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Huntington debates small business parade

Huntington Town is close to getting an updated

Huntington Town is close to getting an updated parking ticket management system. (June 29, 2011) Credit: Alexi Knock

Last year, Huntington held a nighttime holiday parade on Small Business Saturday.

Staged the weekend after Thanksgiving, the annual national event started by American Express in 2010 is dedicated to driving sales to small businesses during one of the year's busiest shopping periods.

But dozens of Huntington business owners and employees say the parade, which starts on New York Avenue and travels along Main Street to West Neck Road, has done the opposite of attracting customers.

"The parade does not help businesses, it hurts them," said Rita Ciaffone, owner of Fern's gift shop on Main Street. She and others say street closures and the focus on watching the parade keep customers away.

About 65 people have signed a petition asking the town to move the parade to a Sunday because of its negative impact on business. But some town officials disagree, saying the parade brings in thousands of people and should help local retailers. They have made some concessions, but they have declined to change the day. This year's parade is scheduled for Nov. 24.

Town Supervisor Frank Petrone said the Christmas tree, which was in the middle of Wall Street last year, will be placed in the traffic circle on Gerard Street. Wall Street, which was closed all day last year, will be closed about 4 p.m., and the parade will start an hour later than before, at 7.

"It is a great compromise and more efficient," Petrone said.

But some residents are not completely satisfied. "I think it is a great thing that the lines of communication are open," Ciaffone said, after she met recently with town officials to discuss the parade. But she said she doesn't understand the town's explanations about why changing the date is not an option. "I am hopeful the changes they are implementing will make a difference," she said.

Petrone said, after the most recent meeting, "We are pretty much all on the same page."

Initially, the town responded to the petition in a letter signed by Petrone; Ellen O'Brien, Chamber of Commerce executive director; and Jack Palladino, president of the Huntington Village Business Improvement District.

The letter said they ruled out Sunday because children return to school and the fire department volunteers and local business workers have to work on Monday. Ciaffone said she kept her business open for the parade last year, and two people came in between 4 and 8:30 p.m. They asked to use her restroom. People "come for the parade, not to shop," she said.

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