2009-07-10 / Community

Dozens Attend Riis Park Beach Campfire, Set The Night Aglow

By Vivian Rattay Carter

The Fourth of July weekend got off to a fast start at Jacob Riis Park with a well-attended beach campfire sponsored by the park rangers of Gateway National Recreation Area.

According to Lincoln Hallowell, Gateway Park Ranger-Interpreter, the campfires have been a staple of the three summer holiday weekends (Memorial Day, Fourth of July and Labor Day) for over 10 years. They were originally held on the sandy beach at Fort Tilden, but the location was changed several years ago to Bay 14 at Riis Park, on the sand at the foot of Beach 169 Street, which passes between the golf course and the Fort Tilden fence.

About 35 "campers" arrived with their beach chairs and blankets around dusk as the rangers were getting the wood fire started, welcoming the group, and speaking about the activities and programs Gateway offers. Children frolicked on the sand and adults snapped photos of the rising moon.

Then, the marshmallow toasting began. Participants brought or made their own toasting equipment, and shared with others. Some had the simplest (sticks carved to a point), others experimented with dollar-store metal skewers, and the more elaborate foilwrapped wooden shafts. Graham crackers and chocolate bars completed the dessert package for many.

With the sun down and the moon up, and the fire really blazing, the songfest began. Gateway Ranger Rick Wise and an anonymous volunteer played the guitar, and song sheets were passed around for old favorites like "This Land is Your Land," "Kumbaya," and "Leavin' on a Jet Plane."

An impromptu survey of attendees revealed that only four reside on the peninsula. Looks like one of Rockaway's "best kept secrets." Someone remarked that many New Yorkers have never visited the Statue of Liberty, either!

The next campfire is scheduled for Friday, September 4 at 7:30 p.m. Call 718-318-4300 to make a reservation.

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