Camping at Wildwood State Park on Long Island

Rose Peterson, 11, of Patchogue, square dances with

Rose Peterson, 11, of Patchogue, square dances with her father, Joseph, 38, at Wildwood State Park. (Credit: Johnny Milano)

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Among the glow of lanterns and campfires at Wildwood State Park campgrounds in Wading River are tiny bugs giving off their own illumination.

"We're catching fireflies," says 9-year-old Michaela Cusumano, as she and her three siblings, who range in age from 3 to 7, run in circles, trying to cup the fleeting lights in their hands. The children are there with their parents, Sal and Allison Cusumano of Hudson, New York, who came to Long Island to visit Sal's uncle. They decided to camp close by, says Sal, adding that camping gives his children a sense of freedom that can't be found in a hotel.

At a nearby campsite, a lantern glows near the small barbecue grill where Alex Adams, 28, is preparing dinner. For Adams, who lives in Flushing, camping has been a family tradition. "My mom's family did it, and I did as a kid," she says.

And now she's sharing that love of camping with the family and friends joining her at Wildwood Park, a 600-acre state campground that, by day, offers swimming at its beaches on Long Island Sound; fishing for blues, porgies and striped bass; biking and hiking.

The campground has 322 campsites, of which 80 have water, electricity and sewer hookup for motor homes. There's a playground, picnic tables, basketball and volleyball courts, and a baseball field.

At night, the park comes alive with campfires, outdoor movies shown on-screen behind the camp office, square dancing, contra dancing and line dancing.

DO-SI-DO

Friday nights from mid-July to mid-August at Wildwood are all about swinging your partner and do-si-do-ing.

Both newbies and nimble-footed regulars of all ages are welcome to give country dancing a whirl -- or twirl -- at the main parking lot. Summer square dancing has been a staple at Wildwood since 1977, where its star attraction for all 37 years has been caller Primo Fiore.

Fiore arrives with his record player, a stack of vinyl records and an arsenal of banter. He first teaches the steps, and finishes with a singing call, which directs the dancers after they learn the steps and calls.

And once the crowd starts pairing off, skipping, sliding and twirling to the beat of the Virginia Reel, Fiore is ready for some friendly joshing.

"That wasn't so bad," Primo jokes. "It wasn't that good, but it wasn't bad."

"He loves joking around with the crowd," says park manager Michael Bogucki. "Some of it's kind of corny, but that's part of the whole deal."

Colorado residents Ralph and Janet Babish, both 60, who were camping at Wildwood, picked up the steps quickly, even though they had never square danced.

Regulars Teddy Reiner, 77, of Setauket, and Rita Edwards, 87, of South Setauket, often make the trip to Wading River for the dancing.

"I look forward to it every year," says Reiner.

And there's lots of laughter when some of the dancers fumble their steps.

"It's fun," says Jason McKay of Shoreham, who is there with his son, Kylar, 3. "That's what it's all about. Right?"

Wildwood State Park

WHEN | WHERE 790 Hulse Landing Rd., Wading River

INFO 631-929-4314, nysparks.com

COST From $15-$18 for ground sites, $18-$22 for platform sites and $27-$31 for trailer sites per day. Reservations required.

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