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Freeport’s Nautical Mile and Blues Festival draws crowds

Reggie Herron stood in the sun waving at the passing crowd chatting with friends Saturday afternoon. It was the perfect breezy day for him to let loose as Freeport Village celebrated its 31st annual Nautical Mile and Blues Festival.

“It was a good time to get out and get something to eat,” said Herron, 42, of Freeport Village.

For many, the event launched the season for warm-weather outings.

Among the first to show up on Woodcleft Avenue was Plainview mother Joanna Hoban, 35, who came with her husband and their two children. “This kicks off the summer season. It’s good to get out for a family outing,” Hoban said.

Village officials said they expected at least 30,000 people to enjoy the festivities that included local blues and jazz bands.

By mid-afternoon, a couple thousand people had attended.

Antonino D’Antoni, manager of River House Grille, said business at his restaurant was slow and disappointing but that the festival atmosphere was upbeat.

Organizer Michael Fricchione said he expected thousands more to attend as night fell, and when the All-Star Blues Jam hit the stage.

During a news conference at the event, Freeport Village Mayor Robert Kennedy noted that five years after superstorm Sandy pummeled the area, it has rebounded.

“The entire Nautical Mile was devastated and under 8 feet of water,” Kennedy said. “Every restaurant had major, major damage.”

Since then, however, the seafood hub has made a comeback. “They’ve done a great job rebuilding,” the mayor said. “All of the restaurants have been expanded and modernized.”

Vendors lined the Nautical Mile selling clothes, popcorn, pickles, sausage links and barbecue. Children played on the human gyro, riding a trackless train, shockwave swing and the dragon-go-round. A few people jogged around.

Freeport vendor James Beauford, 71, kept crowds entertained with his candid humor about his barehanded-catfishing and rattlesnake-hunting adventures while growing up in Dillon, South Carolina.

“I’m what you call an old soul,” he said, as a small group gathered to hear his jokes.

Jamaica, Queens, resident Monique James, 36, said, “I’m looking forward to eating seafood and sightseeing,” James said.

Herron said the festival was the perfect way to unwind.

“It’s always good just to be able to get out and relax,” he said.

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