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Babylon country fair draws thousands, beautification funds

The crowd applauds as Babylon's Italia Pirro, 90,

The crowd applauds as Babylon's Italia Pirro, 90, shows off her dance moves while a live band plays at the Babylon Village Country Fair. (Sept. 8, 2013) Credit: Tara Conry

When the band started playing a familiar swing song, Italia Pirro couldn’t contain herself. The 90-year-old Babylon resident rose from her seat in the gazebo at Argyle Lake Park Sunday and joined the musicians on stage for the annual Babylon Village Country Fair. With the crowd applauding, she showed off her favorite line dancing moves, spinning, grapevining and swaying along to the music.

“I love to dance,” Pirro said. “I dance for myself.”

She said the music brought her back to her childhood home in Manhattan’s Lower East Side, where she and her 12 sisters would dance along to records they purchased for only a nickel each.

“We stepped on each other’s feet but we didn’t cry about it,” she recalled. “We just danced for the fun of it.”

Although the annual fair, now in its 40th year, drawing between 30,000 and 40,000 people to Argyle Lake Park, said Donna Consola, president of the Babylon Beautification Society, which organizes the event, it still has a way of transporting people back to the good ol’ days.

“It’s like a Norman Rockwell kind of thing,” Consola said.

Babylon Village native and current mayor, Ralph Scordino, 65, said his favorite part of the event is watching all the volunteers from organizations such as the Lions Club, the Babylon Boosters and local youth sports leagues working to raise money for the betterment of the village.

“It just shows one day where people get together and are contributing their time,” he said.

All the money raised from these groups selling food and refreshments offsets the costs of hosting the fair, but the event also typically raises more than $30,000 by renting space to vendors to sell handcrafted items. The funds are used by the village for beautification projects, which in the past have included the installation of old-fashioned lights, hundreds of hanging flower baskets and the park’s gazebo, erected in 1985.

This year, 250 craft vendors nearly surrounded Argyle Lake. They included Jennifer Fox, of Rocky Point. Fox repurposes driftwood that she and her husband find on North Shore beaches from Jamesport to St. James, and she turns it into hand-painted household decorations.

“This is the best fair on Long Island,” said Fox, who quickly sold out her five-foot driftwood “snowmen.”

Shoppers like Donna Fontana, 45, of Holbrook, who was married inside the park’s gazebo two months ago, said her family usually spends five hours at the fair. They enjoy the food, the scenic views of swans swimming inside the lake, and the variety of merchandise.

“It’s just so big,” said Fontana, who had already purchased some holiday decorations, but intended to shop some more. “It’s one of the biggest ones I’ve ever been to.” 

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