For the past two years, Halloween weekend in Riverhead has looked like a scene out of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven,” but this year, things will be a little different.
After contract negotiations fell through between last year’s Poe Festival organizers, Medford-based St. George Productions, and the Town of Riverhead, members of the Business Improvement District set out to offer a new set of festivities and will host a one-day Halloween Fest on Saturday.
“I believe that this is actually going to be better for the community,” said festival organizer and BID executive director Diane Tucci.
St. George Productions decided not to go forward with its three-day festival after changes to the town’s insurance policy. But business owners in the downtown district said they are anticipating a good turnout for the abbreviated festivities.
“I think it’s going to be a busy day for it,” said Jerry Dicecco, owner of Jerry and the Mermaid, a Riverhead seafood restaurant. “It’s compact. I think it’s going to draw a lot of people to Riverhead.”
Halloween Fest organizers retained the Poe Festival’s most popular attractions, including the parade and trick or treating. Other events that were not advertised by that festival — such as a screening of the film “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” at The Suffolk Theater and the Masquerade Ball at the Long Island Aquarium and Exhibition Center — will be part of the Halloween Fest.
“We want to do what we can to make Riverhead successful,” said Anthony Cafaro, marketing director at The Suffolk Theater. “If we pool our marketing efforts together and make this a singular event that has something for everyone, it will be more successful.”
Last year’s showing brought in a full house, which is about 400 seats, Cafaro said.
In between the Halloween parade and trick or treating, festival organizers have carved out time for attendees to stop by local restaurants and shops.
“Myself and the hotel next door are all helping to plan activities for the festival instead of having a company put it all together,” said Dicecco. “There’s definitely more community interaction that will inevitably help turnout for the event.”
Downtown restaurants will offer fall-themed foods as well as kid’s meal specials on the day of the festival. For instance, The Blue Duck Bakery and Cafe in Southold will offer a $5 kid’s meal, complete with a festive treat to go along with the store’s extensive Halloween decor.
“I’m excited for the whole event,” said bakery owner Nancy Kouris. “The kids come down and they’re all just dressed up and so happy. I’m excited just to see the smiles on the kids’ faces.”
Participation extends beyond local business involvement. Residents are invited to bring carved pumpkins and enter them in a jack-o’-lantern contest, or help decorate the 49 lampposts downtown.
“I think we’re turning a new corner with Riverhead,” Cafaro said. “People are a lot more aware of it now.”
Treats and prizes
Riverhead’s Halloween Fest begins Oct. 29 with trick or treating from 2 to 5 p.m. Next will be a parade of costumed residents and canines, and 8 p.m. marks the start of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” screening at The Suffolk Theater and the Masquerade Ball at the Long Island Aquarium and Exhibition Center.
There will be first- and second-place prizes for best traditional jack-o’-lantern in the following categories: best in show, best animal, most spooky and People’s Choice.