“So go downtown
“Things will be great when you’re downtown
“Don’t wait a minute more, downtown
“Everything is waiting for you, downtown”
No one sells downtown quite like Petula Clark did in her 1965 song, “Downtown,” but a group of business, community and government leaders are doing their darndest. They participated in a four-stop tour across Long Island Thursday, promoting downtown events and underscoring the value of supporting local businesses. After stops in Baldwin, Farmingdale and Kings Park, they finished up in Riverhead.
Eric Alexander, founder of Long Island Main Street Alliance, said over 200 events have been identified in 70 Long Island communities. “So, Long Islanders should stay local,” he said during a press event at Grangebel Park in Riverhead. “They should support their local community. They don’t need to get on a plane. They don’t need to get on a train. They can spend their money locally, and we’re just gonna bring to light some of the awesome things that are here.”
Frank Camarano, president of the Nassau Council of Chambers of Commerce, said these events generally haven’t been promoted in Long Island downtowns. Chambers of commerce, local newspapers and social media, he said, are important in getting the word out that Long Islanders need not travel far to find fun.
“It’s a very long island,” Mr. Camarano said. “… You don’t have to go very far to cover most of the bases unless maybe if you want to go skiing in the winter, right? That being said, you know, shopping, you know, partying local, enjoying life, as we’re doing here, local is the way to go. You know, it doesn’t matter whether gas prices are five dollars or 15 dollars a gallon — God forbid — you know, the reality of it is it’s nicer to stay at home most of the time. You know, people are not obligated to travel to enjoy life. They can do that right near their home, right here on Long Island.”
The tour came one day before the first of four scheduled Alive on 25 events that will bring live music, art, fireworks, craft beverages and food trucks to Main Street in Riverhead. The next three are set for July 15 and 29 and Aug. 12.
Riverhead Chamber of Commerce executive director Liz O’Shaugnessy pointed out that the Peconic River in Riverhead will host a cardboard boat race Aug. 13. “It is one of the most family-fun activities that we do in Riverhead all year long,” she said.
Also, Grangebel Park will be the site of a light art show with sculptures in the park July 23, Aug. 12, Sept. 10 and Oct. 1.
Ms. O’Shaugnessy noted that Riverhead’s offerings go beyond the summer season, with events such as an Oktoberfest, Halloweenfest and holiday parade.
“For us, it’s all about economic development and revitalization,” said Riverhead Town councilman Bob Kern, the former president of the Riverhead chamber.
Long Island Aquarium is a big draw to Riverhead. Bryan DeLuca, the aquarium’s executive director, noted that the aquarium has a paddle battle race scheduled for July 30 involving stand-up paddleboards and kayakers as a fundraiser for endangered sea turtles.
“Riverhead is where it’s happening,” he said. “Bring it.”
East End Arts creative director Wendy Weiss said her organization, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary in downtown Riverhead, seeks to “unlock creativity.” She said: “We do what we can to support all of the arts, including the art that you see here in the park, and we really want to turn this area into a true arts district. So as somebody who was born and raised on the east end of Long Island — I went to Mercy High School, which is not too far from here — you had a commercial district in Riverhead and that was it. There was no other place to be and so we’re really looking to change that and draw everyone down here to downtown Riverhead as a place where things are happening.”
Mr. Alexander said he wants to see some of the money New York State spends on tourism and promotion go to local chambers of commerce. “They know the community, the local organizations,” he said. “They can promote it out better than anyone. So we want to see more of that.”