For Nick Varsames, performing has always been an integral part of his life; he loves it because for him, it is an escape from everyday life. Soon, he will have a chance to perform once again. The Armonk resident has been cast in the White Plains Performing Arts Center’s Stage 2 production of Tuck Everlasting, opening this weekend and running August 2-11.
By Grace Bennett
June 12, 2019, Armonk, NY–Colorful accolades and honorary plaques were presented to four exemplary community firefighters by fellow firefighters and by Elks leader James Comstock of the Mid-Westchester Elks Lodge #535. Last year the Elks honored police officers; this year the focus was on recognizing the contributions of outstanding firefighters.
Dozens of Elks members together with family and friends gathered to honor the recipients and enjoy the lovely ceremony and a delicious home cooked dinner–all of which took place during the 2019 First Responders Appreciation Awards Dinner at the Armonk American Legion Post 1097.
The honorees were called up in the order of most years of service. Ex Chief Mitch Sime, for 62 years of service with the Armonk Fire Department, received the honor for his immense dedication to the department and for his guidance and leadership to numerous firefighters spanning decades of his professional and big-hearted service.
Next, Armonk Fire Department’s firefighter Buddy Schultz, was honored for 52 years of service and called “another staple in our community, a huge asset to the firehouse, a top daytime ambulance driver who ensures people receive life-saving care in a timely manner. Not only is he a firefighter but also serves as a commissioner too to make sure the firehouse runs smoothly.” Firefighter Schultz was also described as one of the department’s top drivers and trainers. “He makes sure everyone stays safe in the process.”
A decorated Marine and 3rd generation firefighter, 1st Lt. William Sullivan, Jr., of the Portchester Fire Department, was honored for his 50 years of service, and also for his many public service and educational accomplishments–including being a nationally certified fire instructor and investigator. After fighting the North Vietnamese army in the Marine unit, Delta Company one Battalion Five, for 10 months and nine days, Sullivan was wounded three times in combat. Following honorable discharges, he became the recipient of two Purple Hearts. His public service includes being the last founding member of the Westchester Fire Emerald Society Pipe & Drum, which escorted the recipients into the lodge (and who later performed Amazing Grace).
A fourth honoree, Richard Constantino, a firefighter for the City of White Plains, “currently oversees medical equipment inventory and deployment as well as communicating EMS protocols,” related a fellow firefighter who said the award was forthcoming after Constantino “was instrumental in two life-saving actions” including ones involving stabilizing a young adult following a drug overdose and another, saving the life of a 4-year-old child with CPR following a food choking incident. “He is a positive role model and mentor for his children as well as for the firefighters he works with.”
Prior to the awards, Elks leader Anthony Gilberti explained the role the Elks play in U.S. history. These honors took place just two days before June 14, the formal, national observation of Flag Day. The Elks is the nation’s only fraternal body to formally observe Flag Day, he said. After explaining the evolution of the U.S. Flag, Gilberti read that “upon its scrolls is written the story of Americans, the epic, the mightiest, and noblest of all history.”
Grace Bennett is Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of the Inside Press, Inc.
There is nothing better than events that allow a community to come together, and once again, the Third Thursday events in Armonk promises to do just that. Five years ago, the Armonk Chamber of Commerce made the decision to start Third Thursdays, a series of events held on the third Thursday of the summer months. These events serve as a celebration of the community, and they bring people into town to listen to music, try new food, shop, and participate in other fun activities. The Third Thursday events showcase the best of Armonk, including the spirit of community, the scores of local merchants, and the beautiful downtown. Because of its connotations with celebration, community, and fun, Third Thursday has transformed into a much-anticipated passage into the summer months.
This year, there will be many returning events, as well as a few new ones. The popular Chili Cook-Off and Car Show will make a return, as well as a kids’ night featuring music, dance, and other children’s activities. Plus, a free evening concert series in the park has been added for this year in July and August. And for anyone who is excited about shopping locally, Third Thursday dates will also be “Sale Days.” Each of these days will feature discounts and specials at participating local businesses.
