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Hundreds celebrate Heritage Day in Orient

North Fork Chorale members John Sampieri, Michael Manuelian

North Fork Chorale members John Sampieri, Michael Manuelian and Larry Sutter sing with the group at the Heritage Day celebration in Orient. (July 1, 2012) Credit: Erin Geismar

Ellen Cone Busch was brought nearly to tears as she talked about the small North Fork community that has become her home.

Cone Busch, 40, moved to Orient from Oyster Bay four years ago to become director of the Oysterponds Historical Society and said she immediately understood the appeal.

"It's more than just a place," she said. "It's a sense of place, a sense of community that ties people together."

She expressed those feelings and more in her remarks to the community during the historical society's second annual Heritage Day celebration on Sunday.

The event kicked off at noon with a parade from Village Lane to the Old Point Schoolhouse, where members of the community took part in the centuries-old tradition of reading the Declaration of Independence.

The ceremony was accompanied by music from the North Fork Chorale and followed by a barbecue.

Ruth Ann Bramson, president of the historical society, said the patriotic community has always celebrated the Fourth of July, but last year decided to expand on the celebration.

"It's all centered on this over 200-year-old tradition of reading the Declaration of Independence on the steps of the schoolhouse," she said. "This is a very old community that goes back to the early 1600s, and there are a lot of people who respect the tradition and history of the area."

Cone Busch said the tradition of reading the historic text goes back to the generation of people living in Orient and East Marion - the two communities once referred to as Oysterponds - when it was signed.

She said although the reading is a highlight of the day, the difference between a Fourth of July celebration and Heritage Day is the latter focuses on the community.

"To me, I think it has more meaning," she said. "Heritage is what makes this place very meaningful to people. It's the music, it's the food, it's the stories we share with each other and what we pass down to our children."

Michael Manuelian, who lives part time in Manhattan and Orient, said the heritage event shows the stark contrast between the two places he lives.

"It's a wonderful thing to celebrate," he said. "It shows a group of people who care about each other and recognize the value of this community."

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