The slender young blond woman stepped up to the podium and looked out over the enormous crowd that had filled the field. She wore flowers in her hair, gold sandals and a white silk robe. She tapped the microphone. It was working.
“Hello, everybody,” she shouted. “And welcome once again to the Hamptons.”
The crowd cheered. “For those of you who don’t know me, I am the Princess of Springtime, and I hope you’ve enjoyed how things have gone so far. The snows of winter have melted. The flowers have bloomed. The crops are planted and the birds are singing their songs everywhere. And so it is my job today…”
“Bah!” came a loud voice from a man sitting in the front row. This was Old Man Winter. He shook his cane at her.
“As I was saying,” the Princess of Springtime continued, “it is my job today to announce that my term is nearly up for 2014.” There were groans from the crowd. Many people shouted, “No! No!”
“That’s quite all right,” the Princess said, smiling and bowing her head, “there is even better to come. Summer arrives on June 21 here in the Hamptons. If you are a local person, a tourist, a summer home owner…”
“Bah” came from the front row.
“That’s quite enough of that, Mr. Winter. We all know what a wonderful job you did, sir. It was amazing, it really was. But time marches on. And so I am honored, so honored, to be here today to present to you the man who will replace me when my term expires…”
“Give her another term…” came a shout from the back of the crowd. Laughter followed.
“…the man who we’ve all been waiting for, the man who does such good for the Hamptons every year. I am talking about King Summer. King, come on out here and tell them what they can expect.”
There was a round of applause. And the Princess extended her right arm toward the edge of the stage. Her rings glittered in the spotlight.
And there, charging in from stage right, came King Summer. He ran over to the Princess and kissed her on the forehead just below the daisy that stuck out from her headband, then waved to the crowd and shouted, “Hello, Hamptons!”
“Hello, Hamptons!” came the raspy voice from the front row, mocking him.
The King, his gold crown pinned to his wavy black hair, looked briefly down at Old Man Winter, then spoke into the microphone the Princess had given him before she had made her departure.
“Let’s give a big hand for Princess of Springtime,” he shouted. “She’s still got a lot to do, three weeks to go and all. Let’s hear it for her. What a job she had to do to face down Old Man Winter.”
The crowd roared, some of the people stood and applauded and the Princess reappeared briefly, curtsied, and went back off.
“Well,” the King said, “let me tell you what I’ve got for you. I’ve got sailing, fishing, baseball, tennis and golf. I’ve got beach volleyball, barbecues, beach fires and bonfires, paddleboarding and surf riding—all the lifeguards are getting their last-minute training as we speak.
“I’ve got dining in fine restaurants, celebrities, shopping and house-hunting and loads and loads of parties and fundraisers for you to go to every weekend. I’ve got a full summer of programs at the Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center, at Bay Street Theater, at the John Drew Theater—now there’s even a new Southampton Arts Center on Jobs Lane in Southampton. And let’s hear it for the Parrish Art Museum.”
The crowd cheered and applauded.
“And here are the main events for the summer. We’ve got Dan’s Taste of Summer, Super Saturday, Hamptons Polo, Authors Night, all the doings at Ashawagh Hall and the North Sea Firehouse and the Quogue Community Hall. There’s the Dan’s Papers Kite Fly and the Shelter Island 10K and on the North Fork the Mattituck Strawberry Festival and the Polish Town Fair and the shows at the Vail-Leavitt and Suffolk theaters and all those events at the vineyards.
“And there’s lots more. There’s the Sandcastle Competition, the Dan’s Papers $6,000 Literary Prize, the July 4th fireworks and “Barcelona,” wherever it might be. And don’t forget the grand finale—the Hampton Classic Horse Show on Labor Day Weekend!
“Hope you enjoy it all. I’ve worked hard. And I’m ready. Are you ready? Let’s hear it. Ready?”
“Ready!” the crowd shouted.
“Can’t hear you!”
And with that, King Summer lifted his crown and waved it to the crowd, then trotted offstage. The ovation that followed lasted nearly eight minutes.
And then, when it died down, there was just one single word, from the front row.