s why Giuffrida, now an active member of the Sag Harbor Chamber of Commerce, wanted to be the one to host the inaugural First Frost Ball this year.

The weekend will be filled with wintry festivities, but the party will all kick off around the giant fish tank in the main dining room, with frosty ice blue rum punch cocktails served in goblet-style glasses. Passed hors d’ oeuvres will include tuna lollipops with a wasabi candy on top, vegetable spring rolls, pulled pork in a blanket (Giuffrida’s take on the classic mini hot dog appetizer), and mini sliders. For a restaurant that specializes in creative ways to taste a wider variety from the menu (read: Tuna Ménage a Tois and the Three Little Pigs), passed appetizers are a cinch.

This time of year, the local sourcing that Muse strives for gets a little trickier.

“We got the very last bag of local potatoes from Jimmy Comfort over in Water Mill,” says Giuffrida. “We got produce from him ‘til he ran out. When the bay scallops were in, we were pulling all we could.”

But in the darkest days of winter, only a few local resources remain.

“Our blowfish on the menu is local,” says Giuffrida. “I bought 200 pounds of local blowfish, and we portioned and cryovacc’ed it, so we will have them for the rest of the winter season.”

But primarily, the focus of the restaurant shifts to what people really need in the depths of an East End winter — food that is a little familiar.

“People gravitate towards comfort food in the winter,” says Giuffrida. “You want to walk in to a nice, cozy restaurant and have something that’s gonna warm you up. Our two best sellers right now are the turkey meat loaf, which has craisins and roasted carrots in it, and the braised short ribs.”

They haven’t completed the menu for the Harborfrost Ball and the weekend to follow, but Muse will be open for brunch, lunch, and dinner and will have specials in honor of the festivities.

“HarborFrost was our first day last year,” says Giuffrida, a little bit wistfully. “We didn’t know what to expect, and that kind of set the tone. People were really excited to have us here even though the history of this building was hit or miss. We were received with open arms and it was a good feeling. I guess this is our anniversary.”

The First Frost Ball will kick off Friday evening at 6 p.m. with revelers expected to celebrate until about 10 p.m. Included in the cost of the ticket are an open bar with “local legend Jimmy Mac” serving specialty cocktails, as well as unlimited passed hors d’oeuvres, door prizes, a raffle, and live music.

Tickets are $65 for members of the Sag Harbor Chamber of Commerce and $75 for non-members. They can be ordered by visiting http://frostball2013-es2003.eventbrite.com.

The event will support the Sag Harbor Chamber of Commerce, which joins The Sag Harbor Express in hosting this year’s HarborFrost celebration. The Sag Harbor Chamber of Commerce also hosts mixers, dinners, and, of course, the annual Sag HarborFest weekend in September.

HarborFrost is a celebration of Sag Harbor in the bleakest month of February, and Giuffrida wanted to be a part of it.

“We’re staying busy throughout the winter because of the locals,” he says. “Sag Harbor is a tight knit community. What happens in Sag Harbor stays in Sag Harbor. Everybody supports the local businesses and it’s important for us to do the same. On my day off we eat at Il Cappuccino and Sen. Everybody stays open because of it. That local support is a big part of our success.”




Sag HarborFrost 2012

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Chilly Dip

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By Andrew Rudansky

Diving into the icy cold waters surrounding the East End during the frosty winter months is not the most comfortable way to spend an afternoon. But take it from me, just because plunging isn’t the most relaxing experience, doesn’t mean it can’t be enjoyable and rewarding in its own right.

As the self-proclaimed, resident expert in winter swimming at The Sag Harbor Express, I have personally taken chilly jaunts into the bays and oceans off of Long Island many times this winter. A recent convert to winter swimming, my first plunge was the result of a bar bet this past November. But losing that bet might have been the best thing for me.

The number two in the country Alabama Crimson Tide was hosting the number one LSU Tigers on November 5 in a college gridiron classic that was to become a preview of this year’s BCS title game.

In an effort to make the game more interesting, a bet was wagered with the loser made to strip down and take a dip into the chilly November waters.

I said “Roll Tide,” but after a brutal 9-6 Alabama loss the tide rolled me as I splashed about in the dark waters of Noyac Bay.

Without a doubt I am an awful gambler, and since that chilly night in November I have bet my way into the chilly waters on close to 20 different occasions. What I did not expect was the benefits that my poor gambling skills, and the subsequent plunges, would have on my health.

