Members of the Riverhead Business Improvement District Management Association debated whether to continue having the popular Halloween Festival and coffin race next fall in light of the pending resignation of executive director Diane Tucci, who organized that and other downtown events.
BIDMA President Stave Shauger said the Halloween Festival would be difficult to plan without an executive director. He said board members must decide where to try and hire another executive director or perhaps just an administrative assistance, who would handle “more of the basic stuff,” requiring the BIDMA members to do more of the work themselves.
Ms. Tucci was hired by the BIDMA in 2016 to handle much of the day-to-day operations of the BIDMA and to organize many of the downtown events the BIDMA sponsors.
Last year, she also took on the executive director position for the Riverhead Chamber of Commerce after that organization’s executive director stepped down for health reasons.
She said she is staying on with the Chamber but stepping down from the BIDMA position.
Ms. Tucci also owns a marketing company called Main Street Agency, which is based in downtown Riverhead. She said she will still be available to help with the BIDMA when needed and that, as a downtown business owner, she could someday become a BIDMA board member herself.
Ms. Tucci said on Friday she doesn’t feel the Halloween Festival is in jeopardy.
“It’s an important event for the town,” she said, adding that she’s confident the various organizations will make it happen.
The Halloween Festival originated in 2014 as the Edgar Allan Poe Festival, and the BIDMA contracted with an outside company to run that event. In 2016, the BIDMA took over the handling of the Halloween Festival itself, including the popular Halloween parade.
In 2017, it added the coffin races, an event Ms. Tucci had discovered in Colorado, and organized a similar event in Riverhead.
Last year’s coffin races were rained out, although the parade was pushed back a day and took place.
James Liszanckie, the co-owner of Sunny’s Riverhead Diner and Grill, urged the board not to drop the Halloween Festival. He said that while last year’s event was a bust due to rain, the year before was one of the best days his business has had due to the parade and coffin races.
“To just write it off would be a mistake,” he said. “Don’t let the weather scare you off. That was a great event.”
“Even with an executive director, there’s a crazy amount of work that goes into it,” Mr. Shauger said.
The Halloween Festival and Alive on 25 are basically the last two events run by the BIDMA, he said.
The Holiday Bonfire is run by Riverhead Town and the BIDMA, while the Chamber of Commerce has taken more of a role in running the Cardboard Boat Races, which it co-sponsors with the BIDMA.
Alive on 25 last year had its opening night at the same time as the the Fourth of July fireworks (on July 3) and BIDMA members said that was a huge success. So much so, that they plan to do it again this year. The first Alive on 25 event is set for Wednesday, July 3, while the others are on the usual Thursday dates.
The Alive on 25 dates for this year are: July 3, July 18, Aug. 1 and Aug. 15. A rain date is Aug. 21.
Correction: Ms. Tucci was hired by the BIDMA in 2016, not 2017.