For more than three decades, the Street Festival and AutoFest in Great Neck Plaza has attracted thousands of people with a wide variety of antique car displays, carnival attractions and aromatic concession stands. The preparation alone generates an enormous amount of community spirit, as everyone pitches in to make each festival grander than the prior year. Community members’ combined efforts have made this year’s event a dazzling showcase of the true depth of Great Neck’s diversity.
For the first time, the festival heavily emphasized the talents of our youth. From art exhibits to club demonstrations to dance performances, Great Neck students were able to showcase their many different talents for the community.
To kick off the festivities, youngsters from the Silverstein Hebrew Academy bundled up against the chilly wind to sing for the delighted crowd. Little hands were tucked into pockets and the brisk air turned noses red as smiles only widened.
Soon after, the crowd began to buzz with anticipation as rhythmic drumming was heard in the distance. The thunderous boom could be felt in the audience’s bones as it was swept away in a breathless performance by several talented young drummers from the Great Neck Chinese Association. Chinese drums are traditionally used in celebration, as a symbol of strength, power, and luck.
A large crowd quickly formed around the drums’ mighty cry. The vigorous drumming eventually gave way to the fan dance, a nimble form of dance in which fans are conventionally used to accentuate the beauty of a performer’s graceful movements. The women were all clothed in red, the color that traditionally represents good fortune and happiness in Chinese culture.
Many artists chose to perform acts with deep roots in Chinese history, as next up was a solo dancer accompanied by a Hulusi player. The cucurbit flute, or Hulusi, is a reed wind instrument popular in the Yunnan provinces. The soft and pure music seemed to flow right through the lithe dancer, guiding her through her elegant routine. The crowd was absolutely entranced by the ethereal synchronization between dancer and musician.
The children, eagerly waiting on the sidelines, wanted to join in on the festivities, too. In the next act, they were able to sing their hearts out while clad in a plethora of red clothing.
The acts performed by the Great Neck Chinese Association (GNCA) were able to genuinely capture the beauty of its rich history and share it within the diverse community. It was a delightful act of unity, as GNCA was able to share a piece of its culture with those in the community who were able to experience and appreciate it.
The Street Festival and AutoFest was so much more than a car show. The entire community stood together in harmony. The many different cultures were recognized and appreciated. As one, we highlighted the talents of our youth. From exhibits featuring student artwork to representatives from different school clubs, including Great Neck South’s renowned robotics team, to the many unique performances, this new talent will inspire the next generation.