At the end of the day, the sheets of rain and torrential wind gusts that threatened to derail the first ever holiday shopping event billed as Port Night Out, gave way to mild temperatures, carolers and shoppers along a Main Street festooned for the holidays on Dec. 1.
Wednesday's wet start had the National Weather Service issuing a severe thunderstorm warning for Nassau by midday, as wind and rain lashed the area. Event organizers relocated several of the planned outdoor "strolling" activities into the and many merchants scrapped their plans for serving food outdoors. While the torrential rains eventually left the region, local merchants spent the day worrying about the weather.
"We didn't think it would come off," said Elaine Abramson, co-owner of pet emporium . "Between Hanukkah and the weather – but it cleared it up nicely." Abramson hosted Santa for the night, who posed for pictures and dispensed personalized bones to visiting pooches.
Up the block at it was standing room only around 8 p.m. Shoppers mingled, sipping complimentary wines and nibbling on Christmas bark and chocolates. Adelphi college student Alanna Hellman was in the store with her mother getting a jump start on her Christmas shopping.
"I need to go shopping early before I'm broke," said Hellman, as she watched her purchases rung up. "It's good to do it early before the good stuff is gone."
Nancy Haberman was part of another mother-daughter duo in the store, shopping for an engagement gift for a family friend. "The weather threw us off," Haberman said. "We were going to come as a family but we changed our mind because of the weather. But my daughter really wanted to come tonight. We'll come as a family on the 15th," she added, referring to the date of the next Port Night Out.
Many of the shoppers turned the evening into a family outing. "We started at Dolphin, to see the rabbi,' said Jackie Popper, who kicked off her evening with Hanukkah stories at the bookstore.
"Then we went to Stay "N" Clay for paint-your-own-pottery, and then to Lou, Babs & Moogs for teacher's gifts. Next we're headed to for pizza because you can't survive on cookies," she added, watching her children munching peppermint candies.
The teemed with children and their parents as Hanukkah and Christmas stories were read through the evening. Rabbi Jodie Siff of the Reconstructionist Synagogue of the North Shore regaled a large audience with stories including The Runaway Latkes.
Youngsters such as six-year old Elijah Weiss enjoyed the stories and plotted wish lists. "I was mostly wandering around and looking at books," Elijah said. "I want the Star Wars wildlife book." Elijah's father Danny watched his son as he browsed the aisles. "He's trying to buy everything in the store with his 50 cents," he said laughingly.
Across the street in front of , the chorus sang holiday songs in front of a large Christmas tree and menorah.
"We were worried at dismissal when it was pouring," said John Spiezio, the director of the chorus as his watched his students sing. "The quality of the singing is wonderful," observed onlooker Fabiola Knight, who was walking the length of Main Street with relatives visiting from Guatemala.
Throughout the evening, a trolley traversed Main Street, offering shoppers rides from five pick-up spots. Many shoppers elected to walk to better see the shops and their decorations.
Evelyn Heinze and her daughter were eyeing the wares at the Christina Cheng boutique after walking down from the top of Main Street. The duo had already made purchases at and admired the tea cups and designer teas at . "My daughter said 'I didn't realize that there were so many empty stores,'" Heinze said. "Hopefully it [Port Night Out] will help these shops. It feels great to shop locally."
"It's like an outdoor mall tonight," said Schreiber key club volunteer Rebecca Siomoni, who donned an elf hat to walk around Main Street with her fellow elf – Schreiber eleventh grader Olga Kosheva. The pair was tasked with answering questions regarding the evening's entertainment and store incentives.
Port Night Out was organized by the community and business organizations Residents for a More Beautiful Port Washington, the Greater Port Washington Business Improvement District and the Chamber of Commerce. The event organizers called the evening a "success" but are hoping for a stronger turnout for the second Port Night Out slated for Dec. 15.
"It's just the first step," said Mindy Germain, executive director, RFMBPW. "The first step is the hardest, the rain came down, some things got canceled, but the community still came out, and we caught a glimpse of what we can do. Dec. 15th will be even bigger," she predicted.
On Dec. 15, retailers will once again put out the welcome mat with entertainment and incentives for shoppers. will host a fashion show with a charity component. For every purchase of 3 Pearl Jeans, the jean company will donate a pair to charity. Dolphin Books will continue with its Angel Tree, which allows customers to buy books for homeless children on Long Island. For a complete list of participating retailers and their incentives, visit pwcalendar.com/portnightout.html.