Winter swimming has been practiced for years across the globe. Many in Finland enjoy the occasional therapeutic ice swim, members of the Coney Island Polar Bear Club have been taking winter dips for over a century, and the devotees of the Orthodox Church in Russia celebrate the feast of Epiphany with a quick dunk beneath the ice.

“I think overall, if you don’t have any serious medical conditions, this swimming [in the winter] is generally pretty safe,” said Dr. Anthony Knott M.D.

Dr. Knott said he is a great proponent of cold water plunging, adding that he jumps into the waters near his office on Main Street, Montauk on a weekly basis. He is such a fan of the practice that he has recommended the practice to some of his patients for the associated health effects.

“It reduces stress hormones, it increases your white blood cell count, bolsters the immune system, and it increases your blood circulation by increasing the blood thinning enzymes,” said Dr. Knott. “Also, from a mental health point-of-view, it clears the mind.”

He said that those with heart conditions and serious asthma should use precaution when plunging, as the freezing temperatures could cause complications with either condition.

This Saturday, February 11, the entire town will get the opportunity to experience the exhilaration of winter swimming at this year’s HarborFrost celebration. The Sag Harbor Volunteer Ambulance Corps will be hosting their second annual “Frosty Plunge,” a charity event intended to raise money for the EMT ambulance fund.

The plunge is set to occur at 3:30 p.m. next to the windmill, near Long Wharf; the corps is asking for a $25 donation to participate.

For those people taking part in the upcoming “Frosty Plunge” let me first say that you never get used to the shocking experience, however, there are some tips to help ease into the experience.

Surviving the icy water requires a mix of informed preparation and healthy amount of willpower. With plenty of both, any dip into the bay can be an invigorating and not-to-painful experience.

For those looking to take the plunge, there is much to do before even stepping foot on the sands.

Coming prepared is of the utmost importance, so bring a bag with a warm hat, gloves, a comfy sweater and plenty of dry towels, the more the better. Most importantly make sure to bring a pair of sandals or water shoes, as the cold sand can be the worst part of any plunging experience.

This year, Phao will be offering hot soup at the beach, and the Sag Harbor Gym will open its doors for the use of its showers for the plungers. Take advantage of both after getting out of the water, and drink as much hot cocoa as you can get your hands on. Getting as warm as possible after the plunge is important to avoid mild hypothermia, a risk that Dr. Knott said was possible if someone is exposed to prolonged, cold temperatures.

As for willpower, a plunger’s state of mind is extremely important before getting into the water. It is a challenge to ignore every iota of human instinct about self-preservation, and hurl your entire body into the freezing cold water.

“When you are standing there on the beach you ask yourself ‘why am I doing this,’” said Andrew Ward, co-founder of the Shelter Island Polar Bear Club and winter swimming enthusiast.

Ward and the other members of the club jump into the waters off of Hay Beach, Shelter Island every Sunday at 12 noon, starting each winter on January 1.

“Obviously this is not for everybody,” he said, “a lot of people don’t like feeling uncomfortable.”

The actual plunging should be approached like tearing off a Band-Aid. It is best done quickly, and with little hesitation.

“You just have to start running,” said Ward about plunging, “and then you have to just pull the trigger.”

HarborFrost, now in its second year after a highly successful inaugural showing, is a winter festival meant to bring the residents of Sag Harbor and the surrounding hamlets together.

Hosted by The Sag Harbor Chamber of Commerce, HarborFrost is a time for residents to express their love of Sag Harbor, as well as their acceptance of the winter season they are forced to endure.

Of all the many events at this year’s festival, and there are many, the one that I won’t be missing is the “Frosty Plunge.” Hope to see all of you there.

No Snow, But Get Ready to Ski

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By Deborah Skinner

Last year, we had had 35+ inches of snow by this date. This year, we have had none. You may not be sledding but there is still a full January/ February calendar with plenty to do.

How about a ski trip? There is still time to reserve a seat for a ski and snowboard trip later this month. The Southampton Youth Bureau is hosting the trip to Belleayre Mountain on Saturday, January 28, for ages 12 and up. The $80 fee includes transportation, all-mountain lift ticket, lunch and a free beginner lesson. Equipment rental is another $25. The chartered coach will leave Red Creek Park (Hampton Bays) at 4:30 a.m. and returns to the park around 9 p.m. Chaperones will be provided by the Youth Bureau. Space is limited! Ski reports say, as long as it is cold, they will make snow, so call 702-2425 for a registration form or visit them online at www.southamptontownny.gov. On the main page go to Department Directory and scroll to Human Services/Youth Bureau. Sign up sheets are also available in the Community Room at Pierson. Sign up today!

