Downtown Riverhead to host triathlon this summer

GARRET MEADE FILE PHOTO | Christie O'Hara of Montauk and Leo Ullman of Sands Point rounded the first turn during the biking phase of the 13th annual Mighty North Fork Triathlon last summer.

The streets and waters of downtown Riverhead may be the stage for a July 29 triathlon.

The downtown Business Improvement District and the Riverhead Community Development Agency are planning a triathlon that would include a 1.5 kilometer swim in the Peconic River, a 10K run and a 40K bicycle race through downtown Riverhead.

The plan, discussed at Thursday’s Riverhead Town Board meeting, would have the finish line in front of the Suffolk Theatre marquee. Runners’ names would appear on the marquee as they cross the finish line, if it’s possible.

Town Board members voiced the support for the plan.

“I love it. Does everybody love it?” Supervisor Sean Walter asked his fellow board members.

“I think this would be a great event,” Councilman John Dunleavy said.

Dennis McDermott, the owner of the Riverhead Project restaurant who is involved in the proposal, called hosting a triathlon in a downtown area a unique idea.

“Most triathlons occur in beaches … removed from populations,” he said.

The swimming portion of the race would be in the river, and the bike part would use the riverfront parking lot, with the finish line  on Main Street by the Suffolk Theatre marquee, he said. Main Street would need to be closed to traffic for the event, he said.

Participants would bring their spouses and would stay in local hotels and spend money locally, he said.

Mr. McDermott estimated about 500 people would participate. Race director Rueben Kline, of Event Power LI, felt 300 was a better number, saying that first-time events should start off small.

Mr. McDermott said they also hope to set up “popup storefronts” in vacant stores to promote things like local wineries, businesses and the North Fork Animal Welfare league.

Event Power directs many races on Long Island, Mr. Kline said. Their events generally raise money for charity in the community it occurs in, he said.

The Town Board technically is the board of both the CDA and the BID, and they voiced support for the proposal, although they have not formally voted to approve it.

Police Chief David Hegermiller asked if there was enough room in the river for all the participants. Steve Tarpinian of Event Power LI said they do a “time trial” start, in which participants enter one after another, instead of all at once. The participants are timed with a computer chip, he said.

Town Board members said the event would not need a special event permit, since it’s a town-sponsored event.

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