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Baldwinites plan a 'grand' festival

Organizers aim to promote drug-free environment

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Mark your calendars: The inaugural Grand Baldwin Festival will take place on Oct. 19, celebrating the community and promoting a vibrant business and drug-free environment, organizers said.

“It’s to raise community pride and to show people that, yes, we do have a lot going for us,” said Claudia Rotondo, co-chair of the Grand Baldwin Festival Planning Committee. “With this revitalization grant now, hopefully we’ll have even more going for us,” she added, referring to a $10 million grant recently awarded to Baldwin by New York state to revitalize its downtown area.

Hosted and organized by the Community Coalition of Baldwin, the festival will feature local business vendors, live performances and entertainment, an art showcase, games and more. The coalition, formed in 2011, carries out the mission of the Baldwin Council Against Drug Abuse to raise awareness of the dangers of substance abuse, especially during the opioid epidemic on Long Island and across the country, organizers said.

“We hope the festival will provide opportunities for engagement among residents and bring together Baldwin’s key stakeholders, including business owners, nonprofit organizations and houses of worship to strengthen pride in our community and promote a vibrant business environment,” said Rotondo, who also serves as BCADA’s executive director.

On Oct. 5, the Baldwin Public Library will host its Centennial Gala, and on Oct. 19, a Family Fun Day before the Grand Baldwin Festival, featuring a Marvel Avengers-themed Escape Room, an acrobatics performance, a Stuff-a-Bear Workshop, henna art and face-painting. The festival will then take place along Prospect Street and in the municipal parking lot behind the library. The rain date is Oct. 20.

“I’m hoping to instill more of a connection to the community for family members,” Rotondo said, “because one of the things with substance abuse prevention — one of the things we hope for — is that people feel connected to the community and their neighbors, and that they’re positive, because when there’s positive connection, there’s less of a risk for people being depressed and unsatisfied and turning towards substances to ease the pain.”

Local residents on the planningcommittee, besides Rotondo, include David Viana, Rita Cavanaugh, Colette Carrion, Willy and Ida Zambrano, Jessie Velasquez, Heidi Riegler and Karen Montalbano.

“I have been very much interested in trying to promote economic development and planning efforts in Baldwin,” said Viana, co-chair of the Grand Baldwin Festival Planning Committee. “All levels of government have been showing some type of commitment for Baldwin, and it seems like the perfect time to celebrate that, to acknowledge that everybody is interested and invested in revitalizing the community.”

Viana said he hopes the festival will become a regular event in Baldwin that resembles those in other downtowns that are successful and thriving.

He said the coalition is looking “to make people aware of its efforts, and to get the community talking to each other. We have a lot of organizations, and a lot of them don’t actually know about each other, or don’t collaborate or interact very much, so this is a good opportunity for everyone to come together for something that benefits everyone. It’s really a community effort.”

Organizers said they are looking for additional vendors, and have offered applications to both Baldwin businesses and those of neighboring communities. To become a vendor or sponsor or to find out more information, organizers said to contact the coalition at baldwinfestival@gmail.com.

Kitty O’Hara’s, Grandview Auto Body, the Baldwin Civic Association, FirstCare Medical Office, Zambrano Architectural Design and the Ridgewood Savings Bank are among the festival sponsors.

The Baldwin-Freeport Farmer’s Market, which takes place at the Baldwin Long Island Rail Road station every Saturday, will relocate to the festival on Oct. 19 to join the festivities.

“Twelve to six, stop in at any given time, and there will be something going on,” Viana said. “It’s shaping up to be an exciting event and something fun for everyone.”

While coalition members began brainstorming event ideas earlier this year, planning for the Grand Baldwin Festival began in May, organizers said. Planning committee members met through the spring and summer, including at a workshop at the library May 18, and took charge of different aspects of the process.

“Everybody has a little bit of expertise in a different area, and we all put our heads together,” Rotondo said. “One of the things that I like to say, and I know it sounds kind of hokey, but you can’t spell ‘community’ without ‘u’ and ‘i.’”

Visitors and residents alike will be able to park in the lot behind the firehouse across the street from the library, the unused portion of the library parking lot, or along Merrick Road, Grand Avenue or other streets, Rotondo said. Viana said the LIRR station lot will also be open for parking.

The chamber has also assisted the effort to find vendors for the festival.

“Like many of the other Baldwin events, this is a great opportunity for the Baldwin community to experience and learn about other Baldwin businesses, groups and organizations,” Baldwin Chamber President Erik Mahler said. “Shop locally!”

“We’re really excited when Baldwin was awarded the $10 million — what better way to celebrate than to say, ‘OK, look what we have and look what we’re going to get!’” Rotondo said. “Hopefully everything builds upon everything else.”