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Riverhead festival gets boost from Yelp

Riverhead's Memorial Day Street Painting festival has drawn about 5,000 people for the past few years, but officials say this year's crowd could be bigger than ever, with online social network site Yelp joining as a sponsor and information-spreader.

The May 27 event -- in which scores of people are given spots along East Main Street and the parking lots that abut the Peconic River to make their chalk drawings -- requires town police to close part of the busy street to traffic during the day.

Artists 14 or older can preregister on the East End Arts website for a free first-come, first-served space -- 4-by-6, 6-by-8 or 8-by-8. The arts group provides chalk but urges artists to bring hats and knee pads. Some spaces are sponsored, with the sponsor's name on a sign above the space.

Despite the age limit, small children with chalk always find a way to draw flowers or animals on the street.

Admission is free. Revenue comes from sponsors and from the dozens of artists, craftsmen and others who pay to set up displays to sell their work in the parking lots.

East End Arts officials say street painting dates to 16th century Italy, when "I Madonnari" -- street painting outside cathedrals paying homage to the Virgin Mary -- was common.

For children, there will be face painting, a puppet show and a "instrument playground" for experimenting with musical instruments. The Southold and Riverhead public libraries will sponsor storytelling sessions. Musical performances will range from jazz to Afro-Cuban to Polka dancing to a drum circle.

The festival will run from noon to 5 p.m.; East Main Street will remain closed between Roanoke Avenue and East Street until after cleanup. The rain date is May 28, from 2 to 5 p.m.

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