In 1990, within the former Port Washington News building on lower Main Street, a grand community tradition was born.
One afternoon, Roy Smitheimer, the President of the Chamber of Commerce at the time, strolled into Andrea Mastrocinqe-Martone’s office, then the Editor in Chief of the Port Washington News, with the idea of the two organizations partnering to create a one-day festival centered around celebrating Port Washington. Through several rounds of brainstorming, the concept of Pride in Port was formed.
From the beginning, the goal of the event was to unify the town, much like Mastrocinque-Martone’s aim when taking over the newspaper.
“When I got the job at the Port News… I wanted to take the paper into a whole new direction. I wanted it to be the people’s paper,” said Mastrocinque-Martone. “I wanted it to be read by every group in Port Washington. And how do you do that? Well, by including every faction of society in Port, which includes the senior citizens, the school district, the fire department, the police department, the Chamber of Commerce, the schools, anybody who lives in Port Washington who cares about its history and retaining its hometown climate.”
With this in mind, Smitheimer and Mastrocinque-Martone worked together to plan the first Pride in Port. A parade was quickly selected as the centerpiece of the fall festival. However, as discussions progressed, they saw the possibility of Pride in Port evolving into more than just a parade. Ideas began to form—from a float competition between the district’s elementary schools during the parade and a field day at Weber Middle School to a senior citizens luncheon to an athletic Hall of Fame induction and an Adult Dance, both held at the high school—and the day of events began to take shape.
“In other words, all these different components spawned just from a conversation between two Schreiber [High School] graduates of 1972 who had prominent positions in the community, the Chamber of Commerce president and the Port Washington News editor,” said Mastrocinque-Martone.
With the framework for Pride in Port set, a committee was put together to further plan the event. Representatives from the Police Department, the Fire Department and all three branches of Port Washington’s schools were included, as well as the Commissioner of Parks and Recreation for the Town of North Hempstead for permitting purposes. Importantly, Barbara Faticone, who would later be the chairwoman for the event, was heavily involved from the start.
“[She] was a Schreiber graduate from I’m going to say 1940 something, and she’s just a wonderful community leader, and we knew that her presence would be instrumental,” said Mastrocinque-Martone.
The planning continued and a date was set for October.
“It [the committee] was a large, diverse group of community people, who all could lend their ideas and brainstorm their ideas to make the first Pride in Port the most amazing thing,” said Mastrocinque-Martone. “We did that throughout the year, and we earmarked the fall to have it because it was shortly after school started and the weather was perfect.”
Mastrocinque-Martone devoted pages in her newspaper each week to promote Pride in Port and its schedule of events. She recalls a conversation with Karl Anton, the founder of Anton Media Group, regarding the sponsorship of the parade.
“I sat down with him and had coffee with him, and I said, ’Look, I’m asking you to give me space in this paper because this is big.’ I said, ‘If you give me the space, I guarantee you’re going to have advertisements, you know, 10 times the amount of advertisements because they’re going to see the merit of this newspaper,’” said Mastrocinque-Martone. “And as it turns out, at the time, he had 26 newspapers in the chain. Do you know that the Port Washington News in one year turned out to be the largest circulation of all the papers and the most financially lucrative?”
Coincidentally, the first Pride in Port coincided with the 90th anniversary of the founding of the Port Washington News, so both were celebrated.
As word spread in the Port Washington News regarding Pride in Port, excitement in the community grew palpable.
“I started to get all kinds of calls and talking with people saying, ‘Hey, this is a great idea,’” said Mastrocinque-Martone. “This was a way to bring everyone together. This was a way to be unified in Port Washington, which is something that had never been done.”
The first Pride in Port began on a beautiful fall morning. Leading the parade was Bob Bartels, the first Grand Marshal and a member of the original committee for the event. Bartels was well-known in the community as an Assistant Principal at Schreiber for 45 years. There have since been grand marshals at every Pride in Port.
As the floats moved down Main Street, the sidewalks overflowed with spectators. At the Port Washington train station, Town of North Hempstead elected officials stood on a platform, overlooking the event.
Participants and dignitaries alike wore Pride in Port T-shirts. The design was selected through a contest organized by Mastrocinque-Martone, and the shirts were available to purchase with proceeds going toward funding the event.
“We got a local graphic artist who designed the first logo which was fantastic, and everybody had those T-shirts and subsequently, every year there’s been a different logo,” said Mastrocinque-Martone.
The day continued with the senior citizens luncheon, which brought together several unique senior groups. The field activities at Weber and the Hall of Fame presentation at Schreiber followed. The alcohol-free Adult Dance in the Schreiber gymnasium capped the day. A local band was hired and around 120 people purchased tickets. The goal was to show Port Washington’s youth that one could have a great time without illicit substances.
“We thought it was going to be the best idea. Well, let me tell you, one hour later, we were at local bars,” said Mastrocinque-Martone. “And subsequent to that, we ended up having it at the Polish Hall with alcohol and food. There were 500 people that came the next year, and it turned out to be one of the best yearly parties of its time, and it was always held on Pride in Port day.”
Pride in Port has only grown since its founding, astounding Mastrocinque-Martone each year.
“My mouth drops when I think that we’re in our 34th year of perpetuating a tradition that was from the ‘90s that we thought was, you know, it could have taken off or it couldn’t have taken off, but it took off big time,” said Mastrocinque-Martone. “And these are the memories that will be instilled in our kids when they go off to college and into adult life… They remember the parades, they remember the camaraderie, the love and the feeling of unity.”