Photos: Riverhead’s annual horseradish party at Martha Clara

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Ziggy Wilinski of Aquebogue (right) hands out the free condiment to happy customers. SCROLL DOWN FOR MORE PHOTOS.

Hundreds descended on Martha Clara Vineyard with glass jars and plastic containers in hand to have them filled by volunteers who spent hours peeling, chopping, grinding and whirring 20 bushels of horseradish roots into sauce Wednesday.

The annual informal and unadvertised free event was started about 40 years ago by then-Suffolk County prosecutor Peter Danowski and local journalists Art Penny and Don Smith. It started in Mr. Penny’s backyard and later moved to Richard and June O’Dea’s barn on Herrick’s Lane. Four years ago, it was moved to a barn at Martha Clara.

“The difficult aspect now is how to continue the tradition with ever-expanding numbers,” Mr. Danowski said Wednesday. “We have relied upon our wives and girlfriends to do the cooking. We have donations of food from clients and friends. This truly is a small event that has mushroomed into much larger numbers than anticipated.

“Without the efforts of Howie Young, Bob and Dotty Bugdin, Sally and Rick Nemschik, Doug Sowinski, Vinny Sasso and many others, the party could not take place. The younger generation is now taking over. Robbie Bugdin of American Tent Company; Doug Adams, a partner at Young & Young; John Taggart, my nephew who practices law with me; and their friends and business associates have kept this little gathering going.”

Event organizers also accepted donations for the non-profit RSVP, a cooperative spay/neuter organization volunteering its services in the poorer neighborhoods of Riverhead. In existence for 14 years, RSVP has provided just under 3,000 free spay/neuters, and provided dog houses, food, straw in the winter and medical care to neglected backyard dogs.

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