Antique and classic cars lined Middle Neck Road, as children carried around Pikachu prizes won playing carnival games, parents took photos of their children singing and dancing on stage, and toddlers interacted with robots at the 34th annual Great Neck Street Festival and AutoFest on Sunday, Oct 21.
This year’s festival incorporated some successful new changes that made for an entertaining and exhilarating day. With a greater emphasis on showcasing the talents of Great Neck children, the event had a much more community-oriented atmosphere.
The AutoFest, presented by United Capital Corporation and sponsor Metropolitan Commercial Bank, featured cars ranging from a 1908 classic Rolls Royce—the ninth oldest surviving Silver Ghost model—to a restored Ford Model A to an award-winning ’75 Buick Electra 225. With more than 60 cars parked along Middle Neck Road, car enthusiasts and owners greeted passersby and introduced them to these rare and well-kept automobiles.
“Our selection of cars for the 34th annual AutoFest is truly spectacular,” said Jay Corn, vice president and festival chairperson of the Great Neck Business Improvement District (BID). “Among these cars includes a Lamborghini with only 50 models of it worldwide.”
Among the festivities were numerous multi-player carnival games with a large array of prizes, rides like a mini ferris wheel, a towering fun slide and an inflatable rock climbing wall.
As live music played in the background, children carried their stuffed animal prizes throughout the fair, while parents interacted with business owners at booths like Douglas Elliman. Little ones also enjoyed riding on ponies and petting animals like goats and sheep.
In addition to these activities, volunteers from the Great Neck South robotics team helped out with baseball, basketball, corn hole and mini golf games, recording the scores of each participant. To ensure the competitive and communal atmosphere, the top three in each age group—14 and younger, and 15 to 18—were called back to compete for a monetary award of $200.
Popular food vendors included a pickle stand and a fried desserts booth cooking up favorites like fried Oreos and zeppoles.
Mayor Jean Celender noted that the BID, in collaboration with the Village of Great Neck Plaza, enacted many changes to the festival, ranging from new cars to sports activities to cultural-heritage celebrations.
From art created by Saddle Rock students to works by Great Neck South seniors in AP Studio Art to Great Neck North student Dinghuan “Leon” Li’s singing of the national anthem, the BID looked to highlight students’ diverse talents from all across the Great Neck peninsula.
“[The BID] wanted to celebrate the awesome talent of the youth of Great Neck,” explained Celender.
The Great Neck South robotics team showed off its newest racing car robot, which performed at the 2018 FIRST Championship in Detroit. The robot, controlled by juniors and seniors at the team’s booth, is able to pick up numerous blocks and move them around. The students discussed their prized technology with eager parents.
“It’s important that we teach the members of the community about this new technology that will have a strong impact on our future society,” said Saad Satter, a senior robotics team board member.
Hundreds of student performers were featured throughout the day on one of the two stages set up on both sides of Bond Street. Starting the day were young students from the Silverstein Hebrew Academy singing many festive songs with guitar accompaniment.
Dance performances included routines from ConfiDanZe & Fitness, Great Neck School of Dance and Katya’s School of Dance.
Instrumental performances were made by select students from the Gold Coast Arts Center and the Great Neck Music Conservatory, while cultural presentations included traditional Chinese dances and drum music from the Great Neck Chinese Association. To reenergize the festival, the BID also organized a karaoke competition, which was judged by community members.
“We hope that the festival will engage our community through numerous changes like brand-new activities for young children and through performances by such talented young students,” Corn explained. “We could not have such a successful festival without the help and support from every member of our community.”