HEARTS foundation hosts PortFest

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Courtesy of Ms. Cindy Witkow

Residents for a More Beautiful Port Washington sponsored PortFest, and ran a booth at which children could help paint recycling bins.

Celine Sze, Assistant News Editor

Booths, tents, a makeshift stage, and hundreds of locals scattered Schreiber and the surrounding area to celebrate arts in Port Washington for the first annual PortFest. On May 19, students, families, and community members came together for the fundraising event.

According to the PortFest event program, Mr. Damon Gersh, the founder of the new community organization, HEARTS (Helping Enrich the ARTS), envisioned an event that would “create a fun, outdoor family festival featuring artists, musicians, and performers of all ages from the community.”

The organization began preparations for this event in October. During this time, HEARTS reached out to local artists, businesses, the school district, and other parts of the community to sponsor the event. Among the supporting organizations were Haven Art, iSchool of Music & Art, Wright Music, local band Rock Steady, and the Port Washington Education Foundation.

From 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., events and activities showcased the arts in Port Washington. The festival began with performances from the fifth grade All-District ensembles and several high school ensembles in the auditorium. In the choir room, students from physical education teacher Ms. Nancy Klotz’s advanced dance and choreography class danced to Timbaland’s “Apologize,” and students from the Port Summer Show performed excerpts from some of their previous shows.

Principal Mr. Ira Pernick and Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment Dr. Nicholas Stirling were the masters of ceremonies from 11 to 3, and social studies teacher Mr. Jeremy Klaff and junior Benny Scheckner hosted from 3 to 5. On the outside stages, Schreiber students participated in the Jazz Ensemble and Decadence performed. The members of Decadence are seniors Brian Aronow (saxophone/keyboards), Bobby Katz (guitar/vocals), and Jesse Weil (vocals), and juniors Reed Kalash (drums), Miles Kurtz (guitar), and Nick Sapountzis (bass guitar).

For their last performance before graduating Schreiber, they covered a variety of songs, including an Adele medley and Maroon 5’s “Sunday Morning.” Katz also sang and played the keyboard for The Fray’s “Be Still” with senior Joonyup Yeom, who provided accompaniment on the cello.

“We have played together for over 4 years and performing at PortFest was a great, final high school performance for us. After the final chord of the last song, it became real that we may not perform together for some time to come,” said Katz. “Yet, we are hoping that in future years, we can collaborate to perform again at Portfest. It really was a special and memorable day.”

Students also contributed to PortFest by helping with the planning and volunteering at event-day activities. As part of their Senior Experience projects, Aronow, Katz, and Weil were student representatives of PortFest. Some of their responsibilities included seeking out student volunteers, advertising and raising awareness for the event, attending several planning meetings, and helping on the day of the event to keep it running smoothly.

“I think HEARTS is an excellent organization primarily because it provides opportunities for the arts in the community, which I have been intimately involved in for the duration of my high school experience. Because it was so familiar and important to me, I was really happy to get involved in any way that I could,” said Weil.

On the field next to the track, white tents were spread out on the grass with different activities held underneath them. Near the entrance, PortFest volunteers sold tickets that were used at many of the tents to purchase their goods. Local businesses Frank’s Pizza, Harbor Deli, Mojito, and Ralph’s Famous Italian Ices each had a tent that accepted cash and sold food, snacks, and drinks.

The five elementary schools in the district and Weber Middle School each had a tent dedicated to music or crafts. The Daly and Sousa tents hosted a “musical petting zoo,” where kids could experiment with various instruments provided by Wright Music (the name is a misnomer; there were no animals), and a drum circle, supported by iSchool of Music & Art, respectively. “Ductivities” in the Guggenheim tent let people create their own wallets, bookmarks, bracelets, and tote bags out of colorful and patterned duct tape that cost from one to five tickets.

“I enjoyed volunteering the whole day, mostly at the Guggenheim Ductivities tent, where I assisted kids in making things out of colorful duct tape for them to take home and use,” said senior Renee Cohen. “It was so nice to see so many smiling faces from both little children and their parents who were making a fun craft while supporting a great cause.”

At the Manorhaven and Salem activity tents, kids constructed their own flipbooks and clay creations, respectively. The Weber tent featured “Domino Wearable Art,” where people made necklaces from domino pieces that they stamped and created collages on. The number of tickets for the goods at both tents ranged from two to four.

Additionally, there were tents with services that were free of charge. The Berest Dance Center tent held a “Dance Improv,” where kids and families could listen to stories and witness visual interpretations of them. The Weber Technology Exhibit offered brain teasers and puzzles for people to complete.

All the money that was raised through PortFest directly contributes to the promotion of music, the arts, and the community of Port Washington.

“It will go to enriching the fine and performing arts programs in the schools and bringing in special programs,” said Director of Creative Arts Ms. Sheri Suzzan.

HEARTS is also trying to raise enough funds to eventually renovate the Schreiber auditorium.

“I think that we’re really lucky to have an event that supports Port Washington’s music and arts programs. I feel bad for some of the unfortunate schools who have had to cut out their art programs because of budget cuts,” said senior Jennifer Kim.

The community supported and responded well with the attendance to this year’s first PortFest, which will now be an annual event.

“PortFest itself was an exciting and great event for Port Washington and I expect it to remain an integral part of our community for many years to come,” said Aronow. “To have the entire community sharing the arts on a beautiful day shows how great of a town we live in.”