Last week, the Southampton Town Youth Bureau held auditions for the next Hampton Idol. All singers must be residents of Southampton Town. This year, the Hampton Idol gala competition will take place closer to home on Saturday, March 24, at Southampton High School from 8 to 11 p.m. Admission is $10. For more information please call 702-2425. Transportation will be available.

There are more than 75 enthusiastic Pierson middle school students working very hard on their roles and behind the scenes of “Grease.” Come see Danny Zuko, Sandy, Rizzo, Kenicke, Frenchy and the whole gang; a cast that truly love their roles, as does each and every member of the crew. The middle school extravaganza is always a family favorite. Show time on January 26, 27, 28, is at 7 p.m., and on January 29 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $7 and on sale at Pierson’s Main Office (between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m. during school days) and will be at the door.

HarborFrost is coming back again, bigger and better in year two. Events will take place on Friday and Saturday, February 10 and 11 in downtown Sag Harbor. Friends of the YARD Program will start the weekend with a HarborFrost Gala Party at Page @ 63 Main (formerly Spinnakers) on Friday, February 10 from 6 to 10 p.m. This event, for adults 21 and over, featuring music, dinner “by-the-bite” and a “Basket Auction,” will benefit YARD, which sponsors programs for youth on a year round basis. So tell your folks to support the Beach Program and other year round programs which we all hold so dear, by ordering tickets at 725-5302 ext. 750.

HarborFrost will feature music all around the village beginning Saturday at 11:30 a.m. Later, on Long Wharf, ice sculptures will be created and at 3:30 hearty souls will bravely take on the Frosty Plunge behind the Windmill. Don’t be afraid, jump in! And thanks to an early winter sunset, there will be Grucci Fireworks at 6:15 p.m. Saturday’s outdoor events will be held on Sunday, should it rain.

Congratulations to Sam Miller, a senior at Pierson High School, who has been named an INTEL semifinalist. We are always proud when we have a student from Sag Harbor receive this honor.

Each year, as the reality of “thinking green” becomes more important, we realize cutting down trees for all those shopping bags and books and flyers is not a great thing. Happily, we can announce another wonderful publication is now available online: “Sag Harbor for Kids” at your finger tips by going to http://www.sagharborkids.org. Congratulations to the Sag Harbor Youth Committee for their dedication to this effort.

There is a section in this little booklet called “When Help is Needed.” It can now be reported that there is a new Alateen Meeting available in Bridgehampton. The program is for ages 12 to 18. Alateen is a fellowship of like minded peers who share their experiences. The weekly meetings will be held at St. Ann’s Church on Thursday afternoons from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. For more information, you may call 631-786-0368 or 793-0074.

The YARD advisory board is looking for additional board members (adult and youth) to lead and strengthen our programs. We need you to decide the trips and events you’d like to see offered by the YARD Program. Presently we are working on a fun event for Pierson parents to benefit their children and could use your help. And students can earn community service hours and leadership skills, which will be a part of their resume. If you can contribute time, thoughtfulness and leadership one evening a month, please call Richard Kudlak at 379-3970. For more information on YARD contact D. Skinner at 725-5302, ext. 750 or email: YARDDirector@aol.com.

HarborFrost Announced for 2012

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By Claire Walla

Riding the coattails of last year’s well-attended event, this year’s HarborFrost celebration was officially launched this week. And according to Sag Harbor Chamber of Commerce member Robert Evjen, it will up the ante over last year’s inaugural fest.

In addition to fireworks over Long Wharf and ice sculptures on Main Street — both events are returning in keeping with the event’s “Fire and Ice” theme — Evjen said this year the event will also incorporate a three-and-a-half-hour set of live music, which he referred to as “Musical Brunch.”

“The bottom line is we wanted to extend the day over last year’s half-day event,” Evjen explained. The music will begin around 11:30 a.m. and last until 3 p.m. when the rest of the day’s activities will begin, starting with the first ice sculpture carved on Long Wharf. “We wanted to make it a full day this year and entice people to come down to the village early for brunch.”

And, of course, live music.

The musical portion of the day is being organized by Kelly Connaughton, head of the Sag Harbor American Music Festival (which, like HarborFrost, also made its debut in 2011). Though the details are still being hashed out, Connaughton said the morning will include performances by at least five artists (most likely local), who will play music in the various shops and businesses on Main Street.

