Motor Parkway was privately built by William Kissam Vanderbilt, a racing enthusiast, because he wanted to use it for auto races. It was the first roadway designed for automobile use only, and opened in 1908 as a toll road
In honor of this and the rich history of Lake Ronkonkoma, the Lake Ronkonkoma Heritage Association is set to hold the First Annual Motor Parkway "Sunday Drive" to Lake Ronkonkoma Parade and Car Show on Sunday, Aug. 7 from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The first official meeting to organize the event was held by the Heritage Association at the last week.
The fun-filled event to celebrate the history of Lake Ronkonkoma is the brainchild of Ellyn Okvist. She is a member of the Heritage Association, the and a charter member of the new Vanderbilt Bridge Restoration.
Vehicles participating in the parade must be from 1948 or before; cars, trucks, military, motorcycles, fire, police, and commercial are welcome.
This year's spotlight is on the Ronkonkoma Fire Department. Attendees are asked to get into the spirit of things by wearing "roaring" '20s period attire (think The Great Gatsby) and red, white and blue decorations are encouraged, which will go with the themes of patriotism and harkening back to a simpler time when there was less emphasis on consumerism, and more focus on a slower pace and sense of community.
"I want a family-oriented town like when I was a child. I'm tired of the hustle and bustle," said Okvist. "I came up with the idea because my family has been here for 250 years in town, and at this point no one really says hello or smiles. I feel it's time to get all groups together under one roof and show what we can really do."
Okvist informed that the festivities have the backing of Suffolk County Exec. Steve Levy. He and the county have pledged to do whatever they can to make this a success.
Leg. Tom Muratore, American Legion Post 155 in Lake Ronkonkoma, , the Vanderbilt Museum and family, the Suffolk County Historical Society, The Society for the Preservation of Long Island Antiquities, the Sachem School District, the Lake Grove Historical Society, the VFW, the , the and Historical Societies, Boy Scout Troop 91 and more are all on board and tremendously enthusiastic about anything they can do to help this new endeavor.
The parade will run six miles: Down Motor Parkway to in Lake Ronkonkoma. The Fourth Precinct will be closing everything down.
The Ronkonkoma Fire Department will be the only department in the parade because the first annual event is to honor the department for all the good they do.
Children will be able to have their picture taken with fire trucks on display. There will be a show mobile courtesy of Legislator Muratore. A marching band and fireworks will be featured for the national anthem, and there may be a full military guard there, as well as a fly over.
The Model A Ford Club of Long Island is already set to contribute their cars to the parade.
"I'm hoping it will be a lot of fun," said Okvist. "I'm trying to recreate that feel [with] cars, people and old-fashioned things going on."
The Heritage Association will be selling slices of pie and cake, but no vendors will be present. There will just be booths set up by local organizations and businesses who will not be selling anything. They will just be holding raffles and offering free giveaways. Booths will also be educating on topics such as the lake's wildlife and the legend of
Okvist said, "We're trying to cut out any of where you go there and feel pressured that you don't have enough [money]. For $20 you'll be able to feed four people and you won't need much more than that."
"I think it's great, us being named the beneficiary," said Dave Cook, chairman of the fundraising department and lieutenant at the Ronkonkoma Fire Department. "Ellyn is great ... I like the revitalization idea. I always wanted to jump on board. We're excited. It should be a really good time."
One of the highlights of the day will be the car, known as "The Black Beast" leading the parade. It is one of the only cars left made with a steam engine. It was built in 1905; and 100 years ago it raced in the first Indy 500. It is one of the only surviving Motor Parkway racing cars in the world.
"It's still like a brand new car. It's going to be a great part of this celebrating the whole Motor Parkway history," said Dale Spencer, curator for the Lake Ronkonkoma Historical Society Museum.