North Fork business organizations help keep the holidays alive

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | The 10th annual 2009 Holiday Bonfire on the Peconic riverfront sponsored by Riverhead Town and the Riverhead BID Management Association.

Shopping and the holidays can’t help but go hand-in-hand. North Fork business organizations, always eager to have residents shop locally, are playing an important role in planning events to draw shoppers to the region’s commercial centers.

The Village of Greenport’s Business Improvement District has embarked on its second annual Greenport Holiday Festival, a monthlong series of parades, festivities and a fireworks show designed to encourage people to visit the port town during the Christmas shopping season.

Riverhead and Cutchogue are planning holiday events, too. There will be the annual bonfire and Santa’s visit in downtown Riverhead, this year on Saturday, Dec. 11, and the North Fork Chamber of Commerce will again host a helicopter visit from Santa to kids at the Cutchogue Fire Department, this year on Sunday, Dec. 12.

The Mattituck Chamber of Commerce had decorated the business district and held its annual Santa visit last weekend.
The Greenport Festival, the most extensive holiday event on the North Fork, is a regional draw. “Businesses really need bolstering and boosting in the winter months,” said one of the festival’s organizers, Caroline Waloski, who owns Sirens’ Song Gallery on Main Street. “All of us would like to see it a little more lively here.”

On Dec. 12, a parade with Santa Claus will begin at the firehouse in Greenport. A historic tour of the village is scheduled for Dec. 19 and an architectural tour is on the agenda Dec. 11.

Santa Claus will visit the Little Red School House on Dec. 11 and 18 from 1 to 3 p.m. and there will be winter games in Mitchell Park on Dec. 18. The East End Seaport Museum is hosting free movies throughout the season. A fireworks extravaganza and party in the carousel in Mitchell Park are planned for New Year’s Eve.

Greenport galleries are also participating in the promotion, with special shows to highlight the holiday season.

Front Street Station, a restaurant on Front Street, will be giving away hot chocolate to kids. Mulled wine can be enjoyed for free at Scrimshaw on the wharf behind Preston’s, and Greenport Wines and Spirits will be holding free wine tastings.
More information on all the events is available at

Ms. Waloski said that the promotion seems to be catching on this year, after more than 300 people crowded into Mitchell Park the weekend after Thanksgiving for the tree lighting. Last year, she said, only a trickle of people attended the tree lighting.

“This year it was just mobbed. On a cold windy night, there were still lots of people,” she said.

The Riverhead Business Improvement District has been holding an annual bonfire in the parking lot behind Main Street by the river for 11 years, during which Santa Claus comes down the river by boat. Ed Densieski, a former Riverhead town councilman, has run the event since the beginning.

“We were looking for something cool to happen downtown in the wintertime,” he said. “The bonfire is one of the coolest things that happens in downtown Riverhead. When Santa comes up by boat, waves magic dust at the tree and it lights up and you’re looking at kids’ expressions, it’s perfect.”

Though downtown Riverhead has suffered for several years with a swath of empty storefronts on Main Street, Mr. Densieski said that the opening of several new restaurants downtown helps to make the area a destination for dining, at the very least.

The event begins at 4 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 11. Santa arrives at 5 p.m., and holiday revelers often stay until the last ember of the fire burns out well into the night.

The town’s buildings and grounds department sets up the bonfire and volunteers run the event, which includes free hot chocolate, candy canes and face painting for kids.

This coming Sunday will see another holiday tradition that has continued for more than a decade, when the North Fork Chamber of Commerce hosts Santa Claus’ arrival by helicopter at Cutchogue Fire Department.

The event begins with a magic show at the fire department at 9:30 a.m. on Dec. 12, followed by Santa’s arrival at 10:30 a.m. Santa then goes to Cutchogue-New Suffolk Library, where kids can get their picture taken and will receive a gift.
“We are not just strictly business. We try to have community events,” said North Fork Chamber of Commerce president Joe Corso. “We have a lot of business owners whose kids are in the community and we also try to do things to bring people into the village that are not just business oriented. We bring people in and hope they poke around in the shops while they’re here and come back in the future.”

The Mattituck Chamber of Commerce last week held its annual visit from Santa Claus at the Waldbaum’s Shopping Center. Every year, the event includes a free movie at the Mattituck Cinema.

“It’s almost as old as Santa now. We’ve been doing it a long time,” said Mattituck Chamber of Commerce president Terry McShane. “We also have a shop local campaign, encouraging people to support the businesses who support you all year.

We put Christmas trees throughout Mattituck. It beautifies the town and also shows which stores are Mattituck Chamber-related.”

The group also decorates Love Lane for the holidays.

“We’re a small group of people but everybody plays a part in encouraging people to shop more locally,” he said.

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