The businesses will pay to host the artists and, Connaughton added, that fee will be partially supplemented by the Chamber of Commerce, which Connaughton said she hopes will give the businesses further incentive to pay for a show. In addition to providing live entertainment and bringing shoppers to Main Street, Connaughton added, “It will be great for us to get musicians earning some money in the lean winter months.”

So far, she said she’s received verbal commitments to host music from Page at 63 Main, Phao, Lifes’tyle and BookHampton.

As for the main attractions, Evjen said the fire dancers will be back this year, whipping strings of fire for a crowd at the foot of Long Wharf. Evjen said the Grucci family is already committed to doing the evening’s fireworks show and Fear No Ice will be here again this year (chain saws and all) to create two new ice sculptures on Main Street. The sculpting — to take place at 3 p.m. on Long Wharf and 4 p.m. behind the Civil War monument on the southern end of Main Street at the Madison Street split — will bookend HarborFrost’s fundraising Frosty Plunge, at 3:30 p.m.

In addition to making a mass of bodies shiver and teeth chatter, the event will raise money to benefit the Sag Harbor Ambulance Corps. Last year’s event attracted a crowd of more than 50 participants and more than 100 spectators, according to Evjen. While TV personality Matt Lauer (a Noyac resident) and Southampton Town Attorney Tiffany Scarlato (a Sag Harbor native) wowed crowds by bracing the cold at last year’s plunge, to shake things up this year, rumor has it the Sag Harbor Village Trustees will challenge Southampton Town officials in a race to raise funds for the plunge. (That’s just what we heard.)

As of yet, the 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. slot has not officially been filled with an event, but Evjen said this will most likely include some sort of race along Main Street. Whether this includes dog sleds or bed sleds — both ideas have been floated (the Chamber is currently looking for volunteers willing to conceptualize and organize the event)—the hypothetical race will in some way spotlight the HarborFrost King and Queen.

New to HarborFrost this year, the Sag Harbor Express will be organizing a contest for which those so inclined are encouraged to submit the names of individuals they believe should be crowned HarborFrost royalty. Details will be provided at a later date. (Check back in on our Facebook page for more.) Also, yoga instructor Hailey Schmitz will be hosting a candlelit yoga session at the Sag Harbor Gym Corp. and Dodds and Eder will organize an evening art show.

This year’s event will take place on Saturday, February 11, with a rain date slated for Sunday the 12. Don’t worry, the weekend is sandwiched right between the Super Bowl and President’s Day weekend.

“Last year we planned HarborFrost during Super Bowl weekend, and we didn’t contemplate a snow date or a rain date,” Evjen explained.

When inclement weather threatened to rain on last year’s parade, Chamber members were caught in a pickle. (Fortunately, the rain that came down didn’t deter festival goers from enjoying the day.) This year, Evjen said they’re prepared.

“Our main concern is the fireworks,” he said. Evjen estimated the cost of the fireworks display would be about 60 percent of the event’s overall budget, which is currently estimated at around $10,000. (Last year’s HarborFrost cost about $7,000 to put on.) He added that this year’s fireworks display is expected to be even longer than last year’s.

“Although last year there was inclement weather,” Evjen continued, “The general atmosphere was great. The idea is to build upon that this year.”

HarborFrost a Success, Despite a Light Rain

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A little cold rain didn’t deter more than a thousand people from popping open their umbrellas and pulling up their hoods to help Sag Harbor celebrate the winter in the inaugural HarborFrost on Saturday. Visitors to Main Street were treated to the art of ice sculptors Fear No Ice who carved a throne on Long Wharf resembling the fluke of a whale descending into the water.

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At the other end of town, in front of the offices of Corcoran Realty, they created an Eskimo family just right for local families to have their pictures taken with.

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About 500 people stood along the shore at the windmill and lined Long Long Wharf to watch several dozen people toss themselves into Sag Harbor’s chilly waters in the first Frosty Plunge. The event helped raise money for the Sag Harbor Ambulance Corps. Among the participants was NBC newsman Matt Lauer, and village trustee Robby Stein. Former Village Trustee Tiffany Scarlato also made good on her pledge to take a dunk, and arrived at the beach in her mink, a bright red one piece bathing suit and — remarkably — a deep tan. Scarlato, who is now an attorney in private practice, reportedly raised $750 through her office to benefit the ambulance corps. To make the chilly swim more palatable, Phao restaurant provided hot soup to anyone who took the plunge, and the Sag Harbor Gym opened its doors to allow them hot showers. Fran Nill was on hand to provide hot chocolate.

