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Wantagh Park Family Festival is a sign of spring for the community

Families turn out for the Wantagh Park Family

Families turn out for the Wantagh Park Family Festival. (April 13, 2013) Credit: Mary Kate Mahoney

Sharon and Dean George of Wantagh have made a family tradition of bringing their children, Jayla, 6 and Cody, 2, to the Wantagh Park Family Festival each April as a kick off to warmer months ahead.

“We come each year because we love being together as a family,” Sharon George said. “I grew up here, so I also get to see a ton of old friends.”

Held each April for the past three years, the Wantagh Park Family Festival is the first event each year held by East Northport-based company Newton Shows. This year’s festival was expected to draw about 2,000 visitors throughout the weekend.

“We do a lot of fundraising for Nassau County Parks,” said John Newton Jr., chief operations officer for Newton Shows. “The fairs bring a lot of people into the parks.”

A steady crowd of fair goers filled Wantagh Park on King Road from noon to 10 p.m. on Saturday enjoying traditional carnival games, rides and treats. Though temperatures chilled as night fell, the flashing lights and smell of fried zeppoles infused the distinct feeling of summertime to the atmosphere.

Some visitors spent hours at the festival, while others just stopped by to take in a few rides.

Wantagh Middle School students Hailey Frey, 12, Caitlyn Parisi, 12, and Jessica Nealon, 11, acted in two performances of “Seussical: The Musical” at Wantagh High School on Saturday. But that didn’t stop them from hurrying over to Wantagh Park, still wearing their cat whiskers, between show times to check out the festival.

“We love the rides,” Frey said. “This is just something fun to do before the next show starts.”

Kelly Reilly, 22, of West Islip began the first day of her fifth year working for Newton Shows running the Blockbuster game at the Wantagh Family Fun Festival.

“I really like working here,” Reilly said. “You get out in the sun, and you get to talk to people. It’s like a second family. You come back every summer and everyone is the same.”

With more than 25 events lined up for the coming months Reilly and the rest of the Newton Shows staff have a long and festive summer ahead of them.

“We’re looking forward to a new season, and we’re hoping for good weather,” Newton said.

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