An annual event aimed at celebrating diversity looked more like a large family reunion or a neighborhood block party Saturday.
The Huntington Station event, now in its eighth year, was created to foster a sense of community in the multicultural town, organizers said. Residents of many ethnicities turned out for Huntington Awareness Day — Unity Festival 2017.
“The whole idea was to create more unity in the community,” said Huntington resident Dolores Thompson, co-chairwoman of this year’s festival. “We were trying to create a relationship where you can recognize anyone no matter their race, creed or color.”
The day started with a parade that began at Huntington High School, traveled two miles south down Oakwood Road, and ended at Stimson Middle School. Saturday marked the first time the event was held on the grassy fields behind Stimson. In previous years, it was held in the parking lot of the Long Island Rail Road Station in Huntington Station.
The venue change drew mixed reactions from people who attended.
Evelyn Connor of Huntington said she liked having the event at the LIRR station parking lot, though she still enjoyed Saturday’s festival.
“We come here every year and we come to represent our church,” said Connor, sitting at a table with fellow parishioners from Evergreen Missionary Baptist Church in Huntington Station. “You get to see a lot of people here and it beats going to a funeral.”
But Willie Jones of Huntington Station said he liked having the festival at Stimson because the fields offer more space for children to run and play.
“You get to meet so many people here,” Jones said. “I’ve probably met more people here today than I have in previous years. And there’s more variety of things to do here.”
There were six bounce houses, a mobile trailer where kids could play video games, and multiple food vendors. There were also information booths from local organizations, including the American Legion Greenlawn Post 1244 and the National Council of Negro Women.
At the booth for the Town of Huntington’s Human Services Department, staffers displayed flyers for upcoming events and pamphlets about the town’s senior center.
Department director Jillian Guthman said the booth was set up so residents could learn what services were available.
Festival organizers also recognized eight Huntington leaders for excellence in such areas as community leadership and public education service.
Rabbi Jeffrey Clopper, who received the Excellence in Community Partnerships recognition, said the festival filled an important need in a divided world.
“I don’t know why this [Huntington Awareness] day started, but I’m so glad it did,” he said.