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Local restaurants were crowded with revelers and diners, many taking advantage of special menus for the day. Their crowds were augmented by the participants of the Culinary Stroll — easily identifiable by the creatively designed chefs hats each stroller wore — which wound its way through five of the village’s dining spots. The stroll, sponsored by the Sag Harbor Hysterical Society, raised money for a local woman who is struggling to pay medical bills.

In addition to special deals in restaurants and local shops, BookHampton hosted a Quiz Bowl trivia contest and Bay Street Theatre hosted a jazz jam.

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Rounding out the evening, the crowd was treated to The Fiery Sensations, a dance troupe who performed on Long Wharf with blazing batons. The crowd then pressed further down Long Wharf to watch fireworks explode over the water. The HarborFrost was largely organized by the Sag Harbor Chamber of Commerce, and funded in part from donations from local businesses. The Chamber has already begun planning for next year’s event.

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Fear No Ice at HarborFrost

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The Icemen Cometh to HarborFrost

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Scott Rella

Carving Frozen Sculptures Enters the Realm of the Theatrical

By Annette Hinkle

While most artists strive to create art for the ages, there is a whole other class of artist for whom creative expression is more about the moment.

There’s something poetic about art forms that aren’t meant to last. Sidewalk murals, mandalas, sand castles — all are ethereal creations which in a very short time, are blown or washed away by the forces of nature, their existence made more precious by the fact it was so fleeting in the first place.

At this time of year, it’s easy to imagine another example of an impermanent art form— the ice sculpture. Carved of the strongest of winter’s materials, it takes only the subtle heat of the first less than frigid day to turn it into a melted memory that fades away as quickly, or slowly, as the weather dictates.

Scott Rella knows all about that. The founder of “Fear No Ice!” (one of four ice sculpting companies he has created) Rella has been working with the cold stuff since 1981 and has made quite an art form of it. He lives in Vail, Colorado now, but got his start in ice sculpting right here in his native New York.

Initially, Rella, who attended the New York Academy of Art, started out by sculpting more traditional materials – clay and marble. Then while he was working as a chef, a fellow chef asked if he had ever worked with ice.

“I started and that was it,” says Rella. “My first piece was at the Waldorf Astoria and they used it. It was a basket, which is always everyone’s first piece. I started getting into more challenging pieces right away.”

Within a few years, Rella had created ice sculptures in Rockefeller Center and as part of New York City’s Ice Expo, and his future as an ice sculptor was cemented.

“I never went back to marble sculpting,” he says.

But Rella is coming back to New York — this weekend, in fact, when he and sculpting partner Peter Slavin visit Sag Harbor to show off their talents at HarborFrost. Make no mistake, these guys (along with a third partner, Kevin Roscoe, who won’t be making the trip to Sag Harbor) are among the best in the world and in fact, have taken ice sculpting to a new level. Rella and his fellow ice sculptors have been in world competitions as far away as China, and have even created sculptures as part of the Olympics.

“Soon, we’ll be able to add Sag Harbor to the list,” says Rella.

Artists with a flair for the theatrical, “Fear No Ice!” is about more than just creating impressive ice sculptures, though they are masters at that. Half the fun is witnessing the sculptors in action. In fact, “Fear No Ice!” is really an ice performance troupe. Often wearing all white gear, Rella and his team offer dramatic and comedic elements as they turn huge blocks of ice into unique works of art (think Blue Man Group with chainsaws and chisels).

“The boys don’t talk – but they just do incredible stuff really quickly, in 25 minutes, and blow everyone away,” explains Rella. “People watch in total amazement.”

“None of it’s rehearsed. Every show we sculpt is different,” adds Rella. “Once we figure out what the show is and how big we are going to make it, we storyboard it on paper. But to the audience, it’s always a surprise.”

So what can audiences in Sag Harbor expect to see on Saturday?

“Peter and I are going to bring a bunch of ice, we’ll stack it up and then we’ll carve it,” explains Rella. “On one end of Main Street, we’re planning to make a throne where people can sit and get their photos taken.”

At the other end of Main Street by the Civil War monument, Rella notes the final frozen product will be a surprise.

What we do know is that the sculptures will be made of ice provided by Rella’s own company (Ice Sculpture Designs, Rella’s first firm is in Deer Park, N.Y. and is now run by his sister. It produces about 145 ice sculptures a week for weddings and other events in the area). Rella has installed special ice making machines all over the world that supply the raw material for his firms’ sculpting ventures. Rella explains that pumps in the machines circulate the water so there is no oxygen in it — a requirement for making the kind of clear ice preferred for sculpting. Each sheet weighs 300 pounds, and depending on the sculpture, preparation can involve stacking a few hundred of these sheets atop one another, or just a few.

