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Localized version of ‘War of the Worlds’ planned for Poe festival

Sal St. George

The Edgar Allan Poe Festival is returning to downtown Riverhead this Halloween weekend and will have a few new features.

The event will include a radio broadcast of Orson Welles’ “War of the Worlds” and will “scare the heck out of everybody,” festival organizer Sal St. George told the Riverhead Business Improvement District Management Association on Wednesday.

The “War of the Worlds” radio broadcast will take place at the Vail-Leavitt Music Hall on Sunday, Nov. 1, and will be the closing show of the three-day festival. The festival will run between Oct. 30 and Nov. 1 at a variety of downtown venues.

The original Orson Welles radio broadcast of an adaption of H.G. Wells’ novel was done on Halloween in 1938 and caused mass hysteria because many people believed Earth was being invaded by Martians.

But Mr. St. George plans to localize the story a bit.

“It would be so easy to pick up Orson Welles’ script and recreate it,” Mr. St. George told BID members. “What I want to do is reimagine it and make it a little contemporary.”

“For instance,” he continued, “they staged it in New Jersey. I’m going to stage it on Long Island. Things are going to be smashing into the Harbes Farm. The Throgs Neck bridge may not last much longer. We’re going to be using all of the local sites that people recognize and we’re going to destroy everything.”

Mr. St. George also promised the radio broadcast’s ending will “scare the heck out of everybody.”

He said Cindy Clifford, a Riverhead resident who works for WALK 97.5 FM radio, was able to quickly get a handful of other radio personalities to volunteer to do the show.

Mr. St. George said some of the features from last year will return as well and believes this year’s event will have a better turnout because Halloween is will take place on a Saturday (last year it was Friday).

“Last year, we waited until 4 p.m. for the kids to get out of school and they had from 4 to 6 p.m. to trick or treat downtown, and then had the parade at 7 p.m.,” he said.

The trick or treating outside downtown stores is scheduled to run from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Halloween.

The popular Edgar Allen Poe parade will again be held on Friday night beginning at 7 p.m.

“We’ve got our headless horseman back,” Mr. St. George said. “We’ve got the hearse back.”

The flash mob to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” will also be part of the parade, he added.

There will also be authors reading Poe’s short stories in local restaurants and businesses.

“That’s the educational component,” Mr. St. George said. “Having authors come in and read Poe stories. If it inspires a kid to pick up a book, or to become a writer, we’ve done our job.”

The full schedule of events for the Poe festival is expected to be finalized over the weekend, he added.

Organizers are hoping for nicer weather for this year’s three-day event. While it didn’t rain during last year’s parade, it did rain the over the weekend.

However, participates said the indoor events still drew a lot of people.

“Last year, in the pouring rain, I was so struck by how happy people were pouring into my establishment,” said Dee Muma, a BIDMA member and the owner of Dark Horse restaurant on East Main Street.

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