It’s a fine balancing act for any nonprofit to juggle a realm of events to keep its organization and, in this case, complex afloat, but the Bellport-Brookhaven Historical Society has kept its visibility vibrant with its free, moderately priced and gala happenings, with more to come this year.
“We hosted 16 events last year; five were free, like the local history lecture on Alonzo Chapell, Bicycle Scavenger Hunt and Ice Cream Social, and Christmas Party,” said BBHS president Joan Kaelin. The Authors & Artists series — $20 per person events with wine and cheese — was a hit, as were the big-ticket fundraisers, the annual gala and last year’s added fun event, the All White Dinner Party, where guests dressed in (yep, you guessed the color) and waved their white dinner napkins.
Some of the authors charge for talks, but not all do. “Cara Wall, who wrote ‘The Dearly Beloved,’ whose mom lives in Bellport, donated the proceeds,” Kaelin said.
But whatever is collected helps to maintain and preserve the eight historic buildings on the BBHS property, including its big daddy building, the 1833 Post Crowell House, built by master shipbuilder Hiram Post. So do proceeds from The Exchange Shop, a lively, winsome collection of antique items manned by enthusiastic volunteers, which opens Memorial Day in the Brown Building, adjacent to BBHS’s main exhibit space and headquarters.
Kaelin reaches out to the community for inclusion also.
“Last year we participated with the Brookhaven Free Library, for example, on the bike scavenger hunt,” she said. Also, the opening night and exhibit of the “An Artists’ Place” gala included local gallery Marquee Projects Inc. as well as a Pinajian lend from Gallery 125 and businesses like Pamela Lerner Home & Design featuring contemporary and local artists. A week later during the BBHS Art Walk, there was a student art exhibit in the Pokorny Room; Marquee Projects and Pamela Lerner Home & Design participated again, as well as Circa Something, Bellport Arts & Framing and Bellport Jewelers & Rarities.
“My hope, too, is that more people will frequent the local stores and restaurants here,” Kaelin said. Also, rotating exhibits, including those associated with the gala, are free and a nice attraction for weekend visits as a way to break up a shopping day or just fill the mind with a local history discovery.
Kaelin did the heavy lifting last year with new director Tricia Foley.
For 2020, the roster of events is already halfway set with the following: “A Candlelight Musical Evening,” with Broadway’s & Gateway’s Moesha McGill, on Saturday, Feb. 15 from 6 to 8 p.m.; the Artists & Author series with Gail Collins on Saturday, March 7 at 5 p.m.; Yasmine Ergas on Saturday, April 18 at 5 p.m.; and Preservation Long Island curator Lauren Brincat and executive director Alexandra Wolfe on Saturday, May 2 at 5 p.m.
Kaelin said the upcoming gala will focus on the maritime history of Bellport. “We’ll have a pirate picnic for kids and a bicycle scavenger hunt as well as a pirate walk,” she said.
“Our membership has definitely increased, about 25 percent,” Kaelin noted. “A lot more people know about us.”