“We create ice lounges, and we’ve done a lot of big structures,” he says.

So is there anything that Rella and his team can’t make out of ice? What is his favorite thing to sculpt these days?

“Pretty much everything’s possible,” says Rella. “I’ve been sculpting since March of ’81. It’s been 30 years. For Peter and myself, what we’re into changes and has a dozen times. There are things I would’ve never sculpted 15 years ago because I thought they were boring, or not challenging and are now interesting. Like any artist, my interests change and my focus changes.”

“From an artist’s perspective, I’m into things in public spaces now — like a series of giant ears I did along a river, or a giant shell with a spiraling wall around it that represents the past and present — millions of years ago, Colorado was under water.”

“When people say ‘That looks out of place,’ I say it really isn’t. It’s the buildings that are out of place,” explains Rella. “I’m into seducing them — getting people to ask ‘Oh, it’s five ears, why did he sculpt that?’ And I say, ‘Are you listening?’”

This Saturday, February 5, the chainsaw sculpting talents of Fear No Ice! take place at 3 p.m. on Long Wharf and at 4 p.m. at the far end of Main Street near the Civil War monument.

Fire in the Sky: Grucci Fireworks for HarborFrost

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Sailfest - Grucci

By Annette Hinkle

Fireworks are as American as apple pie and baseball, and like those other traditions most often associated with Fourth of July.

But on Saturday, as part of HarborFrost, a pyrotechnics show will be offered at the end of Long Wharf at 5:45 p.m. Fireworks in February? It’s not commonplace, but because the show will be presented by Fireworks by Grucci, the Brookhaven firm whose name is synonymous with fantastic displays — it’s likely to generate a fair amount of winter oohs and ahhs.

Grucci producer Philip Butler admits that is unusual for his firm to offer fireworks at this time of year, but he expects it to be a great experience for those willing to brave the cold.

When you think about it, there are a lot of benefits to winter fireworks —the sun sets early, so the show can begin well before dinner time. And let’s face it, after the winter we’ve had so far, a lot of us could use a bit of cheering. That, Butler says, is something Grucci can surely do. While he stresses this will be a relatively small show by Grucci standards — a City Class program running around six minutes — Butler promises it will be a good one.

“In this case I’m thinking an all white scene over the water would be very dramatic,” he says. “In the winter it’s that much more stunning.”

Though firework displays here are viewed as a fairly literal interpretation of “the bombs bursting in air” referenced in the Star Spangled Banner, their origin can actually be traced to 12th century China when they were purportedly invented to scare away evil spirits. It was another Chinese invention – gun powder — that gave the fireworks the lift they needed to break the bonds of earth.

Today, the goal is not to scare people away, but bring them together, and Butler explains that no matter the size of the show, there’s a certain protocol.

“Much like any entertainment, there’s always an opening,” explains Butler. “And then the program settles into scenes and those may be of different colors — red, white, green or gold. Then there’s a finale. ”

The color of each individual firework is a matter of chemistry and the different metal salts used determine the specific colors that are seen in the sky.

“Red, white, blue, green, yellow — those are the five primary colors and other hues are combined exactly as they are with paint,” says Butler. “To make red, you use a compound of strontium and your blues are copper compounds. The green is barium. The chemicals are of a fine baby powder constituency to make stars, which are the individual points of light.”

“Purple is the most difficult color to make, and almost always the most expensive,” explains Butler who has found that despite the endless color possibilities, white remains a crowd favorite.

“It’s so stunningly beautiful,” he says. “That’s why it’s always been popular. All white scenes draw the most ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhs.’”

Though designs have changed, the practical realities of getting fireworks into the sky hasn’t, and in order to launch and break the shells, black powder (gun powder without the graphite) is used.

“Fireworks are almost ageless, having stayed exactly the same in the manufacturing and display mode,” explains Butler. “What has changed is the firing sequence.”

That, explains Butler, is done electronically now — from control panels similar to audio boards like those used for concerts.

“Because of electronic firing, the old fashioned ‘light ‘em up,’ isn’t done anymore,’ explains Butler. “It’s just like with electricity in a house, if you have 15 switches, you need 15 wires.”

“In this case, you need wires for every shell,” he says.

And how many shells will there be Saturday? Butler’s keeping mum on that one.

“You don’t want people to concentrate on the number,” he says. “It’s what your eye tells you.”

Tiffany Scarlato

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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.