June 28, 2006
Thousands Expected On 4th
Riverhead's first ever Fourth of July celebration is set to kick off in downtown next week with great fanfare. Over 5000 festival-goers are expected to take to the Peconic Riverfront and enjoy an evening of fireworks, food, shopping and music sponsored by the Wildlife Rescue Center of the Hamptons.
In the planning stages for months, Nina Fenton, of the rescue center, says everything is coming together nicely and the event, which will run from 5 to 10 p.m. should go off with a bang.
Over 45 craft and other vendors are expected to be on hand, a variety of live bands are scheduled to entertain, and the evening will round off with a state-of-the art Grucci fireworks spectacular.
"We are told," said Fenton, "that the fireworks show will be world class."
While the wildlife center is located in Hampton Bays, Fenton said the organization chose to celebrate America's birthday in Riverhead because of the town's up and coming status. "We thought this would be a great way to promote the revitalization of Riverhead and get the word out about the center," she said.
While the festival is free, the organization is expected to benefit monetarily. A portion of advertising packages sold on three local radio stations are being donated to the non-profit group.
Fenton hopes that both the wildlife center and downtown Riverhead will get recognition.
Downtown Riverhead is currently undergoing a transformation. The town is in the process of contracting with a developer, Apollo Real Estate, to help rejuvenate downtown with new shops, restaurants and a multiplex. Festival attendees will also be the first to experience the new Peconic Riverfront, which has been under construction since September.
Terry Contracting, of Riverhead, has transformed the area into an aesthetically pleasing park-like setting that is intended to enhance festivals such as the July 4th celebration, the Country Fair, Blues Festival and Community Mosaic.
The $2.4 million project, which was paid for mostly through state and federal grants, incorporates new bulkheading, green space, lighting and a bike path that runs from the Route 24 traffic circle, through Grangebel Park, to Main Street.
The completion of the project has been a long time coming. It actually started in 1994 when a section of the riverfront was renovated with new bulkheading and a pedestrian walkway. However, with only $200,000 in grant money from the New York State Parks Department, the town found it did not have enough money to complete the project. It was a little over a year ago that the town obtained Federal VA-HUD appropriations money to the tune of $1.8 million. With funding available, the second phase of the project looked as though it could commence. However, for months the town board debated over how it should proceed. Councilman Ed Densieski and his colleagues argued over a proposal to close off the roadway that runs along the river in the name of additional green space. Densieski, however, lost his fight. The roadway is set to remain, but has been enhanced with cobblestone walkways.