12/06/12 10:41pm
12/06/2012 10:41 PM

The Riverhead Chamber of Commerce honored its 2012 “People of the Year” during its annual holiday party Thursday night. The event was held at Vineyard Caterers in Aquebogue.

Here’s what the chamber has to say about this year’s honorees:

Person of the Year

Ray Maynard, Skydive Long Island

“It’s not unusual for Ray to take a leap of faith,” said presenter Tracy Stark James of the Riverhead IDA, the chamber’s treasurer. “So he jumped into Riverhead … and off he flew.”

Business of the Year

Riverhead Raceway, Barbara and Jim Cromarty

“Their business helps drive business to the Town of Riverhead,” said presenter Robert Bugdin of American Tent Company, a chamber board member.

The Cromartys could not attend the dinner since they were traveling to a Nascar event. They did appear via Skype and announced the iconic Indian statue, damaged during Superstorm Sandy, “will be up by Christmas.”

Gold Key Award

Star Confectionery, The Meras Family

“They are a true reflection of the town,” said presenter Tom Lennon of Pine Barrens Printing, chamber director at large.

Brian Stark, who delivered a bit of a roast to the Meras’ said: “The nice thing about Papa Nicks is that you always feel like you’re at home.”

“My parents taught me … you take an interest in your customer,” said Anthony Meras, who then rattled off the regular breakfast, lunch and ice cream orders of a few of the guests at the event.

Agricultural Achievement Award

Long Island Cauliflower Association

“The officers, directors and management of the Long Island Cauliflower Association, some of whom are descendants of its founders, are still committed to the success of the Long Island Cauliflower association and to serving the growers of Long Island,” the Chamber wrote in its program. Chamber executive director Mary Hughes presented the award.

Director of the Year

Carmela DiTalia 

“While always the consummate professional, she always has a fun personality,” said presenter Robert Kern of 2XS Consulting, a chamber board member. Ms. DiTalia is an attorney with Esseks, Hefter & Angel LLP of Riverhead and the secretary of the chamber.

Spirit of Riverhead Award

2012 RHS Girls Basketball Team

“In 2012, we were dazzled by a group of smart and unstoppable girls,” said presenter Janine Nebons of Tanger Outlet Center, the chamber’s president. Accepting for the Blue Waves was coach Dave Spinella, and players Marta Czaplak, Jocelyn Zaneski and Katie McKillop.

Lifetime Service Award

Jesse Goodale, Sr.

“He has lived a life of honesty, integrity and community and it shows,” said presenter Pat Snyder, executive director of East End Arts, a chamber board member. “Riverhead Building Supply is a reflection of its founder.”

11/12/12 3:28pm
11/12/2012 3:28 PM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Skydive Long Island owner Ray Maynard in a 2007 News-Review photo.

The Riverhead Chamber of Commerce has announced the winners of its annual awards for 2012, according to a statement from the chamber.

The chamber chose Skydive Long Island founder Ray Maynard as their Person of the Year. Mr. Maynard, a former U.S. National Parachute Team member and silver-medalist in the 2001 U.S. Nationals, established the Calverton business in 1986. He was named the Times Review’s Business Person of the Year in 2007.

The Spirit of Riverhead award will go to the 2012 Riverhead High School Girls Basketball Team, which won the county title last school year.

Riverhead Raceway will be awarded Business of the Year by the chamber, which will also give the Gold Key Award to the Meras Family who run the Star Confectionary on East Main Street.

The agriculture award will be given to the Long Island Cauliflower Association, according to the chamber. Carmen DiTalia will win the Director of the Year award, while the lifetime achievement award will go to Jesse Goodale Sr.

The awards will be presented at the chamber’s annual awards dinner at The Vineyards on Main Road in Aquebogue on Dec. 6. The event will last from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. and will cost $65 per person or $115 per couple.

07/26/12 3:15pm
07/26/2012 3:15 PM

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | Amber Gandolfo (center) is brought down safely by Manorville firefighters after she and her skydiving instructor (right) became trapped in a tree.

While Amber Gandolfo and her tandem skydiving instructor floated back down to Earth hundreds of feet above the ground Tuesday afternoon, the pair started making small talk. Ms. Gandolfo, a first-time skydiver, told her instructor she would definitely jump again.

Then, she said, the wind picked up.

“We were talking and having conversation up there, and all of a sudden he got quiet and I realized we weren’t where we were supposed to be,” Ms. Gandolfo said. “He did his best to get us over grassy areas … [but] every time we got to a good area, the wind pushed us somewhere else.”

The pair were rescued from a tree in Calverton Tuesday evening after they were blown off course by sudden gusting winds and became entangled in the tree’s branches dozens of feet off the ground.

Ms. Gandolfo, a 25-year-old Massapequa Park native, said she decided to go skydiving with Skydive Long Island to join her boyfriend, who jumps “a few times in the summer.”

[Another jumper recounts his story of being blown off course]

She was nervous in the plane during the trip up, but said the freefall was “exhilarating.”

“You feel like you’re being pushed upwards, like you’re fighting the air,” she said.

Then, after the two deployed their parachutes, the wind blew them into the tree.

“We hit the tree going 20-30 miles an hour and I’m lucky enough to not have any broken bones,” she said. “I am lucky.”

Ms. Gandolfo only suffered minor scratches from the collision.

Four other tandem teams were also blown off course by the sudden storm, said Skydive Long Island owner Ray Maynard. Mr. Maynard said he noticed the wind suddenly pick up, but was too late to stop the teams from jumping.

Manorville firefighters arrived on the scene about 6:30 p.m. and worked to cut away branches to free the pair.

“The scariest part was after the impact with the tree, and you don’t know if you’re going to fall,” Ms. Gandolfo said. “The tree wasn’t very sturdy, we were definitely blowing in the wind.” She said the pair tried to keep things lighthearted, and were joking around to keep calm.

The two were smiling as they were lowered back to safety, but when Ms. Gandolfo made it back to the ground, she became emotional and cried.

“It was a wave of relief,” she said. “It wasn’t an ideal landing, but I made it back to the ground in one piece,”

Her mother, Susan, said she heard about what happened when Amber called her from a cell phone.

“She’s all right and that’s what’s important,” Susan Gandolfo said.

Amber thanked the Skydive Long Island team, who she said did a great job of teaching her the steps before the jump and preventing the crash landing from being worse.

It may be a while down the road, but she even thinks she may skydive again.

“I think people expect me to say no, but I’m not opposed to it,” she said. “I might. I don’t know, maybe I’m crazy. I’m not to shaken up by the experience.”

psquire@timesreview.com