The Third Thursdays 2019 schedule will be as follows.
On June 20, there will be live music from 5-8:30 p.m. and the Chili Cook-Off from 5:30-7:30 p.m., both of which will be held in Armonk Square. In addition to enjoying the live music, people will get the opportunity to sample the recipes and vote for their favorite chili. July 18 will be even more jam-packed with events, with live music from 5-7 p.m. in Armonk Square, a Car Show from 5-7:30 p.m. at St. Stephens Church, and a free concert in Wampus Brook Park from 7:30-9:30 p.m. Finally, August 15 will feature “Kids on the Town” music, dancing, and activities from
5-7 p.m. in Armonk Square, as well as another free concert in Wampus Brook Park from 7:30-9:30 p.m. The late-night concerts in the park in July and August are a new addition this year, and people are invited to bring blankets, chairs, picnic food, and wine. Plus, the Fortina food truck will be parked there for all to enjoy. Celebrate your community by celebrating with your community during the Third Thursdays in Armonk–they are the summer events you won’t want to miss!
One sunny spring day last month, my family and I packed a light lunch and set out to explore the bucolic beauty of Wampus Pond in Armonk. The expansive pond is certainly the focal point of the park and the first thing you see as you enter. It’s amazing to think that right off one of the busiest roads in the area, such a peaceful enclave of nature exists. Wampus Pond is one of those hidden-in-plain-sight gems that you don’t want to miss. If you’ve never been, may I suggest a visit in the near future–you won’t be disappointed.
Located right on Route 128 in the Town of New Castle and the Town of North Castle, Wampus Pond is a breathtaking jewel of a park. The park offers an array of activities for all–whether you want a bit of an adventure or you just want to sit peacefully with a good book while enjoying nature.
Wampus Pond was named after the Indian from whom the land was originally bought in 1696. The name Wampus means “opossum” and the natural pond was formerly known as Wampus Lake Reservoir. Wampus Pond was once part of the New York City water supply and in 1963, Westchester County bought Wampus Pond and 93 acres from the City of New York.
Recently, a cultural resources inventory was performed which unearthed several Native American artifacts as well as remnants of historically significant residential developments in or near the park. The rich history of the land makes for a truly thought-provoking visit through Wampus Pond. You never know what you may come across or who may have walked the same path hundreds of years ago.
Activities All Year Long
Throughout the year, there are many things for visitors to do at Wampus Pond including ice skating, fishing, boating and bird-watching. Dogs are welcome in the park but must be on a leash at all times and are not permitted in the picnic areas. One activity that many anticipate in the warmer months is the opening of the pond for row-boating. Take a few hours to enjoy a peaceful sail across the pond or pack a picnic lunch and make a day of it.
Rowboat rentals are available on weekends and holidays, Memorial Day through Labor Day, 7 a.m. – 5 p.m. Visitors may rent the boats in the building situated between the parking lot and the water. Boat rentals can be purchased hourly or daily and the fee is discounted for those with a Westchester County Park Pass. Visitors may also choose to bring their own car-top boats but must have a permit.
In addition to the rowboats, there are picnic tables set up throughout the park so visitors may be able to relax and enjoy the serenity of the park’s natural surroundings. Wampus Pond makes for the perfect spot to enjoy a quick lunch-hour break, relaxing in its quiet serenity. Please note the park is a carry in/carry out facility.
As Westchester County Parks Deputy Commissioner Peter Tartaglia says, “Wampus Pond is a fantastic spot for a picnic, to study nature or take a few turns in a rowboat on a beautiful summer day. Its location on Route 128 between Armonk and Mount Kisco make it an easy spot to visit when you’re visiting either or both towns.”
Take some time to visit Wampus Pond throughout the year. In the spring, the buds on the trees start to come alive, while in the fall all of the gorgeous autumnal colors of the leaves frame the pond. Kids and adults alike will enjoy ice skating in the winter while summertime is made for boating. Wampus Pond is one of Westchester’s loveliest spots and it’s right here in Armonk. Plan your visit soon and prepare to be amazed with its splendor.
