“Islands Without Cars” Makes the Rounds on Fire Island

Residents and visitors on Fire Island the first week of July may have noticed a camera crew in town. The acclaimed documentary series “Islands Without Cars,” distributed by PBS, could be seen being filmed in Ocean Beach, Cherry Grove, and at Fire Island Lighthouse, gathering footage for the upcoming third season. The premise of the Chicago-based series is to portray “what life is like on islands in the Western Hemisphere’s developed world that have managed to keep a well-worn foot in the past by restricting or forbidding the use of motorized vehicles,” as stated on the PBS.org website. In this spirit, the crew has traveled to far-flung locations that include Heligoland Island in Germany, the Isles of Eigg and Easdale in Scotland, and Mackinac Island in the state of Michigan. “I think it is important to point out that our Executive Producer Melissa Sage Fadim thought of this concept of going to places without cars,” explained production director Terry Hesser. “A step out of time, perhaps, and documenting the memorable people who define it. I believe it brings people together during a time of terrible divisions.” The balance of the small but efficient crew included Associate Producer Emily Booth, Photography Director Jamie Margolin, and Mark Power on audio, as well as the effervescent host of “Islands Without Cars” herself – Kira Spencer Cook. Television crews are nothing new for Fire Island. We saw them assembled at Cherry Grove and Fire Island Pines for “Fire Island,” produced by Logo in 2016, and we saw the Travel Channel’s “Hotel Impossible “storm through the Ocean Beach neighborhood that same summer. However “Islands Without Cars” stood apart – for while other crews remained detached and aloof – Kira and her entourage did not hesitate to mix with the crowds as full-fledged participants, not just spectators. They toured the Fire Island Lighthouse, got in the thick of things at the Fire Island Pines Invasion, kicked back with some Rocket Fuels at CJ’s, and belted out show tunes with Ben Cameron during his Broadway Sessions performance at the Ice Palace. With the tourism bureau Discover Long Island acting as liaison, some FIN staff had the pleasure of working with “Islands Without Cars” crew directly, and they were a lot of fun… and we optimistic that the positive approach of this merry band of travelers will yield a more authentic portrait of our island than attempts made by other outfits that came before them. “What is the best dessert on Fire Island?” asked Kira who we suspect has a sweet tooth. Rachel’s Bakery blackout cake of course! “Where is the best ice cream?” asked Terry Hesser, who also happens to be Kira’s mom. This editor pointed them to Scoops, and that evening we passed by them sitting along the Village Green stoop enjoying their ice cream just like everyone else. We don’t want to give too much away, but let’s just say you will see a few familiar faces when the program airs. Alas however, we will have to wait – while viewers in the Chicago area will have the chance to watch the series in the spring of 2020, it is not expected to broadcast nationally until 2022 at the earliest. It will be interesting to see where we are all at by the year 2022, and how things were when we watch ourselves three years ago, recalling the time “Islands Without Cars” paid a visit to our home on Fire Island.