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Music and guitar lovers flock to fifth annual expo in LI

Michael Judge, 9, of Mineola tries out an

Michael Judge, 9, of Mineola tries out an acrylic guitar with George Fedden at the fifth annual New York Guitar Show & Expo at the Freeport Recreation Center on Saturday, April 23, 2016. Photo Credit: Daniel Goodrich

Guitarists, whose obsession with gear can rival their love of music, transformed a Freeport gymnasium into Long Island’s loudest flea market Saturday for the fifth annual New York Guitar Show & Expo.

Heavy-metal shredding and finger-plucked folk tunes filled the Freeport Recreation Center as guitar enthusiasts navigated a maze of vendors hawking handmade instruments and effects pedals.

“You talk to any guy here, they’ll tell you that gear is an addiction and it will swamp you pretty quickly,” said Peter Lubin, who said he has accumulated more than two dozen guitars at his Great Neck home.

Lubin said he didn’t plan to leave the expo with any new toys. In fact, he toyed with the idea of selling off some of his instruments at the expo but reconsidered.

“It’s not the most conducive atmosphere for serious negotiations,” Lubin said, raising his voice over the cacophony of rock and jazz. “It’s like a dozen Guitar Centers going on at once.”

Richard Johnson, an event promoter and guitar player who grew up in Rockville Centre, said he started the expo at a Merrick church five years ago after he learned the nearest guitar show was in Philadelphia.

“Why should anybody from New York have to bend over backward for anybody not from New York?” said Johnson, who moved two years ago from the Long Beach area to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

He said the expo had been drawing about 200 people per hour on Saturday. The two-day event was scheduled to end at 5 p.m. Sunday.

Next year, he said, he may move the event to a bigger venue — perhaps somewhere that sells beer.

Among the vendors Saturday was Aaron Kipness, who was showing off his “Gizmotron,” a device that makes a guitar sound like a bowed string instrument with the push of a button. Kipness, whose New Jersey business began selling the product two months ago, sat on a stool with orchestral sounds emanating from his guitar as people stopped to gawk.

“It’s a great show,” Kipness said of the expo. “We’re really happy with the turnout.”

Across the room, a small crowd was gathering around Marcelo Franco, who builds custom “steampunk” guitars in his Queens home using metal scraps he buys from yard sales and antique shops.

He showed off one guitar adorned with plates of gold-colored leaves from an old serving tray. Others looked like a cross between a musical instrument and a motorcycle engine.

“This is like what you’d see in a ‘Mad Max’ movie,” said Ed Shin, a Great Neck resident who stopped to admire Franco’s guitars as he photographed the expo for Village Connection Magazine in Huntington.

Somewhere nearby, a vendor plucked an acoustic version of “Stairway to Heaven.”

Vito Genna, a flamenco guitarist from Wantagh who performs on Long Island, and his son Gabe said they were impressed during their first trip to the expo Saturday.

“Being a player, I just wanted to check it out, see all the new gear, to see all the big names — Gibson, Taylor,” the father said. “I think it’s wonderful. I have a feeling they’re going to be expanding.”

Gabe said he had a good time, too — even though he plays the cello.

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