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Fall festivals set to return in September

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Around September of last year, Bellmore and Merrick were unusually quiet because of the already months-long pandemic. The hamlets went without their annual festivals, which attract hundreds of local vendors and tens of thousands of visitors from across Long Island.

The Bellmore Street Festival, hosted by the Chamber of Commerce of the Bellmores, and the Merrick Fall Festival, hosted by the Merrick Chamber of Commerce, are boons to the business community every year — besides providing fun with rides, food and entertainment to so many visitors and residents.

This year, the sights of the carnival rides, the sounds of the crowds and the smells of the food trucks will return in September.  While there may be some changes — and the chambers’ plans are still being developed — the festivals should look much the same as in years past.

What’s happening in Bellmore?

“We’re getting Bellmore back to business,” said Debby Izzo, a Bellmore chamber member and Street Festival coordinator.

The festival is currently slated for Sept. 23 to 26, and Izzo has been hard at work signing up vendors and developing potential plans. The chamber is submitting its usual layout for the festival to the Town of Hempstead — a T shape of vendors’ tents around the railroad station and up Bellmore Avenue — as well as a contingency plan.

The secondary plan would call for the vendors to occupy the train station parking lots along Sunrise Highway. Izzo said chamber officials will not know which is the approved plan until later.

“Absolutely we would have the same number of vendors,” Izzo said of the contingency plan. Foot traffic will have to be thought of, too, to keep guests away from the highway.

Climb N Vibe, a new member of the Bellmore business community that opened last month, will make its first appearance at both the street festival and the Merrick Fall Festival. Its combination of cutting-edge exercise machinery with VersaClimbers and Power Plates will be on display at its booth. Guests will be able to give the new tech a try.

“We’re looking for people to come down, see what we’re all about and have some fun,” said Anthony Riccardi, a manager at Climb N Vibe and an East Meadow resident. He said he looks forward to setting up tables at the festivals, which he has attended almost every year as a guest, he added.

The excitement was echoed by Crunch Fitness general manager Samantha Devine, who has set up tables for Crunch at the last two festivals. Crunch offers enrollment promotions for newcomers every year.

“It’s always a regular thing to look forward to,” she said. “It’s just such a good, fun time with music and food. I’m excited to get back.”

While the businesses are excited for the festival’s return, “the chamber missed it, too,” Izzo said. “It’s our major fundraiser for the year — it’s how we do what we do,” including funding the Christmas tree and holiday lighting and rides for the festival.

What’s happening in Merrick?

The Merrick Fall Festival should take a similar form as in years past, according to Merrick Chamber of Commerce member Randy Shotland, with vendors proceeding up Merrick Avenue.

The festival is a critical fundraising opportunity for the chamber, which uses the money to fund its many community endeavors, including the Halloween walk, menorah and Christmas tree lighting and scholarships for graduating high school seniors.

If all goes according to plan, the festival should maintain its “family-oriented” vibe, with “nothing dramatic” as far as changes, Shotland said. The biggest change might just be wrapped utensils from food vendors.

“At this point, we’re 99 percent sure we’re going to be able to move on with the festival for the fall,” said chamber President Ira Reiter. “We’re expecting everything to be opened up — we don’t know exactly what kind of restrictions the government is still going to mandate, but even the Town of Hempstead is expecting us to move forward with plans for the festival.”

The Merrick Fall Festival will consist of more than 200 local vendors, Reiter said, and will also feature live entertainment and pony rides.

“We’re looking forward to hopefully gorgeous weather for the festival,” Reiter said. “We’re probably one of the first festivals of the fall season. Hopefully, everyone is [eager] to get out and do something positive.”