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Morgan Park Summer Music Festival Celebrates 50 Years

On Saturday, July 5 Morgan Park Summer Music Festival was alive with music as it celebrated 50 years of providing free concerts to the public. Exactly 50 years from the date of the first concert, close to 500 people came to Morgan Park to hear the Nassau Pops Symphony Orchestra play a delightful program filled with light classics and popular tunes. The weather was perfect and the music divine.

As befits any organization reaching an important landmark anniversary, the evening began with Executive Chairman Marguerite Suozzi receiving a number of proclamations from local politicians, including ones from her son, County Executive Thomas R. Suozzi and her nephew Glen Cove Mayor Ralph V. Suozzi. Proclamations were also received from U.S. Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, U.S. Congressman Peter King, NYS Senator Carl Marcellino and NYS Assemblyman Chuck Levine.

Morgan Park was donated to the people of Glen Cove in 1932 by J.P. Morgan in memory of his wife. But it was not until 1959 that then-Mayor Joseph A. Suozzi — father of the County Executive and wife of Marguerite — proposed free concerts to provide the lively activity that would make the park a true center for the community. He enlisted the help of Mrs. Richardson (Laura) Pratt. Morgan Park Summer Music Festival was born beginning with one concert that first summer, expanding over the years to offer performances every weekend in July and August.

Eventually the park’s charming gazebo proved to be inadequate for some of the larger concerts so under the direction of Marguerite Suozzi, a team of volunteers came up with the strategies that raised money to build the beautiful stage that greets everyone as they enter Morgan Park. The stage was funded entirely through private donations.

No public money is used to support the concerts. The budget is met entirely through the efforts of the advisory council and executive committee. The executive committee encompasses longtime members such as Margaret Minnick and Nancy Epstein who, with Marguerite Suozzi, have been pivotal to the organization’s governance for decades and others who are newer supporters, bringing new talents to Morgan Park Summer Music Festival. Speaking of the longevity of this all-volunteer organization, Mrs. Suozzi, the festival chairperson since the 1970s, said “So many families have grown up with the opportunity to see live music and theatrical performances in this idyllic setting.”

Morgan Park Summer Music Festival will continue to celebrate its 50th anniversary throughout the summer. It will host its annual Young Performers Concert on Saturday, July 11 – featuring not only winners of this year’s competition but also several from the past including the 2004 and 2005 winner — singer and actress Nikki Blonsky who went on to star in the movie version of Hairspray opposite John Travolta. The following night brings the U.S. Navy Concert Band from Newport, Rhode Island. Both concerts begin at 7:30 p.m.