Growing up in Rye during the Seventies and Eighties, I was blissfully unaware of how fortunate I was that my parents chose Rye to settle down in and raise a family.
By Gretchen Althoff Snyder
Growing up in Rye during the Seventies and Eighties, I was blissfully unaware of how fortunate I was that my parents chose Rye to settle down in and raise a family. I spent endless summer days swimming and riding my bike to town, burning through my allowance on penny candy at the Rye Smoke Shop. My friends and I ran around our neighborhoods long after dark playing kick the can, ghosts in the graveyard, and pulling the occasional “rope trick” on unsuspecting cars driving by.
After many years away, I moved back to Rye in 2000 to start my own family, automatically assuming that the Rye of my youth would still be here, frozen in time. However, in the sixteen years since I’ve been back, so many things about Rye have changed. The sheer number of homes being demolished to make way for much larger new construction is staggering. The quintessential downtown area has lost several of its iconic mom-and-pop shops — the most recent casualty being the beloved Smoke Shop, which operated for over 70 years. Some storefronts stand vacant as rents skyrocket and local businesses often struggle to stay afloat. And, like many other towns in Westchester, children in Rye are so overscheduled with organized activities that there is far too little time for the unstructured, carefree days I so fondly recall from my childhood.
Yet despite these changes, here are just a few of the many reasons I still love Rye after all these years.
There is nothing quite as soothing as a walk with my chocolate lab down to Rye Town Park on a fall afternoon, where the Long Island Sound glistens in the sunlight and the trees radiate warmth from their spectacular foliage. Children run around the duck pond in delight, dogs “check each other’s ID’s” with pride, while older couples relax on park benches and take in the glorious water view. The park is a true gem and I feel privileged to walk there any time I wish.
The Annual Rye Recreation Halloween Window Painting Contest, one of my all-time favorite events growing up, is still going strong today. Every year on a Sunday in mid-October, children flood the streets of downtown Rye brimming with excitement to paint their Halloween masterpieces on the storefronts. Purchase Street is closed off to all but pedestrians, and young and old stroll around enjoying the artists hard at work. It is a quintessential small town event dripping with community pride. (Full disclosure: I am slightly perturbed by another sign of today’s Rye; they no longer “judge” the paintings and award prizes for first, second, and third place as they did in my day, but now hand out a “participation medal” to every child that enters the event. What’s wrong with a little healthy competition among friends?)
The annual Rye/Harrison football game (“The Game”) has been a tradition since 1929. Two fierce rival football teams mentally and physically prepare to go head to head in this classic showdown. As a former Rye High School student, I can still recall the intense buildup of school spirit that culminated in a week’s worth of festivities, including the Friday night pep rally and bonfire. The energy was palpable – in my mind, I can still hear the rapidly beating drums of the band echoing through the packed Rye High gym. The whole community bands together for this event, regardless of how they actually feel about football.
These are but a few of the simple pleasures that make our town such a unique and special place. Despite all the changes, Rye is still a wonderful community to raise a family.