Riverhead holiday light tour shines a light on students with special needs

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted many holiday customs, but driving around to view Christmas light displays is one that can still be enjoyed safely.

And if it’s not already part of your tradition, 2020 is a good year to start. The Riverhead Special Education Parent Teacher Association has orchestrated the first annual Holiday Village Trail to spread cheer and awareness about the organization throughout the holiday season.

Spanning from Wading River to Jamesport, the glittering light displays included on the trail feature homes and businesses with child-friendly lights and decorations.

“This is a reminder that we as a community have to stay strong and remind our kids that even in these dire times, we have to pull together.”

Virginia Scudder

Riverhead SEPTA president Virginia Scudder credits her three children for coming up with the idea, based on their annual tradition of driving to look at lights in their neighborhood.

“One thing about our current state of affairs with the pandemic, unfortunately, is the lack of community,” Ms. Scudder said Thursday. “Everyone’s been so down in the dumps and it’s been rough. This is a reminder that we as a community have to stay strong and remind our kids that even in these dire times, we have to pull together.”

Participants were asked to decorate colorfully with the theme “Together we are better” in mind. Each features a sign in support of SEPTA as well as blue lights to represent children with special needs. Some displays that include flashing lights and music also feature warnings for individuals with sensory issues. While most can be enjoyed from your car, some have incorporated interactive elements including photo ops and helping to decorate a tree.

Residents and business owners listed as stops on the trail made $10 donations to SEPTA and additional donations from the community may be made by contacting Ms. Scudder at [email protected] Money raised from the event will be used for awards and scholarships for graduating seniors with special needs.

In addition, prizes will be awarded to the top three displays, which will be left up for viewing until Jan. 1. “It warms my heart,” Ms. Scudder said. “If it makes someone smile for just a few minutes, it’s worth it.”

The displays are best viewed nightly between 4 p.m. and 10 p.m. Viewers are asked not to touch or move displays and follow current pandemic guidelines while visiting each location—and remember to pack a travel mug of hot chocolate and put on some holiday music for the full effect. Additional details can be found on Facebook in the Riverhead SEPTA group.

Stops on the tour include:

1.  44 Circle Drive, Jamesport

2.  226 Hubbard Ave,  Riverhead 

3.  43 Crystal Drive, Aquebogue 

*Features a photo opportunity with a Dr. Who telephone booth. Please wear a mask and be careful walking up the path.

4. 116 Shade Tree Lane, Aquebogue

5.  51 Church Lane, Aquebogue  

*Help decorate the nativity tree by leaving an ornament with a message of hope and peace on its branches starting Saturday, December 5.

6.  63 Tuthills Lane, Aquebogue

7.  54 Grant Drive, Aquebogue

8.   830 Pulaski Street, Riverhead 

*Features a half hour light show starting at 4:30 p.m. that begins with “Shake Up the Happiness” and ends with “Into the Unknown.” Pro tip: the best place to see the show is across the street in the Long Ireland parking lot by the red barn.

9.   10 Jerome Circle, Riverhead

10.  467 Sound Shore Road, Riverhead

*This display is located mostly in the backyard. Please drive up the driveway and park between 4 and 10 p.m. The path is lit but please watch your step.

11.    92 Williams Way, South Calverton 

12.    82 Mastro Court, Baiting Hollow 

*Please leave a message of love and friendship on the board using the chalk. There is hand sanitizer available or feel free to bring your own chalk.

13. 42 Donna Drive, Baiting Hollow

14. 62 Youngs Avenue, Baiting Hollow 

15. 2141 Sound Ave, Baiting Hollow

16. 8 17th Street, Wading River

17. 5 Cherry Lane, Wading River