The blizzard that hit Long Island on Thursday may have provided the perfect setup for Winterfest, Levittown’s celebration of the season.
Hundreds turned out Saturday for the festival in Levittown Hall in Hicksville, where such activities as face painting, train set displays, raffles and pictures with Disney’s Princess Ariel were offered.
For first-timers, this year’s Winterfest was both a fun day out with the family and a way to get to know neighbors.
John Pietropaolo, 46, of Levittown, attended with his wife, Lisa Pietropaolo, and their children Mia, 6, and Gianna, 19 months. The Pietropaolos, who are new to Levittown, had a chance to meet new faces from the neighborhood.
“I just met one of our neighbors from our street, never spoke with them before now,” said John Pietropaolo, whose favorite activity was watching the vintage model train set with his children.
Rob Trnka, president of the Levittown-based model train club Nassau Lionel Operating Engineers, said children lined up to get a chance to push the buttons and activate the lights on the steam-blowing toy train whirring around the tracks.
“Being a grandparent myself, I think everyone likes that it keeps kids active, especially after probably being inside for part of the week thanks to the snowstorm,” Trnka said.
“It’s been a great day,” said Lisa Pietropaolo, who was waiting for Mia to get her face painted. “She hasn’t picked a design yet, she just really wanted to get her face painted.”
Michelle Giusto, 36, of Levittown, and her daughter Maria Giusto, 5, had participated in a little bit of everything at their first Winterfest.
“She was really excited about taking pictures with Ariel,” said Giusto of her daughter, who won a “Finding Nemo” toy playset in one of the raffles.
Michelle Giusto said she enjoyed getting to know Levittown, her new hometown. The festival is “a good way to get to know people and have a fun day out,” Michelle said.
For Barbara Riccio, 45, of Levittown, who has come to Winterfest for several years, the festival is a family tradition. Her sons, Curtis Riccio, 20, and Luke McAniff, 9, were event volunteers, making balloons for children.
“I think I must’ve made something like 500 balloons today,” Curtis Riccio said. He’s come to the festival since he was a kid, and now wants other children to enjoy the festivities. “I get to help out with the kids. And for them, it’s a day where they can get together and just have fun,” he said.
Louise Cassano, second vice president of the Levittown Community Council, which organized the event, said the festival has grown steadily since the first Winterfest in 1997.
“It’s become a tradition. People look for it every year,” Cassano said. “It’s very well received and we consistently bring 600 people. It’s become a staple of the community.”