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Civic pride displayed at Huntington Awareness Day

Alexander Samuels, right, joins others in cheering on

Alexander Samuels, right, joins others in cheering on marchers during the Huntington Awareness Day Unity in the Community Parade in Huntington Station, Sept. 12, 2015. Credit: Ed Betz

Classic cars, firetrucks and a marching band paraded down New York Avenue in Huntington Station Saturday in a display of civic pride.

Huntington Awareness Day, an annual fair intended to build community spirit in Huntington Station and surrounding areas, drew its biggest crowd despite some drizzle at the start of the festivities, organizers and attendees said.

Dolores Thompson, former president of the NAACP's Huntington branch, said she launched the event six years ago in part to combat negative perceptions stemming from crime in Huntington Station, a hamlet of 33,000 people in the heart of Huntington Town.

"I thought it was necessary to come together in unity and make sure we are a community, we are a driving force," Thompson said.

Town, county and state officials this year recognized six people or families with deep ties to Huntington. Honorees included Suffolk County Police Officer Mark Collins, who survived two gunshot wounds in March while chasing a suspected gang member in Huntington Station.

"It's been a privilege to serve you all here in Huntington," Collins said in brief remarks at the event. "I consider it my second home."

Collins, who appeared in uniform, said he was eager to return to duty and get back to work in the community.

Former Suffolk Police Insp. Edward Brady, who retired in July after six years at the helm of the department's Second Precinct, was the grand marshal of the parade.

Also honored was the family of Rufus Harris, one of the first African-American business owners in Huntington, who died in 1986. Harris and five of his nine children operated auto repair shops in the town for more than 40 years, his son Jimmie Harris said.

"You've got to build pride," Harris said. "If people have pride in their community, they take care of the community."

The fair brought food trucks, inflatable castles and a live rock band to a town parking lot on New York Avenue. Thompson said she looked forward to drawing bigger crowds in the future. More than 100 spectators came to this year's event.

"I will not stop until I see this whole area loaded up with people," she said, gesturing to the sidewalks lining the parade route. "We get better every year."

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