By LIZ BUTTON
Rye’s Leaders of Tomorrow program will hold its 20th Summerfest Field Day full of old-fashioned, low-tech activities at Rye Recreation Park this Sunday, Sept. 1.
This year, the annual Labor Day weekend event will feature a local history exhibit celebrating more than 20 years of the local community service organization’s existence. Residents Douglas Carey and Mike Kennedy founded the organization to promote volunteerism through workshops and programs, create a deeper sense of pride in the community’s parks, and, through service and mutual respect, build bridges between generations of Rye residents. “We formed our charter in 1992 after witnessing an increase in vandalism in our parks and growing disconnect between our younger generation and our elders,” Carey said.
As the group grew in membership, the summer of 1994 saw the organization’s efforts to resurrect Summerfest, the end of the summer community event modeled after the community’s William H. Ball Memorial Field Day, which ran from Labor Day 1919 until Labor Day 1979.
The first 10 modern Summerfest Field Days were held at Gagliardo Park until the event was moved in 2004, to celebrate the centennial of Rye’s founding, to its current location at the Rye Recreation Park at 51 Milton Road.
Over the years, Carey, son of former Mayor John Carey, led the group to receive the Westchester County JC Penny Golden Rule Award in Education and the City of Rye Human Rights Award.
Sunday’s Summerfest will begin with the annual old-fashioned baseball game. Additional activities will include booths for face painting, dart toss, bean bag toss, races and contests including the 30-yard dash and potato sack races, the Jarrid Amico Memorial Football Challenge, the Mrs. Byrnes-Mrs. West Memorial Water Balloon Competition, pillow fighting, and a putting contest.
The day will also feature the Jack Nye Memorial “Iced Tea” Wood Racquet Tennis Tournament, hotdogs from The Post Road Market and a cupcake-eating contest with cupcakes donated by Cornerstone Catering. The day ends with the John Carey, Jr. Memorial Music Program with big band music from Scott Wenzel’s Reddy Valentino Orchestra.
This month, Leaders of Tomorrow also began the 21st year of its three-day annual Educational Enrichment Program, which Carey started with the support of the Rye Recreation Commission in 1993.
Now, each year, Carey said, the enrichment program kicks-off with a different theme, and Leaders of Tomorrow coordinates with various co-operating agencies and organizations to put on programs.
Past themes have included “Colonial Rye,” “The Town of Rye Veterans of the Civil War,” “Rye in the 1940s,” “Slavery and the Jay Family,” “The Dublin and Limerick Communities,” “Rye in 1904,” and “Reuse, Reuse and Reuse.”
This year’s theme is “Sustainable Best Practices: In the Garden and Beyond” Over the last decade, the group has brought to life four historic theme-based gardens at notable locations and parks around the city, which group members maintain throughout the year.
This year’s first educational session was held at Gagliardo Park on Aug. 19, where participants toured the garden and learned about its history, ending the day with a meal made from vegetables grown on the grounds.
Two upcoming events will take place at the group’s other vegetable gardens. The first at the gardens at the Bird Homestead on Sept. 18 and the second at the Timothy Knapp House Colonial and Indigenous Gardens in October.
“The group does all of their work by hand, without the aid of any power tools or gas powered machines,” Carey said. “They have been growing a wide range of plants and collecting seeds over 20 years, while using the gardens to educate participants in sustainable practices.”
The club also hosts other annual educational and service-oriented events, such as the July 4 program co-sponsored by the Rye Free Reading Room, where citizens read historical American speeches on the village green.