Recognizable across generations and indisputable in its significance, the Armonk Eagle has proven to be a special symbol in the Town of North Castle dating back decades.
What began as a simple 12 foot by 40 foot structure that was only supposed to grace the town temporarily has become a landmark rich in history. The origin of the Armonk Eagle goes back to 1976, when the town was preparing for America’s 200th birthday.
The entire country was in a patriotic mood then, which made an eagle the perfect symbol to soar above North Castle during its parade that year, Christine Eggleton, North Castle Historical Society president, explained. Originally, it was only supposed to stick around for the bicentennial, but ended up having an extended stay and has been replaced more than once when the elements battered up the previous eagle, noted Eggleton.
When one town administration decades ago was considering taking the beloved eagle down, Eggletown told the supervisor back then he shouldn’t be surprised if there is staunch opposition to that idea. She was right.
“It turned out he must’ve asked a lot of people (about taking the eagle down) and people felt very strongly about the eagle,” Eggleton said.
It’s an unofficial, visual landmark in the town, Eggleton said. When people are giving directions to visitors, they’ll reference the eagle.
“You know you’re in Armonk when you see the eagle,” she said.
Town historian Sharon Tomback said creating the first Armonk eagle was a massive community effort that required several local volunteers, including and most notably residents Arthur Soka, Charles Elson and John Schnoor.
“You’re driving up Route 22 and there’s the flags flying, the lights on the flag on the eagle and it’s a sense of civic pride and patriotism and community all rolled into one,” Tomback said.
Troy Soka, whose father was Arthur Soka, said the original plan was to place the eagle along Route 120 where the bicentennial parade would take place and suspend it overhead, but that proposal was shot down by the state department of transportation, Soka said. The alternative spot was near the IMB property, on the corner of Route 120 and Route 22, which is where the eagle continues to fly today.
“(My father) always made a big deal about how if you drove on Route 22 from Kensico coming from North White Plains when you approach the eagle and get closer to it, it appears to rise up as if it was taking off,” Soka said.
The eagle had a lasting meaning for Arthur decades after it was built. Even after Arthur moved to Florida, he would occasionally ask Troy, a New York resident, if his eagle was still in Armonk. In fact, in the third sentence of Arthur’s 2010 obituary, it states his involvement with the Armonk eagle and a plaque in town commemorates him for his efforts.
Soka said it gratifies him to see that Armonk has embraced the eagle as “its symbol.”
“And now God forbid you took it down, it would be an uproar,” he added.
But in 2013, losing the eagle was a possibility when it was once again in disrepair and the town didn’t want to use taxpayer dollars to replace it, said former North Castle councilwoman Diane Roth.
When a Garden Club member went to put flowers under the eagle, she noticed a piece of the eagle’s wing broke off and was in the flowerpot. Roth worked to find potential private dollars to pay for it and eventually phoned The Engel Burman Group, which owns the Bristal Assisted Living Facility in town. Although the price tag was a hefty $25,000, the donation came through. For the first time, the eagle was made out of steel metal so it could last much longer than wooded predecessors.
“I think it’s one of the iconic symbols of North Castle and America,” Roth said. “Keeping a memory of our past strengthens our future.”
So iconic that eagle symbols are seen on the badges of the North Castle Police Department and the North Castle Beautification Committee has spearheaded putting them on street signs and welcome-to-town signs.
Armonk Chamber of Commerce President Neal Schwartz, who owns College Planning of Westchester in town, said the eagle is one of three symbols that defines North Castle: An apple, Frosty the Snowman and finally the eagle, which is an all-encompassing symbol for the entire town.
Beautification committee member Angela Monforte said the eagle welcomes visitors and residents alike to the community like a “town mascot.”
“It symbolizes small town living,” Monforte summed up.