With a lineup of features both familiar and new, the festival in Heckscher Park in Huntington gets underway Friday evening and runs through Monday afternoon. Organizers say the festival is the biggest in the Northeast each year, and it draws thousands of people to Heckscher Park.
"We're in our 20th year, and it's another great opportunity to showcase the town of Huntington. It's become a regional draw and each year draws on the previous year," said Bob Bontempi, co-chair of the Huntington Chamber of Commerce, which sponsors the festival, along with the Town of Huntington. "Because of the great work of the chamber staff, Suffolk police and the town of Huntington, we've got great synergies."
The festival includes an extensive musical lineup, headlined by Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam and Taylor Dayne, a carnival, vendors, a meatball eating contest and more. Bontempi said there are more than 200 vendors, selling everything from jewelry to food to energy services and schooling.
Among the new features this year is a sensory tent for children on the autism spectrum to spend some quiet time.
Pony rides, pumpkin painting and a Home Depot are among the more popular activities for youngsters that will return this year.
The gates open at 3 p.m. Friday, with the opening ceremony Friday at 6:15 p.m. with a tribute to the much-beloved Larry Kushnick, the chamber chairman who died in June. Shardae Hale will sing the National Anthem followed by a battle of the bands featuring local groups.
On Sunday, the Sons of Italy Columbus Day parade will wind along Main Street past the festival, starting at noon.
Vendors will pack up Sunday night but the festival returns Monday until 5 p.m. with carnival rides and entertainment provided by Long Island bands.
Free parking is available Saturday and Sunday at the Huntington Long Island Rail Road station. The festival shuttle runs continuously both days from 11 a.m. to 9:45 p.m. It's $1 roundtrip from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and $2 after 6 p.m. Senior citizens and children under 5 pay 50 cents.