The holidays may be over, but Greater Patchogue Chamber of Commerce members are about to sit down to plan and tweak events and initiatives for 2022.
That includes changing the aura of Alive After Five to reflect the times, said executive director David Kennedy.
“In 2021, we offered the Sundown Festival,” he said. “It was a scaled-down version of Alive After Five celebrating families and young children. In my almost 10 years as executive director, I have never received as many positive comments as with that event. So many people stopped by our booth or emailed us saying ‘thank you.’”
The family-oriented Sundown Festival ran over several consecutive Thursday nights beginning mid-July to August from 5 to 9:30 p.m., with five music stages, outdoor dining, but no drinking pens. Main Street was closed from Maple to West avenues, Railroad and South Ocean avenues.
“We’re talking with the Restaurant Committee to have two nights with a Sundown Festival and two nights of a regular Alive After Five,” Kennedy said.
Alive After Five has been in existence for 20 years, he said. “We don’t always have to do the same thing, and can respond to the new normal,” he added. “To have these events and bring people to our Main Street, we have to make people feel normal.”
He gave kudos to the Patchogue Young Professionals Committee, who presented the idea in lieu of the Alive After Five that had evolved with drinking pens.
“Alive After Five ballooned to a point where a lot of young people were drinking excessively and it caused a problem,” Kennedy explained. “When we started, we had two or three bars. Now it’s 30.”
“It was Tiffany Rivera’s idea and she pitched it to us,” said Patchogue Young Professionals recording secretary Michele Cayea of the Sundown Festival. (The Patchogue Young Professionals team includes chairman Stephen King, Cayea, treasurer Benny Migliorino and corresponding secretary Rivera.) “And we decided it was something we wanted to take on. Thanks to the key players of Alive After Five, we utilized their framework and brought back people who loved the train and petting zoos, and brought in the outdoor restaurants.”
Cayea explained COVID cases had lessened at that time, enabling outdoor events.
As community relations manager for the Patchogue-Medford Library, she also cited the success of outdoor events the library experienced. The library jumped right into the Sundown Festival.
“We set up on the Carnegie Library lawn and returned the talent show and brought back really nice ways to illustrate our community,” she said. “Keeping the vendors on Main Street gave them a different audience than at the train station. We did this in a few short weeks, but got sponsorships from Blue Point Brewery and Long Island Community Hospital, who sponsored the farmers’ market. We had really great numbers for a turnout and there wasn’t the mayhem afterwards.”
“The biggest positive,” said Kennedy, “was using the sidewalks, allowing the restaurants to set up their businesses. Only outdoor dining was allowed. We suspended the food trucks.”
Kennedy said the Young Professionals Committee, who also created an outdoor movie night last year to bring more people in, ran with the Sundown Festival, but are turning over the model to the chamber to use in the future. “They want to get a well-known motivational speaker to encourage young people to get involved,” he said of their 2022 plans.
“Alive After Five in the beginning was a community event,” Kennedy added. “We love introducing our village. But we should first and foremost be cognizant of our base here.”
“Our soul is retail,” Kennedy emphasized. “In our heyday, our success was always based on retail, and a lot of those businesses are still here. The Retail Association had a November raffle and our Elf on a Shelf promotion in December were both very successful. There are just as many retail businesses here as there are restaurants, so we’re looking throughout the year to do many more promotions to feature our retail stores. Thanks to Merav Shiloni, owner of Thred, and James Diele-Stein, owner of Patch Print Ship & More, they’ve energized this committee.”
“One thing we found in 2019 is that in the southeastern parking lots in back of the former Burlington Coat Factory and the gym, there are spots available at 9 p.m.,” Kennedy said, adding more parking information has to be publicized. But also, “We’re re-engaging with the village and have to get back to new parking strategies, particularly with the restaurants and their employees.” Kennedy pointed out the village has 500 restaurant employees who work on Friday and Saturday nights. Mayor Paul Pontieri was asked about village’s efforts and pointed out that building a parking garage would only reap 120 extra spaces and cost $7 million—an unfeasible project that also doesn’t include village security costs. “We’re finishing IMAs [inter-municipal agreements] with the county to rebuild the lot that’s there,” he said of the 6th District Court. “Taking away the green space and redesigning it, we can get about 70 more spaces. The county will give us jump-start money and can give us $1 million towards a $2 million project. If you put meters in, you can pay for the project. We’ve also been trying to work with National Grid, across from the Patchogue YMCA, about leasing their lot from them. It would hold about 200 or 250 cars and we’d make it for employees.”
Kennedy commented he was incredibly excited about Liz Carrillo’s appointment as village trustee. “She’s 100 percent right about having more Latino events and I would love to sit down with her and Javier Kinghorn [Latino Leadership Council chairman and Greater Patchogue Chamber of Commerce board member of Cirigliano Agency]. If we have to sacrifice an Alive After Five Night to host an event, we’re all for it.” When reached, Kinghorn said one of his biggest goals for the new year was getting the Latino community to join the chamber. Also, “It will also be the fourth annual Hispanic Heritage event at the Patchogue Theatre, and I’d like to engage the Latino business community and the arts community. We have a lot of talented Latinos in the arts.” Kinghorn’s free event has been wildly popular.
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