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Riverhead rite of spring comes to an end: longtime organizer calls off horseradish party

2013 0320 danowski peter

A Riverhead tradition of more than 40 years running has come to an end.

The annual “horseradish party” held every year on the Wednesday before Easter since at least 1970, will not take place this year, organizer Pete Danowski told RiverheadLOCAL this week.

“It’s gotten so big, it’s just too much now,” said Danwoski, 67, who has been involved in the gathering since the beginning. (See video.)

The annual spring ritual, started as a gathering of a half-dozen guys in Art Penny’s backyard, where they would peel, chop, grate and prepare horseradish over cocktails, Danowski said. The idea originated with Penny and Don Smith, who were then local reporters covering the courts where Danowksi — then a prosecutor in the Suffolk aistrict attorney’s office — worked.

The party moved from Penny’s house to other homes and backyards around Riverhead and then to the Northwind Farm of Dick and June O’Dea. In recent years, it’s been held at one of the barns at Martha Clara Vineyard.

It’s grown into a gathering of hundreds of people, “more people than we can try to accommodate,” Danowski said. The huge crowds have raised issues like the need for liability insurance.

“There have been so many great times and so many wonderful people, that it is hard to say ‘no’ this year, but I think the time has come,” Danowski wrote in blog announcing his decision to pull the plug on the event. “It was not an easy call.” Read the full post here.

He expressed hope that others will carry on the tradition in the future — albeit on a smaller scale.

“I expect that after this year, different families will buy a couple of bushels of horseradish and start out once again with small pockets of parties, hopefully carrying on a tradition,” Danowski wrote.

“The best that can be said is it is nice to slow down once in a while and gather together out here in the country to appreciate what the farmers do and enjoy the products they produce,” he wrote, adding perhaps “a strawberry-daiquiri party or a sauerkraut-making party might be in the offing in the near future.”

RiverheadLOCAL photos by Peter Blasl
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