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Hal Hayes, APCG Queen Beach DeBree (aka Troy Files) & Dan Lavender, Aqua Fever Producer


In an unprecedented collaboration, the Arts Project of Cherry Grove (APCG), which has for many years held a pair of casino nights as one of its major fundraisers of the season, and the Fire Island Pines Property Owners Association (FIPPOA) joined forces to put on a nautical-themed "Fantasea" casino, during Pines Party weekend. Friends from the Pines and the Grove, as well as mermaids and mermen, pirates, and undersea deities took over Whyte Hall, on July 31 and August 1st.

Notes from Hal Hayes, co-chair:

Casino is a 36-year tradition in the Grove, beginning one year before the Invasion, and it is one of the major Arts Project Cherry Grove (APCG) fundraisers of the season.  The Pines Party is in its 12th year; sponsored by the Fire Island Pines Property Owners’ Association (FIPPOA) it is the direct successor of the GMHC Morning Party, however its true roots lie in Beach 79, the Pines’ first major all-night beach party that raised funds for a new fire truck for the Fire Island Pines Volunteer Fire Department.

Several early Pines Parties had a small casino, operated with the assistance of experienced APCG volunteers, however the tradition had lapsed during the last five years.  This year FIPPOA wanted to bring Casino back, by popular demand from the residents of the Pines, as a key component of the Party that attracts a diverse segment of the community.  Pines Party committee co-chairs Randy Wilson and FIPPOA Vice President Jay Pagano appointed Ellen Feldman and Hal Hayes as co-chairs of Casino; coincidentally Hayes, an architect practicing in both the Pines and the Grove, had recently designed the new Cherry Grove home of APCG President Michael Coffindaffer and his partner Frank Borsas.  Hayes and Coffindaffer began discussing how APCG could support the Pines Party casino, and the idea to collaborate and fully integrate the Grove Casino into the Pines Party was born.

As Josh Wood, the producer of the Pines Party, developed the theme of “Poseidon, an Underwater Spectacle”, Casino naturally evolved into “The Sunken Treasure”.  Both of these themes were made to order for the new APCG Homecoming Queen, Beach DeBree (aka APCG Assistant Treasurer Troy Files), and the amazingly creative costumes of Grove and Pines celebrity dealers.  Wood also secured a sponsorship by Caesar’s Palace Atlantic City, which included a raffle for an all expense paid trip for two at for the “Out in AC” weekend at their resort.

Feldman took charge of licensing the event with APCG Treasurer Mary Difede, and it quickly became clear that State laws for charitable gaming had become significantly more strict in the intervening years.  Liquor service is now restricted to only beer, which made it difficult to place the Casino within the beach encampment of the main event; also the Grove Casino was historically a two-day event which couldn’t be hosted on the beach itself as the main party is disassembled immediately after its sunrise closing.

The perfect solution was to locate Casino in the Pines’ new Whyte Hall community center.  This large facility offered plenty of space and quality accommodations for eight Blackjack tables in the Fradd Theater and four wheels and one board game on the Lepage Deck.  Also on the deck were the main bar sponsored by Corona, a coffee bar and a raw bar with freshly shucked clams facilitated by Anne Candreva of Peter’s Marina Meat Market in the Pines.  Hayes worked with Pines Party designer Stefan Beckman on the décor, which was an extension of the aquatic and classical motifs of the main beach encampment. John Wood was Aqua Fever designer.

An hour before rThere was a line at the door waiting to get in as Casino opened at 9pm on Saturday, an hour before the main beach party; rope lights along Coast Guard walk illuminated the heavily-travelled path between the two venues.

Note from Michael Coffindaffer, Pres, APCG

I am absolutely delighted that our glittering Sunken Treasure Casino will be an enhancement to the party of the season! You can certainly count on your Grove neighbors to bring along our special kind of over-the-top entertainment – a vision of sequins, feathers, glitter and razzle-dazzle that is guaranteed to be a spectacle in itself!

The conngeniality of gambling among friends, including the dealers, makes the casino event a win win situation.

Good fun for s good cause

The confluence of bass booming pulsing disco next door and the excitement of watching the wheel or the dealer’s cards make it a potentially cardiac situation



Queen DeBree lures’em into the casino from the party next door dressed in Sunday’s casual chic



Who could resist this saucy pirate as Martha sells chips


Coco using her claws to “persuade” a perspective customer


Our Queen sporting her spectacles to see the cards better


The imp-ish Hal Hayes who was EVERYWHERE taking care of EVERYTHING!


When‘s the last time you saw a Pit Boss – with a tail?!?




Allen Rogers & Mark Basta invite you to bet the wheel


This delightful twin/pirate helped me earn my fortune


Isaac soon lost his pearls to anyone with blackjack – I unfortunately was not one of them


But I did win at Tony Bondi’s his last blackjack reward necklace eventually – his was the hottest table (doesn’t he look like something out of “BirdCage”?)



Robin Kradles one of our glam hostesses

Deserves a closer look


This charming wench served the gamblers drinks..


That came from Joe S & Bruce Michael’s refreshment table


C’mon, good lookin’ – spin my wheel!



Can I help you lose your money?


Waiting in the shadows…………




Happily playing with himself until the customers came

(what a line!)


 Frank, the money man (unofficial reports state that the Casino in Pines made twice what it does in the Grove)



(note: thanks to Tim Mooney and Fire Island Ferries for comping anyone wearing an admission bracelet to the event)


It’s done! It was a blast!

Queens and volunteers on the way “home”.


Editor’s note: the photos above, taken Sunday, cannot possibly capture the ambience of the ultra chic, formal dressed party attendees and the ultra glam casino hostesses and participants of Saturday night. Temporarily hobbled I was unable to secure transportation Saturday evening to and from the theater, which is a long narrow uneven walk from the dock, due to severe restrictions on the carts, as were some notable Pines’ residents as well as several Grove drag queens who turned back when the walk became too difficult in heels.




We finally got our hands on pictures of the staff at the glamourous Saturday night extravaganza
















 The Dealers