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3 ways to spend a festive holiday weekend

Merrick based Spiderbyte performs atop the Huntington Lighthouse

Merrick based Spiderbyte performs atop the Huntington Lighthouse during the The 4th Annual Huntington Lighthouse Music Fest. (Sept. 5, 2010) Credit: Charles Eckert

The beach and the backyard barbecue get some competition this Labor Day weekend from a trio of summer-ending events. All offer popular alternatives to the local block party, along with a helping of local pride and tradition.

Tens of thousands are expected to attend these events, which not only feature traditional food, arts and crafts but are traditions in their own right.

Held for the past 66 years, the Shinnecock Powwow is "a celebration of thousands and thousands of years of history and culture," says Beverly Jensen, the tribe's director of communications. "It's something that we have looked forward to all our lives."

The 41st Cabrini festival also has ethnic roots. "It's very, very Italian," says festival spokeswoman Kerry Gillick-Goldberg. However, in a bow to L.I.'s growing Latino population, this year they'll also serve ethnic fare such as tacos.

And a lighthouse fest -- organizers say it's truly one of a kind. "This is the only music festival in the world that takes place on top of a lighthouse in the middle of the water," says fest spokeswoman Helen Patrikis.

Here are details so you can choose where to spend summer's last big weekend.

1. Shinnecock Indian Powwow

WHEN | WHERE 3-11 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m.-11 p.m. Saturday and Sunday; 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday, Shinnecock Indian Reservation off Montauk Highway, Southampton. Rain or shine. Friday-Monday

INFO 631-283-6143, shinnecocknation.com

ADMISSION $12 ($10 ages 6-12)

Drumming, dancing and sunset fire lightings are among the highlights of this four-day family-oriented festival. More than entertainment, the powwow offers a window into the world of Long Island's American Indian culture and history. Headliners include Grammy-winning musician Joanne Shenandoah, and the Tlalcopan Aztec Dancers. One hundred vendors will be selling arts and crafts -- and you can also sample Shinnecock clam chowder.

The organizers also promise at least one unique sight -- performers dancing atop a drum. Jensen says: "We've got a drum that no other powwow has. It's unique in Indian country."

2. The Feast of Mother Cabrini

WHEN | WHERE 6-11 p.m. and 3-11 p.m. Saturday-Monday, Suffolk County Community College, Brentwood-Grant Campus, 1001 Crooked Hill Rd., Brentwood

INFO 631-499-6824, mothercabrinifeast.org.

ADMISSION Free

Long Island's answer to the Feast of San Gennaro is reportedly the largest outdoor feast in Suffolk County, with 50,000 festivalgoers last year and an estimated 60,000 expected this year. It celebrates Frances Xavier Cabrini, an immigrant from Italy who assisted fellow immigrants in Lower Manhattan and was the first American citizen to become a saint.

Like that feast in Little Italy, one of the big draws here, of course, will be the food. On the quarter-mile food promenade, you can munch on sausages and seasonal treats amid colorful arches recalling Mulberry Street in Little Italy. Other highlights include Saturday's 8:30 p.m. zeppoli-eating contest and 10 p.m. fireworks on Sunday.

3. Huntington Lighthouse Music Fest

WHEN | WHERE Saturday, 11 a.m.-sunset, Huntington Harbor. The lighthouse -- celebrating its 100th anniversary this year -- is located about one mile offshore from Town Park at Gold Star Battalion Beach at the end of West Shore Rd.

INFO lighthousemusicfest.com

ADMISSION Free

Anchor or raft-up your watercraft for a concert that gives a whole new meaning to rock music. It's held atop the historic lighthouse on an island that's little more than a pile of rocks at the entrance of Huntington Harbor. With no place to hang out on the island, you provide the seating, which can include a power boat, kayak or even an inner tube.

Featured performers include Joe Rock and the Allstars, with WBAB radio personality Joe Rock and Twisted Sister bass guitarist Mark Mendoza, and half a dozen others in genres such as country, Motown and reggae.

During the fest, harbor patrols will be enforcing safety regulations including a 5 mph limit in a one-mile radius around lighthouse.

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