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Tooling Around With Mel Warren

For about the thirtieth time, Mel Warren worked as the Arts & Crafts coordinator for the Oyster Festival. This time he did it in a high tech way. While the public was invited to attend the Oyster Festival Oct. 19 and 20, Mel and the other organizers were busy on Thursday and Friday as tents, fences, picnic tables and vendors arrived.

Friday, Mel Warren was tooling around in his new electric wheelchair checking out the work he had done preparing the festival layout for the food court and corporate sponsors.

“I have a lot to do and have to be around to answer questions,” he said. Central to his work was the three arts and crafts tent complex that featured clear plastic on the north facing side, with a view of the harbor. There were also tent areas outside adding to the about 250 vendors taking part in the show.

Mel’s new light blue motorized van was parked outside the tents. The Sunday before, Oct. 13, it had been blessed, by the Rev. Peter Casparian, of Christ Church, after the 10 a.m. service. Paul Rosen, Oyster Festival co-chair spoke at the service explaining that the Oyster Bay Charitable Fund kick started the fund drive for the van by donating $5,000 to get a motorized wheelchair and specially equipped van to help Mel get around in spite of having Post Polio Syndrome. Father Peter Casparian interjected that the church too, had made a donation to the fund, which still has a budget gap. Mel was especially gratified to have Rosen talking about the project. “Paul doesn’t like to speak in front of a bunch of people, but he did say a few words about the project that is still ongoing,” said Mel.

Adjusting for the new mechanized equipment means Mel also has to remodel his garage and home interior to facilitate the machines – things are never easy.

“The chair is wonderful, especially down at the park. The first couple of days I didn’t even bother to get out: I’d open the car door and ask people to come into my office. And on Thursday I was running about in the tents in the chair: it works fine.”

FYI: there is still some fine-tuning to be done on the equipment but he is meeting with the people at Bussani Mobility to do just that.

Bringing In The Talent

Setting up in the Arts and Craft Tent on Friday were  Christine and Jeff Mallouk of Dix Hills decorating a red tinsel Christmas tree with her originally designed glass Christmas ornaments. They sell for $36 each. Jeff was holding up two Sea Horse ornaments, one black and white and a fanciful one in aqua and pink.  A box nearby held gold and black turtles.

Setting up a nearby booth filled with lots of colorful clothes, was Lori Curtis’ dresses for girls and their American Girl dolls. The girls’ dresses come in sizes 2 to 8 but the dolls are one-size-fits-all 18” dolls. She said during the festival she would be sitting at her sewing machine making the clothes. “I sew while I am there talking to people.”

Lori Curtis has been sewing girls and dolls clothes for 24 years. She has been married for 30 years. She began her business when her daughter, now 24, was a baby. “I studied Home Ec. in college. I started making curtains and then girls and dolls clothes. I was a Dental Assistant when people saw me making the matching outfits they asked me for them. At Christmas time I did my first show and sold out and that was when I started the business.”

Every artist has their very own story to share, at the Oyster Festival.

Funding Gap

And as for Mel’s van and chair shortfall, Bev Zembko of the Friends of Mel Warren said, “More donations are expected. People have contacted us and are making them. One person even made an anonymous donation.” This week she expects to have more information to offer.

You can still join in this worthy endeavor by mailing a check to the East Norwich Civic Association, PO Box 126, East Norwich 11732:  Attention: Liane Guenther, treasurer. Please write ‘Friends of Mel Warren’ in the memo area of your check. If you have any questions, please call Matthew Meng at 606-8053.