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'Ugly Christmas Sweater Party' Becomes Tradition

'Ugly Christmas Sweater' party will also be a canned food drive for Sandy victims.

Nothing quite says Christmas like an ugly — but festive — sweater.

Two local men have been breaking up the doldrums of winter in the Hamptons with an "ugly sweater party" for nearly eight years, and it's grown from a group of 20 friends to an organized bash at a Bridgehampton restaurant. The 2012 bash, which will be held on Friday — none other than National Ugly Christmas Sweater Day — at Agave Bar & Mexican Grill, is also a canned food drive.

Nick Dombkowski, a Bridgehampton native, said he and his longtime roommate Tim Pilinko, who is from Sag Harbor, first threw the house party just as a way to have some fun, inspired by watching "Christmas Vacation."

Each year the party got "bigger, and bigger, and bigger." The last time they did at their house, it was bursting at the seams with 120 people in their sweaters, full of bright Christmas colors, faux fur, embroidered snowflakes, and dancing reindeer.

"It kind of got way too big," Dombkowski said. A friend who bartends at Agave suggested they hold it at the restaurant last year. Nearly 200 showed up for the festivity, which this year includes an encore performance by The Rhelm. There is a $10 cover charge, which comes with a free drink.

This is the first time, however, that they are turning the party into a benefit. "With the hurricane and people needing the food around the holiday — there are a ton of people there at the party, so we might as well," Dombkowski said. He was still working out logistics, but he believes the donated canned goods will go to the Rockaways, which Superstorm Sandy hit hard. "I know a couple of guys from the fire department that are taking stuff up there," he said.

Though the roommates skipped one year in between, the party has become somewhat of a tradition on the South Fork. "Toward the end of summer, people are already asking, 'Are you doing the party?' So now I guess we have to," he said. "There's not a lot out here for local people to do in the winter," he said.

They were surprised to learn there was even such a thing as National Ugly Sweater Day. "I think Tim and I made it up and somebody stole it. We didn’t hear of it anywhere else before our party eight years ago."

The sweaters can get pretty outrageous, Dombkowski said. People even make their own. He recalled one party-goer who wired Christmas lights with a battery pack inside of his sweater. "People come up with some pretty good ones," he said.

As for Dombkowski, he usually just finds a traditional Christmas sweater at a local thrift shop, and he's leaving the search for this year's sweater until the last minute.

The Ugly Sweater Christmas Party and Canned Food Drive will be held at Agave Bar & Mexican Grill at 1970 Montauk Highway in Bridgehampton on Friday, starting at 10 p.m.

Plan on wearing an "ugly Christmas sweater" Friday? We are going to collect a gallery of photos, so get ready to send them and upload them on Friday. 

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