Conceived during a difficult time, the local and well-loved Halloween Hayride – now in its 21st year – continues to bring a positive and uplifting spirit to Northport Village, thanks to Dr. Ronald Iannacone and his wife, Janice. The memorable family event is scheduled for this Sunday, October 30, in Northport Village Park.
Ron moved to Northport with his wife in 1996; he opened his podiatry practice on Main Street one year later. As president of the Chamber of Commerce for several years, Ron established himself in a community he believes to be a “terrific place to live, work and play.” Little did he know that after September 11, 2001, he would begin a decades-long – and ever growing – tradition in the Village.
“After 9/11, everyone was just moping around and feeling depressed, so I said to [Janice], we just have to do something. This is just awful,” he explained. Cow Harbor Day was canceled that year, but the Village had already reserved a horse and carriage, so Janice suggested they do a hayride instead. The couple then brainstormed the idea together, adding a pumpkin patch, pumpkin painting and banjo players.
“I went out to Rottkamp Farm with my Subaru and filled my car with pumpkins, and went to Costco to get apple cider and a couple of cases of Oreo cookies. We had refreshments and we had a hayride,” Ron remembered.
Over the years, the annual event has become a small town fall festival, to Ron’s delight. A horse and carriage was used for the first 12 years of the hayride, but after one year with a rambunctious stallion, Ron made the call to use a tractor instead. George Latchford, who is part of the North Shore Veterinary Hospital and Fredericks family, has an old tractor with a trailer and he volunteers his time to take families for a ride around the park.
The event is celebrated the Sunday before Halloween to get kids involved and has become a larger community effort, with Copenhagen Bakery donating cookies and beverages, SweetArts donating candy, and entertainment provided by DJ Tommy Bruno.
This year, there will be a costume contest (with a prize from the Engeman Theater), a petting zoo, and a face painting station, provided by the Northport Historical Society and United Teachers of Northport.
The growing event is made possible by its sponsors, Ron said, which include Northwell Health, Jim Izzo at Cow Harbor Realty, Cary Bianculli at Douglas Elliman, and Ron himself, through his podiatry office.
“It started as a family thing, everyone tried to pitch in. Every year, we try to come up with something bigger and better, to add things for the kids. Because it’s all about the kids,” Ron said.
The Northport Chamber of Commerce’s 21st Annual Halloween Hayride is on Sunday, October 30 from 12-4pm in Northport Village Park. Admission is $5.