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For one family, Nathan's hot dogs become a New Year's tradition

Facing camera from left: John Schmitt, Marc Young,

Facing camera from left: John Schmitt, Marc Young, Eric Falcone Kelly Falcone and Patricia Young (partially hidden). Backs to camera from left: Kathy Dooley-Schmitt, Theresa Spadanuta and Steve Spadanuta. All gather for the family tradition established forty years ago of eating at Nathan's on New Year's Day, January 1, 2015. Credit: Newsday / Audrey C. Tiernan

Marc Young spent $43.36 Thursday on seven hot dogs, fries and sodas for his wife, two daughters and their husbands.

In this family, hot dogs on New Year's Day is a long family tradition.

Since 1976, the Young family has gathered at a Nathan's Famous on Long Island on the afternoon of the first day of the new year. Daughters and in-laws come, too.

"Every family should have some kind of family tradition," Young, 62, of Floral Park, said as he sat with 12 other family members at a Nathan's in Westbury, where the group started meeting in 1981.

Young's brother-in-law John Schmitt added: "We take a step into the simplicity of life, the calmness of life."

Only sicknesses, work schedules, a pregnancy and a honeymoon have hampered full family attendance at the 2 p.m. lunch date each New Year's Day.

Well into her 80s, Young's mother, Libby, came three times before she died in 2012 at age 94. She told stories of buying 5-cent hot dogs and sodas, and 10-cent fries as a teenager from Nathan's in Coney Island.

"It's a generational thing," Young said.

In 1976, Young, his then-fiancee, Patricia, and her two sisters started the tradition when they ate lunch for $7.85 at a Nathan's in Oceanside because no other restaurant was open on New Year's Day.

In 1981, they started meeting at the Westbury Nathan's, a franchise opened two years earlier by businessman Franklin Frank. It is still owned and operated by two generations of Franks. The Youngs had alternated between Oceanside and Westbury in the early years. Since 1997 it has been all Westbury.

"I don't even know why it keeps going this long," joked Young's wife, Patricia, 62. "It's fun. It's interesting that people keep showing up."

In 1987, the family visited Young's father-in-law in the hospital and went to Nathan's later in the day.

Marc Young, who is also the family-appointed social director, knows who attends every year because he keeps handwritten records that are now tattered.

After checking his records, he said there were a few ties for attendance records over the years.

Only Young and Schmitt's wife, Kathy Dooley-Schmitt, both part of the original crew in 1976, have made it every year. Patricia Young missed once, when their middle child was sick.

The Youngs' oldest daughter, Jeanne Spadanuta, 34, has a perfect 35-year streak. She first went when she was 4 months old.

Another daughter, Kelly Falcone, 26, missed attending when she was sick one year and her wisdom teeth were extracted another year. And last year, she was on her honeymoon.

Young's other daughter, Liz Lanza, 33, who lives in Staten Island, was absent Thursday. She and her husband are expecting their first child, a girl, this month.

Frank's grandson, Brian, the restaurant's general manager, put the family in a party room with balloons. He offered them free dessert.

And next year?

Marc Young said he wants to keep the tradition going. He hopes his children will, too.

"I plan on coming back when I'm on my deathbed," Kathy Dooley-Schmitt said.

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