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  • Debra Scala Giokas

Sayville: A Gem by the Sea

Some years ago I published this article about my hometown -- Sayville, New York -- for a local publication, the Great South Bay Magazine, which unfortunately is no longer in existence. I share it with you here because I think it is important to appreciate the history of where we live and places that give us a sense of belonging.

Sayville will give anyone who asks of it the charm of another time.

During the winter, the scenes are worthy of Currier and Ives prints. Only a few months ago, the Great South Bay froze over, and it looked like the white fondant of wedding cake, like the cake that joins the bride and groom center stage at nearby Land’s End for an outdoor wedding in June. But then the background view is of ferries swimming back and forth to Fire Island, not of seagulls docked, almost asleep, waiting for spring.

But that’s what they do, these seagulls who visit Sayville in the wintertime. They sit still and quiet on empty benches and on top of wooden poles iced into place like popsicle sticks, and they wait for life to come alive again, and they remind us to do the same. It’s as if they tell us, the cherry blossoms will appear and the tulips will say hello and the summer people will be back, busying Main Street. In their peaceful way, they teach us to look at the sky. Winter brings the most beautiful skies across the bay with shades of pink and purple and blue, like the skeins in Rumplestiltskin Yarns.

Then, as promised, spring arrives giving the year round blooming tree in the children’s section of the Sayville Public Library companionship. The clock tower on Main Street counts the minutes and watches, as passersby include the visitors, the newly-moved-in, and the lifelong residents, some event descendants of the ice man, the coal man, and the bartender who first settled in Sayville a little more than 250 years ago.

In 1900 Sayville’s population was 1,954 when the first automobiles drove downtown and Main Street was paved with oyster shells to minimize the dust and mud. Every August, Sayville hosts its Summerfest and that includes a gathering of vintage cars compliments of the Still Cruisin’ Car Club. That’s only one of the many festivals this town holds to celebrate a season. There’s Fall Festival, the Bridal Fest, and Miracle on Main, and let’s not forget the parades. There’s one on Memorial Day, the Saturday after Thanksgiving, and one even for your pets.

The Sayville sign on the side of Main Street Diner; Me and my beloved Bella (who passed away) at a Memorial Day parade; The Chocolatier at Christmastime; Mr. and Mrs. Claus at the parade on Main Street; and the Easter Bunny at Gillette Park; and scenes along Main street in wintertime: Sayville General Store, Kay Cameron Jewelry Store, Fritzche's Bakery, Irish Crossroads; The Catbird Seat and Rumplestiltskin Yarns.

We can’t mention the word Sayville to our Maltese, Bella, without her wagging her tail and panting for the awaited car ride and walk down Main Street, and on banking days, a treat from the drive-through window. It doesn’t matter if you’re looking for the perfect gift or window shopping, the shopkeepers will spend time chatting with you, will get to know your name, and many are dog friendly, too, in this “friendliest town in America.”

In Gillette Park, which was created in 1916, an annual concert called, Margaritaville, brings out the parrot heads. The Rotary Club acquired it and donated it back to the town in 1953. The Park is home to the Common Ground which includes a Reflective Memorial Garden and a gazebo, which is a venue for summertime performances and special events like the arrival of the Easter Bunny.

In the midst of its carnivals and festivals and old-fashioned shops and varied restaurants, there’s history in the winds. Victorian homes built in the 1920s and 30s remind of a bygone time, a time when, let’s say in 1901, a 1500 seat Opera House had been opened on Candee Avenue. If you didn’t already know, the Good Samaritan Nursing Home was the original site of The Davis Inn, built around 1901 and known for its theatrical clientele and good food. For more historical facts on Sayville, don’t miss the Old Edwards Homestead, built in 1790, and now the home of the Sayville Historical Society since 1944. The Society is well-known for organizing the Sayville Historical Holiday House Tour in early December every year.

In the background, there is always the lure of the Great South Bay. Down Brown’s River Road, that’s where you’ll find those fisherfolk. The oystermen and clammers, the coastal schooner captains and sportsmen, and the vacationers. These are the people that Sayville calls to, just as she calls to the seagulls in winter. There’s a conjuring up of something special that speaks to the soul, even when the world seems to not be listening. And especially when the world gets busy, Sayville is a gem that can take you away from your cares and never leave you homesick.

As we progress through our days, our time, it seems as though our wanderlust takes over and makes us feel as though we need to travel far away to find the magic. Yet, we crave places that give us a homey feeling, a sense of belonging. Sayville has a way of tugging at your heart, and if you’re lucky to live here all year long, chances are you won’t want to leave.

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