Story by Sara Paul
There are many reasons George Arnott felt at ease at a late summer Warwick community event. He was surrounded by good friends and good food, but best of all, “the politicians waited on us,” he smiled.
Arnott, a U.S. Air Force veteran and retired Warwick Police Sergeant, was one of hundreds of seniors who braved 90 plus degree temps on Tues., Aug. 28 to attend the 30th annual Senior Citizen BBQ in Warwick Town Park.
Before day’s end, several hundred happy mouths were served approximately 1,000 hot dogs and 900 halves of chicken. Many agreed that this might have been the hottest year ever.
The free afternoon event, hosted by the Town of Warwick and the Warwick Valley Rotary Club, calls on volunteers from dozens of agencies.
With all hands on deck, seniors were treated to a sumptuous lunch that included corn on the cob, salad, and dessert. The Warwick Rotary Club distributed iced cold beverages.
Master of ceremonies, Warwick Town Supervisor Michael Sweeton, opened the sunny day with a tribute to U.S. Veterans. Sweeton has been a key player in carrying on the BBQ tradition for much of its three decade life span.
“It’s a way to say thank you to seniors for all they have done for the community over the years. There are a lot of contributions from a lot of folks, and it’s just a really nice day,” commented Sweeton, as he was intently preparing food.
“This is not just about breaking bread and sharing a meal; there’s also a social piece where we get to get together and see our neighbors. Elected officials can also touch base with their constituents,” commented Village of Warwick Mayor Michael Newhard, stressing that the day is “really about having fun.”
Underneath the welcomed shelter of large white tents, surrounded by buzzing fans, guests could be heard fondly reminiscing about old days, good times, and forever friends. They also enjoyed VIP service with young volunteers chauffeuring them in golf carts to and from their cars in the nearby lot.
Arnott proudly sat with the first female Warwick police officer, Maureen Space, who served the Town from 1978 to 2005 and now enjoys a well-deserved retirement.
Arlene Stewart has been attending the BBQ for five years because, “It’s fun and just lovely to be with everybody.”
Arlene sat with pals Vincent D’Esposito, who celebrates his eighth year at the BBQ, and also newbie Marion Potera.
“It’s my first time, and I’m very happy to be here with such nice people,” Marion said.
“We get to meet a lot of people, plus I don’t have to move and the food is good,” smiled George Jones, 55, who relaxed at a table with his wife, Janet, and her son, Loukas Glykas.
“We like helping out and giving some of the other volunteers a break,” said a perspiring browed Captain Paul Arteta, who represented the Orange County Sheriff’s Office and helped distribute cookies.
U.S. Army veteran Joe Urbanski was on hand as the DJ, playing tunes from the 50s and 60s, everything from Sinatra to Tony Bennett and even throwing in some modern Michael Buble and Cotton Eyed Joe.
“It’s a nice, peaceful day, and these are terrific people,” said Urbanski, who has volunteered at the event for about 10 years.
Politicians turned waiters and waitresses were hard at work carrying large metal trays of large plates of food to serve to a hungry crowd.
“I love coming here. It’s always been a great event that brings the community together,” said Orange County Clerk Annie Rabbitt.
Town of Warwick Judge Peter Barlet noted, “The seniors are a great group with great vitality. This is just a fun place to get together and relate to so many people.”
Also present were representatives from the Town of Warwick Friendly Visitor Program, a group that runs a volunteer training program for individuals who are interested in helping assist seniors.
Perhaps the coolest kid on the hottest August afternoon was 67-year-old Ken Scherer, who zoomed in on his motorcycle. Ken attended with wife, Joann, who found other means of transport that day.
A cyclist since age 15, Ken, a Greenwood Lake resident, wraps up a long, hot day in some short, cool words: “It’s laid back. No stress. Nice people.”