The atmosphere at Raynham Hall Museum on July Fourth is always celebratory, but this year it was even more so.
The museum has traditionally been a popular gathering spot on the holiday, a historic place to enjoy free ice cream and a tour of the house museum after the parade. The parade was canceled this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, but that didn’t deter residents and visitors from coming to Raynham for the first community event in the hamlet since Covid-19 appeared. And gathering unmasked for live musical performances and free tours of the new education center and the museum appeared to lighten the hearts of residents and visitors alike.
Rabbi David Rosenberg, of Plainview’s Shuvah Yisrael, was exuberant, having just watched a concert from the Oyster Bay Music Festival, which returned to town, marking its 10th anniversary. One of the members of his synagogue, Chelsea Holmes, performed, Rosenberg said.
“The music was stunning,” he said, adding that he had never been to Oyster Bay. “It celebrated the immigrants that contributed to American history.”
The festival traditionally offers a concert at Raynham, but this year, with the opening of the museum’s education center, the music was indoors. The room was filled to capacity, and the small crowd spilled out the open door onto the porch. People clapped and sometimes sang along. Their enthusiasm was contagious.
“It was fantastic,” said Shahnaz Malekan, of Great Neck. “My favorite was when a man sang “New York, New York.” The music was really wonderful.”
After the concert, people wandered into the education center to either take a tour or experience the virtual reality of 18th century-style portraits that “come to life.” Samuel Townsend, a prominent merchant who bought Raynham Hall in 1738; his son, Robert, one of George Washington’s Culper spies; a slave named Elizabeth and even the enemy, British Lt. Col. John Simco, all share their stories via a new smartphone enhanced-reality app called Digital Tapestry.
“It’s like she’s talking right to me,” marveled Joan Schultz, of Locust Valley. “This definitely brings history alive.”
Outside, Dr. Dale Stuckenbruck was crafting a flute made out of a carrot. The founder of the Long Island Vegetable Orchestra, he traditionally shares his talents at Raynham on July Fourth, wowing adults as well as children.
Using drills, knives and other tools, Stuckenbruck cut carrots, broccoli and asparagus with surgical precision to create mouthpieces and keys that actually worked. He paused to give Aidan Logan, of Oyster Bay, a flute made out of a carrot. “This is extremely creative,” Logan told Stuckenbruck. “I think this is amazing.”
Nearby, the line was long outside the museum, once the home of Robert Townsend, who played an instrumental role in the American Revolution.
The magic at Raynham was that visitors could have it all on the Fourth — a birthday party of sorts as well as a history lesson. Townsend probably would have approved.