When Bayville became an incorporated village on March 26, 1919, the entire population may not have been as large as the crowd at an event held in St. Gertrude’s Parish Hall last Saturday. Spirits were high among the nearly 400 people who came to mark the village’s 100th birthday, including children, the elderly and everyone in between.
“Could the founding fathers ever fathom that this 1.5-mile strip of natural wonder would develop into a community of 7,000 residents, 1,900 families and 2,500 homes?” Mayor Bob De Natale asked. “The village footprint is quite small, but the story of its residents is huge.”
The hall was festively decorated, and lined with tables filled with all manner of memorabilia from a variety of organizations, with the purpose of illustrating Bayville’s storied past. The second-oldest business in the village, Wall’s Wharf, was represented, and there were many old photos, including one of Bayville Fire Company’s first firehouse.
There were also 77 works of art on display, created mostly by Locust Valley Middle School students, some adorned with congratulatory ribbons.
In the corner of the room, an 18-minute historical documentary from 1971 — originally made on Super 8 film, but with a separate videotape — ran continuously, as did a video of interviews conducted by Locust Valley High School students of seven elder Bayville residents. The students created the film, too.
Rita Malagone, 94, was one of the residents interviewed by the high school students. She described the students as “lovely kids.” “I told them at the end of the interview to take a tip from someone who has lived almost a century,” Malagone said. “Follow your dreams.”
Her memories of Bayville long ago include lying on the beach, swimming and boating, but also the beauty that surrounded her. “Nowhere else is there a more beautiful sunset,” she said. “At the Creek Club, with a drink in your hand watching the sunset — now that was living.”
Nassau County Legislator Josh Lafazan, an independent from Woodbury, described Bayvillites as extraordinary people who have made the village what it is. “When the chips are down in Bayville,” Lafazan said, “people rally around each other.”
Trustee Bob Nigro said he was pleased with the event’s turnout, and added that it was amazing how many generations remain in the village. “People like life in Bayville,” he said. “We don’t always agree, but there’s a consistency here.”
Michael Murphy, who manages the bar at Wall’s and is a cousin of the owners, agreed. He’s seen many generations of families at the restaurant, he said, describing it as a meeting place. He has worked at engagement parties, wedding receptions and funeral lunches. The village is a popular place to live, he said, which has given Wall’s, once a seasonal establishment, reason to be open year-round, except on Christmas.
Saturday’s celebration, the first of many events planned to mark the centennial, was coordinated by Bayville Centennial Committee co-chairs Carol Kennedy and Al Staab. De Natale thanked them, along with Bayville Historical Society Director Dave Rapelji and Rena Bologna, the co-chairs of Saturday’s festivities.
As the event neared its conclusion, children surrounded a large cake decorated with blue icing as well as edible shells and sand. Nearby, adults lingered patiently, waiting for bottles of Champagne to be uncorked. Then, after everyone sang “Happy Birthday,” thunderous applause erupted — and it was time to celebrate some more.