They weren't fireworks, but red flares whizzed and cracked in one of several instructional demonstrations Sunday at the 75th anniversary celebration in Eatons Neck of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary's founding.
The ceremony, equal parts boating safety instruction and Coast Guard Auxiliary birthday party, gave residents a tour of the Long Island Coast Guard station that patrols Long Island Sound from Port Jefferson north to Connecticut and west to Queens.
"It's not often you get to peek into the life of a man in uniform," Linda Henry, 81, a resident of East Northport, said.
Despite a morning downpour Sunday, dozens of local residents gathered at Asharoken Beach to be shuttled by school bus to the secured Eatons Neck station, usually inaccessible to civilians.
"It's secluded," said Chief Warrant Officer Mark Stauffer, commanding officer of the Eatons Neck station. "Some people don't even recognize that we're down here."
The celebration, run by 30 active-duty members and 100 auxiliary members, began with a fire safety lesson to teach visitors how to shoot a flare.
"It's important we teach families about water safety regulations," said Dan Picard, flotilla public affairs officer and boat crew member.
Picard started three controlled fires on the beach and demonstrated correct ways to use a fire extinguisher. He instructed onlookers not to shake the extinguisher before use, which he said is a common mistake.
"I learned that you can't always trust a fire extinguisher, you have to call 911 too," said Caroline Hines of East Northport.
Hines, 11, and her brother Patrick, 9, were waiting on a line to use the fire extinguisher.
"We like to teach youngsters as early as we can," said Frank Lewis, an auxiliary flotilla public affairs officer from Oyster Bay.
Local residents were offered a viewing of the Eatons Neck Lighthouse, the oldest on Long Island except for the Montauk Point Lighthouse. They also got to see the communications room, which can send and receive signals from its radio tower.
Guests were not allowed into the lighthouse, Stauffer said, because the narrow, windy staircase and damp, stuffy atmosphere within the 215-year-old landmark made it risky to have dozens of people at once. The structure, added to the National Registry of Historic Places in 1973, is 75 feet above sea level, Stauffer said.
"The light stays on every day and night," he said, except during power outages, because its backup generator was destroyed in superstorm Sandy.
Later, the Eatons Neck auxiliary band welcomed speakers with the national anthem, followed by other well-known tunes, such as "Yankee Doodle" and music from "Star Wars."
"The Coast Guard Auxiliary has a mission waiting for everyone who has a desire to help out," Division Cmdr. at Eatons Neck Joe Orlich said. Scott Martella, a representative for Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, presented a proclamation recognizing the Eatons Neck station's 75 years of service.
An earlier version of this article misidentified Joe Orlich’s title.