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Day trippers’ paradise

UFT’s Just for Fun program offers enjoyable outings for members
New York Teacher
Retired teachers Dianne Henderson (left) and Valorie Williams.
Cara Metz

Retired teachers Dianne Henderson (left) and Valorie Williams get a closer look at the 30 acres of grape vines that produce all the Sauvignon Blanc at Duck Walk.

“Our itinerary today is wine tasting, then lunch at Claudio’s,” said Just for Fun tour leader Jacquie Singletary. “And then dancing on the tables,” quipped Joanne Terlicki, a retired teacher and guidance counselor who was among the 100 participants on the UFT’s bus trip to the North Fork of Long Island on Saturday, Nov. 12.

The UFT has been running its popular Just for Fun trips for 28 years. With eight excursions a year to different locations, nearly 800 members, both in-service and retired, along with friends and family members, participate each year. Terlicki, who has been on several trips with the group, said, “I knew it would be fun — it’s a friendly group.”

Adrienne Thompson, an English teacher and dean at DeWitt Clinton HS in the Bronx, was on her first outing with the group, to celebrate her friend’s birthday. Theresa Smith, a teaching assistant at PS 274 in the Bronx and the lucky friend, had seen the wine-tasting trip advertised in the New York Teacher newspaper “and I immediately wanted to do it,” she said.

At Duck Walk Vineyards in Southold, Long Island, one of the first wineries that created the winemaking industry on the island, the group had its choice of four varieties — reds, whites, rosés and dessert wines — with multiple award-winning varietals from each.

Sitting at a table in the wood-paneled tasting room, Kasia Mohomed, a 3rd-grade teacher at PS 40 in Brooklyn, said she came on the trip because it “is a good chance to meet other colleagues on a relaxing note, get to mingle and socialize with my peers and meet new teachers.”

Retired teacher Deme Savopolis sipped on a Vidal Ice Wine made with grapes actually frozen on the vine and declared it her favorite. She said she comes along on Just for Fun trips because “It’s enjoyable, I’m a Manhattanite and I don’t have a car!”

Frances Brown, a retired teacher who leads some of the trips along with Singletary and Regina Olff, said they offer a great way to bring families and friends together. “They get to shop, eat, drink and make merry,” she said.

After the wine tasting, the UFT group browsed the gift shop for wines to take home.

The UFT Just for Fun group visits the wine-tasting bar at Duck Walk Vineyards on
Cara Metz

The UFT Just for Fun group visits the wine-tasting bar at Duck Walk Vineyards on Long Island.

Visitors buy fresh, local produce at Briermere Farm.
Cara Metz

Visitors buy fresh, local produce at Briermere Farm on Long Island.

Relaxed and ready for the next destination, the group moved on to Claudio’s on the Waterfront, an Italian restaurant in the nearby town of Greenport. With a view of Shelter Island across the bay, group members feasted on salad, a choice of parmesan-crusted cod or chicken marsala, and a chocolate mousse parfait for dessert.

Over lunch, Sandra Hale, Nathalie Regnier, Michelle Kingham and Sara Falkove, all history teachers from Fiorello H. LaGuardia HS of Music, Art and Performing Arts in Manhattan, were deeply engaged in a conversation about the recent election and its effect on their students. As befits history teachers, they discussed the ways in which Trump is similar to and different from President Andrew Jackson. “We’re history nerds,” said Regnier.

People could either spend the entire two-plus hours over lunch or finish up sooner and wander the streets of Greenport, a historic seaport. The town, a major whaling port throughout much of the 1800s, has a picturesque downtown with Victorian buildings filled with galleries, restaurants, boutiques and specialty food markets.

The final stop was at a big farm stand in Riverhead. There, group members shopped for homemade pies and local fruits, vegetables and flowers before the sun went down and they boarded the bus for the two-and-a-half hour trip back to the city.

Thompson, the DeWitt Clinton dean, reflecting on her first Just for Fun outing, said, “I loved it, I’ll definitely be coming back for more!”

Related Topics: Social and Recreational