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East Rockaway Stars and Stripes Festival perseveres despite challenges

Josh Joachim, 8, of Valley Stream, won prizes

Josh Joachim, 8, of Valley Stream, won prizes playing carnival games at the Stars and Stripes Festival in East Rockaway. (July 6, 2013) (Credit: Jackie Salo)

With local businesses still adjusting post-Sandy, the Village Foundation of East Rockaway knew it would be a challenge to organize the annual three-day Stars and Stripes Festival along the Main Street waterfront.

The festival relies heavily on donations to the nonprofit foundation, and president Harold Messerschmidt admitted that fundraising had been “an uphill battle."

Despite the challenges, this year’s festival was able to add water rides and a petting zoo in addition to the traditional fireworks show on the dock, along with carnival rides and games.

Messerschmidt, 31, said that although some of the biggest sponsors in past years had been particularly devastated by the storm, other businesses stepped up. The Pathmark location on Atlantic Avenue, for example, made some of its parking spaces available for those attending the festival as part of its contribution.

“We have the wherewithal and desire to keep things going,” said Mayor Francis T. Lenahan, 63. “We were not going to fail. We get bigger and better each year. Through the graciousness of the village foundation and local businesses, we were able to do this.”

One vendor that keeps coming back is Fairtastic, which is selling crafts such as sand art and spin art for the third year there.

“It is a small community and we do see the same kids every year at the festival,” said Fairtastic owner Sheryl Rubenbauer, 53, of Huntington, who added that the fireworks display in East Rockaway is one of the best she’s seen during her festival travels.

The festival, which will conclude Sunday from noon to 8 p.m., was estimated to bring in more than 3,000 people to the village, organizers said. Hugo Cruz, the owner of Wardon’s Deli, which is on the corner of Main Street and Front Street, said the staff enjoys being at the center of the festival.

“Everyone looks forward to it because it is the biggest day that the community gets together for each year,” said Cruz, 32, of East Rockaway.

Sunday’s festival finale will include performances from bands The Mystic at 2 p.m. and The Switch at 5 p.m. Individual rides are $3, or $25 for an unlimited ride pass.

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