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Hempstead fest aims to make science, technology a fun affair

Scene at the sixth annual Arts Below Sunrise

Scene at the sixth annual Arts Below Sunrise and STEAM Festival in Hempstead Town on Sunday, Sept. 17, 2017. The event featured live music, artists and dancers as well as craft and food vendors. Credit: Steven Sunshine

Broadway Street in Hempstead Town was filled with crowds playing games and trying science experiments at a Sunday festival near the hamlets of Hewlett and Woodmere.

The street fair and festival was dedicated to celebrating science, technology, engineering, the arts, math and music — also known as STEAM subjects. With upbeat live music and balmy temperatures, families and children explored the dozens of hands-on activities available, including obstacle courses and live robotics demonstrations.

The event, called the Arts Below Sunrise and STEAM Festival, was organized by the Hewlett-Woodmere Public Schools Endowment Fund, which provides educational initiative supporting the local school district’s budget. Julie Pareles, a member of the group and one of the event’s organizers, said the sixth annual festival was about uniting the community around STEAM.

“Our goal is to make this a truly enriching and diverse community that unites around such wonderful activities and promotes them.” Organizers expected thousands to visit the festival throughout the day.

Knatasha and Jason Hunter, of Lynbrook, said it was their first time coming to the event and that their two young sons were really enjoying the educational activities.

“It’s wonderful,” Knatasha Hunter said. “They’re in love with everything they’re seeing now and this is where it starts. . . . My husband and I are math and science teachers and it makes us feel great.”

Children lined up in droves to build and test out their own rockets made from 2-liter soda bottles, which flew into the air with emphatic pops. Hewlett resident Jill Rosenfeld, 50, filmed her 8-year-old son Ryder launching his rocket successfully. Rosenfeld said that the user-friendly science experiments were a great example of fun, cost-effective learning and an ideal alternative to buying toys and games.

“It’s great for the community and for kids to learn things they wouldn’t normally do,” Rosenfeld said.

The educational stations were run by parents, teachers and student volunteers from the Hewlett-Woodmere school district. Anna Tevzadze, 16, a senior at George W. Hewlett High School, was staffing the Robotics Club’s booth and guiding children through an obstacle course featuring robots built by club members.

“I saw little kids having so much fun with it,” she said. “When they’re young, that’s when they’re most curious. . . . I hope that they sustain the interest as they get older.”

Other activities Sunday included a portable planetarium provided by the Cradle of Aviation Museum in Garden City, drone flying, booths featuring local community groups, portraits, face-painting and more. There also was a small petting zoo with exotic animals, including alpacas.

Joe Ruvolo, 55, of Hewlett, who attends the festival every year with his family, said the event was a celebration of what the community has to offer.

“It educates the younger people on things in the community they might want to be part of,” Ruvolo said. “When you come out to Long Island, there are things to support.”

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