While Riverhead’s holiday parade is canceled, plans for New Year’s fireworks show in flux

With 2020 winding down, and most of its big annual events having been canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Riverhead Business Improvement District is hoping to find a way to salvage its last two events planned for the year.

But members of the BID’s management association admit it’s not going to be easy to get those events approved — especially if COVID cases continue to rise and county and state officials limit large gatherings.

The pandemic already led to the cancellation of the BID’s Alive on 25 series, as well as the popular Cardboard Boat Race and the Fourth of July fireworks show.

The BID and town Chamber of Commerce were able to reinvent Alive on 25 as a more low-key event called Dine on 25, inviting local businesses to put tables on the street outside their businesses and serve dinners to patrons outdoors.

The last two events that were on the BID’s original 2020 schedule included the Holiday bonfire and parade, a joint venture with the Riverhead Lions Club, which runs the parade. That was scheduled for Dec. 14. The other event was a proposed downtown fireworks show on New Year’s Eve.

But Lions Club president Bob Kozakiewicz said in an interview last Thursday that the club will not have the parade this year.

“Regrettably, we just can’t do it this year,” he said. “It was going to be too much, with the COVID and all the other restrictions, to try and make it work. So we’re not going to go forward this year. Trying to guarantee that people will maintain safe distancing was too hard, especially now, with what’s going on, I think it’s going to be even more difficult.”

At the time of its meeting last Wednesday, the BID had not yet learned what the Lions Club planned to do. Executive director Kristy Verity said they were waiting to hear before making their own decision on Christmas events. 

“I’d hate to cancel one more event that could draw kids and families from the community, but we have to make a decision,” said Ms. Verity. “The same with the fireworks.”

The New Year’s Eve fireworks had been planned to make up for the cancellation of the July 4th event. 

The BID was able to keep $6,000 of the $12,000 it had already paid the fireworks company and is hoping to use them at New Year’s, which they’ve done in the past.

But some BID members questioned if that would be approved.

BID member Dee Muma, owner of Dark Horse Restaurant, said the State Liquor Authority “has been coming into restaurants a couple times per week” to check on COVID compliance.

Ms. Verity said they hope to move the fireworks launch site from Grangebel Park to the downtown riverfront, and possibly make it an event people can watch from their cars. She also said the town fire marshal has raised concerns about the proximity of that site to beach grass along the riverfront.

Ms. Verity said the BID will make its decision shortly. She acknowledged that “we’ve not gotten support for anything that draws a crowd.”

Councilman Tim Hubbard, the Town Board liaison to the BID, said he believes “we are going to see enforcement tighten up” from the state and county.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has raised concerns that the number of COVID cases could increase drastically during the Thanksgiving holiday if people don’t follow recommendations to stay home and avoid large gatherings. 

In addition to the BID events, other popular Riverhead events that were canceled this year included the Polish Town Fair, the Country Fair and East End Arts’ Annual Community Mosaic Street Painting Festival.