For one family, the annual Long Island Fall Festival at Heckscher Park in Huntington is more than just an excuse to enjoy the weather — it is the only time of year when they come in from all parts of the country and abroad for a weekend of fun together.
“This is our thing that we all do for every year, and it’s great,” said Merissa Isler, 42, of Bloomfield, New Jersey, who laughed as she watched her husband, Brett Isler, and their 8-year-old son, Devon, enjoying a whirl on the spinning tea cups ride.
Throngs of people on Saturday packed the park on Prime Avenue during the second day of the four-day festival, which organizers said draws tens of thousands of people each year.
Isler and Nicki Lerczak, 45, who drove eight hours from upstate Rochester with her son, Ian Lerczak, 12, said between 10 to 15 family members traveled from as far away as London to enjoy the festival as part of the annual Penner family reunion. Their yearly get-together occurs near the birthday of Eileen Penner, a Huntington resident who is the family matriarch.
“It’s a great time of year to come down here and see the changing of the leaves,” said Isler, dressed in a bright orange “Penner Fest” T-shirt adorned with a fall leaf pattern. “Usually, it’s a little more fall-looking, but not so much right now.”
The unseasonably warm 80-degree day was a hit with most festivalgoers, but not everyone.
“If I knew that it was going to be this warm, I would’ve come with shorts,” said Samara Schecher, 19, of Point Pleasant, New Jersey, who drove in with friends and were enjoying the festival’s carnival rides, jewelry and craft booths, and food carts.
Event co-chair Robert Bontempi said the festival has grown into a safe, fun event for people of all ages from all parts of the country and that organizers were “looking to make a big splash” next year for the festival’s 25th anniversary.
“It’s fun, it’s great for the community,” said Bontempi, “and it showcases Huntington as a world-class destination.”