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For more than 20 years, Merrick festival draws crowds

Sweet Tooth Events owner Maria Mascia, 26, of

Sweet Tooth Events owner Maria Mascia, 26, of Rockville Centre, reaches out to new clients during the Merrick Chamber of Commerce Kids Fest. (April 28, 2012) Credit: Brittany Wait

Business owner Maria Mascia finds an outdoor festival the perfect chance to network with other businesses and expand her client list.

On Saturday, jars filled with gumballs and other types of candy covered her table at the Merrick Chamber of Commerce Kids Fest.

“I make adults feel like kids and kids just see the Willy Wonka aspect,” said Mascia, 26. She owns Sweet Tooth Events, which she runs out of her Rockville Centre home.

Hundreds flocked Saturday to the festival, on the corner of Merrick Avenue and Sunrise Highway. The festival, which started Friday night, continues from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday.

Mascia, one of the 150 vendors at the event, was thrilled to be able to reach out to potential customers in person.

“When you have these big companies pushing out mom-and-pops, it makes it harder,” she said. “This is my opportunity to relate to customers.”

The festival has been a part of the community for more than 20 years. Packed with carnival rides such as the Ferris wheel and merry-go-round, it raises most of its money through ticket sales from rides and games.

“The money raised from this is partially for scholarships and things we do in the community,” said Randy Shotland, president of the Merrick Chamber of Commerce.

The scholarship program for the Bellmore-Merrick Central High School District will award a graduating senior, from each of the three high schools in the district, about $2,000, Shotland said.

Michelle Mormando watched as her 4-year-old daughter Ashley filled a plastic container with a mix of colorful sand.

“She likes to look at jewelry and now we’re heading to the rides,” Mormando, of Seaford, said.

Shotland said he expects the festival to attract about 10,000 people, which will help promote small businesses in the area.

“We need people to shop locally or else we won’t have Main Street businesses,” he said. “By word of mouth, we’re really growing each year by leaps and bounds.”

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