About 1,500 people gathered at Steppingstone Park on Sunday for a carnival to celebrate the Great Neck Park District’s 100th anniversary.
But the day didn’t come without a bit of controversy.
Park district officials scheduled the celebration on the exact day of the anniversary, Aug. 14, but it conflicted with the Jewish holiday Tisha B’av.
Two  park district commissioners, Robert Lincoln and Daniel Nachmanoff, apologized for the scheduling conflict.
“It was too late to change it,” Lincoln said. “We really regret the conflict. That certainly wasn’t intentional. We were focused so much on the fact that it was exactly 100 years to the day.”
“Great Neck being the diverse community that it is, we initially were very happy that the date fell out on a Sunday,” Nachmanoff said in a letter to the editor submitted to the Great Neck News. “Under most circumstances, we are very cognizant of dates that are important to the various ethnic and religious groups. We goofed on this one and for that we are truly sorry.”
Lincoln said  the park district received calls last week with complaints about the conflict with the Jewish holiday and officials attempted to explain why the decision was made.
“I think most people when we explain the circumstances understood,” he said. “They were disappointed and not happy.”
“I hope some people understand the significance of that day to us too,” Lincoln added.
He said that officials began planning for the event last year and were not aware that Tisha B’av fell on the same day.
“I think it was a feeling on a part of some that we should have recognized the significance of the day to them and not have scheduled it on that day,” Lincoln said. “It was an honest thing that we did; a mistake in the sense that we should have looked at the calendar but truthfully nobody picked it up.”
Tisha B’av is a day of mourning to commemorate past tragedies of the Jewish people.
Efforts to reach officials from Temple Israel, Temple Emanuel and Chabad of Great Neck were unavailing.
Lincoln said that going forward, the park district would ensure that  events did not interfere with religious holidays.
Aside from the conflict with the Jewish holiday, he said the day was well-received by those who attended.
“We might consider having a summer festival every year because it was so successful,” Lincoln said.
There were various activities including inflatable houses, food, games, kayaking and sailing at the marina, and live music and entertainment performances.
The park district also offered boat rides to give residents a tour of the Stepping Stones Lighthouse and surrounding areas.
“It was fun and that’s what we wanted,” Lincoln said. “We wanted our anniversary celebration to be fun.”
Although rain halted the start of the concert by the Fleetwood Mac tribute band TUSK, the storm passed after about 25 minutes and the performance proceeded.
“It added an exciting aspect to it,” Lincoln said. “But the show went on and everybody enjoyed the performance too.”

By Joe Nikic
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