For Setauket's Maria Bacchi, a year of waiting, hoping and wishing ended Wednesday with the swing of a hammer.
The scene in East Setauket - where "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" construction crews built the frame of the Lutz family's new house - wouldn't have happened if Bacchi and friend Patti Simpson hadn't submitted an application to the ABC show a year ago on behalf of the Lutzes. Bacchi said the family of eight, six of whom have Down syndrome, deserved a new home more than anyone she knows.
"Their home is their whole world. They are truly getting a whole new world," Bacchi said. "It's going to add so much to their lives."
Bacchi said she got the family's permission before submitting the application. Show spokeswoman Diane Korman said the program receives "thousands of applications each week, and hundreds of applications from Long Island."
Kathleen Lutz, 39, is "like mom" to her siblings, Bacchi said. They and Kathleen are among 18 children adopted by the late Jack and Grace Lutz. Kathleen Lutz, a cancer survivor, moved back into the Ringneck Lane home a decade ago after the death of Grace, who was predeceased by Jack.
"This is a high," said Bacchi, who spent Wednesday volunteering at the site.
The first full day of construction was also the first day the site opened to spectators. The event attracted a few hundred to East Setauket.
Workers said the effort was slightly delayed by overnight rain, but the work was mostly on schedule and expected to continue around the clock until midday Saturday.
The air was alive with buzzing saws and rumbling cranes as blue-shirted workers assembled the new house. Spectators, shuttled to the site by bus, lined up behind a barricade, armed with sunscreen and bottled water.
The carnival-like scene included massage therapists, the New York Islanders mascot and a radio station pumping music. A kid's tent provided a place for Boy Scouts to help children build birdhouses for the Lutzes. Huntington nonprofit Splashes of Hope also used the space to help children paint murals for the family.
Others came to catch a glimpse of "Extreme Makeover" host Ty Pennington, who was followed by a camera crew.
"We love Ty!" shouted Sophia Vitiello, 42, of Nesconset.
The crowd will likely grow to several thousand over the week, said Seth Selesnow, spokesman for construction manager Alure, of East Meadow. The largest crowd will be on hand Sunday when the finished house is revealed, he said. The Lutzes, who are on vacation in the Hamptons, will get the keys then, show sources said.
"It'll be absolute mayhem," Selesnow said.
The show featuring the Lutzes will likely air in September, show sources have said.