- The place was packed and the joint was jumping. This year organizers of the Koster Memorial Benefit, which is usually held in March, and the Have A Heart Community Trust's annual fundraiser, traditionally held in February, decided to combine forces and hold both events on the same night.
The community convened at the newly renovated Four Seasons Caterers
hall on Prospect Street to support the causes Saturday night.
The wait staff donned their formal attire to shuck oysters and open clams
- a reminder of Paul Koster's occupation as a bayman that earned him the
nickname "The Clamman."
The turn-out reflected the wisdom of the decision. Mindful of the current economic crunch and its effect on household budgets, organizers for both events did not want to force people to choose between attending one benefit or the other.
Everyone turned out a winner on Saturday night where partygoers could also try their luck at the Las Vegas inspired gaming tables and slot machines.
Guests began arriving early keeping the valets busy as others parked along both sides of Prospect Street signaling a party was in full swing on the usually quiet residential street.
The heart of both the village and the town was very much in evidence as Southampton Town Councilman Chris Nuzzi
joined the party along with Southampton Village Mayor Mark Epley
. The Mayor and his wife Marianne
are long-time friends of Jean Mackenzie Koster
. The two women planned the first memorial benefit nine years ago in honor of Jean's husband Paul Koster
who died as a result of injuries sustained in an accident involving a tractor nine on March 15, 2000.
Southampton Town Trustee Edward "Eddie" Warner
was also in attendance. Warner, a long-time friend of Koster and her late husband, is an ardent supporter of the Koster Memorial Benefit. "He was a great guy," Warner, a working bayman, said of Koster who along with Jean founded the Clamman in 1982. The retail seafood shop is still doing a brisk business all these years later. Inspired by her success, Jean jumped in feet first last December when she bought the former John Duck's Restaurant.
Party goers turned out in force for the Koster Memorial Benefit and the Have A Heart
Fund held jointly for the first time to encourage attendance in the distressed economy.
Workman were still putting the finishing touches on the newly expanded facility as Koster and her counter-part Mary Slattery
, co-chair of the Have A Heart organization, readied for the weekend's festivities. With the newly refinished wood floors dried to a high gloss, the party goers danced into the night feasting on fresh clams, oysters and shrimp available in abundance at the buffet where servers were on hand to slice the freshly baked ham and roast beef. For refreshments, the vodka luge was a particular favorite and as the martinis hit the spot, the party goers hit the dance floor.
Among those cutting up the carpet, or in this case the new wood, was Marge Weinhardt
, a lively 85-year-old who freely admitted her age as she sat just a few inches away from the loudspeakers and sang along, "Play that funky music, white boy, play that funky music 'til you die." Weinhardt also sang along to several other tunes, all equally invigorating and foot-stomping with a booming beat that kept your heart pounding. When she wasn't out on the dance floor showing off her moves Weinhardt held court, accepting compliments on her impressive footwork. "I've been doing this a long time," Weinhardt commented.
The Koster Memorial Benefit awards scholarships to Southampton High School seniors seeking to pursue higher education. The Have A Heart Trust Community Fund assists area residents with fuel oil deliveries, rent, groceries and other daily expenditures. Their work is becoming even more challenging these days.
Party goers tried their luck at the Las Vegas inspired gaming tables and slot machines while others participated in a Chinese auction.
"Great party, great people," said William C. Wright, president of Have A Heart as he worked the room clearly pleased with the turnout. "We have a lot of work to do and we enjoy doing it."
As the party started to wind down, Jean Mackenzie Koster
could be found sitting on a comfortable white sectional speaking with guests and thanking them for attending - a hostess until the end. "This was great, Koster said. "Really nice." Then, looking around, she added, "We still have to clean up."
Friends and neighbors gathered to have a good time and help each other as they attended the combined fundraising event.