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October 03, 2012

Festival Fever On The Forks



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Extending the summer season for tourism and the second home industry has been a goal "for decades," according to Assemblyman Fred Thiele. "One of the best kept secrets about the East End was that the period between Labor Day and Columbus Day is the best time of year," he pointed out this week. "It has the best weather, still good for the beach, with the added benefit of harvest-time at local farms and wineries. Like the backroads, which used to be a secret only the locals knew, now everyone knows about fall weekends on the East End. Our local business groups have created a masterful marketing plan for the region that have made fall weekends an economic bonanza, creating more jobs and improving the bottom line for our small businesses." That marketing plan finds its foundation in an array of autumn-focused festivals, feasts and fairs designed to delight families and visitors.

Last week the East End was home to SeptemberFest in Southampton, a music festival in Sag Harbor and a garlic festival on the North Fork. With the holiday coming up next Monday, Columbus Day weekend offers even more, with major fairs, downtown sidewalk sales, and fests in East Hampton, Montauk, Hampton Bays, Sag Harbor, Westhampton Beach, and Riverhead, plus less extensive, but no less fun, events throughout the region.

Here's a look at two big ones:

In Hampton Bays enjoyment will be abbondante, with the second annual San Gennaro Feast of the Hamptons. Last year's inaugural feast drew thousands to the hamlet to view the community parade, browse numerous booths and, of course, mangia! – take advantage of a bounty of taste sensations.

The Feast takes place from 10 AM to 10 PM both Saturday and Sunday on Good Ground Road, adjacent to the railroad.

This year, better fast on Friday to get ready for the dishes served up by some of the 50 food (and non food) vendors that have signed on. A huge tent with tables and chairs will provide comfortable space to enjoy both the food and live entertainment, or just take a browsing break.

Live entertainment, they've got plenty planned. Five bands and a DJ will alternate sets each day from noon till closing. Roaming minstrels and local talent add to the excitement.

A highlight of the event is a parade through the center of town at 11 AM. As the feast comes to a close, a drawing for a Fiat (tickets are limited and $100 a pop) will be held. After the drawing, a Grucci fireworks display sponsored by 1-800 Got Junk will light up the autumn sky.

Proceeds from the Feast support Maureen's Haven, the Suffolk County Coalition Against Domestic Violence and the San Gennaro Hampton Bays High School Scholarship Fund.

Moving north, the 37th annual Riverhead County Fair takes place next Sunday from 10 AM to 5 PM. Described as a town wide block party, it boasts more than 100,000 square feet of fun, with live entertainment all day, farm animals and pony rides, tractor pulls, over 450 vendors and more. There will be vegetable decorating contests, a carnival with midway, plus plenty of local, yummy food. Vendors will be located all along Main Street, Peconic Avenue, and in the riverfront parking area.

The Montauk Chamber of Commerce hosts its 31st annual Fall Festival on the Green in the center of downtown Montauk Saturday and Sunday. Don't miss our special Montauk section, detailing all the festival fun, as well as other Montauk facts elsewhere in this edition.

Indy's got the skinny on another popular event based in East Hampton Town, the Hamptons International Film Festival. See our special Insiders Guide in this edition.

"All across the North and South Forks are fun fall festivals and events," Legislator Jay Schneiderman observed. "This used to be the quiet reprieve after the busy summer tourist season. Now it seems like there's never a dull moment. On any given day there are so many events that it's hard to pick and choose." He reported that, while last weekend was traditionally a slow one for business, the hotels were packed with participants in the Montauk triathlon, plus anglers taking advantage of a big bass bite.

Joking that he hoped next weekend's visitors can get past the wildly popular Pumpkintown in Southampton, he noted, "In this economy, it's good to see so many thriving businesses."

kmerrill@indyeastend.com

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