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Mike BarryEye on the Island

By Mike Barry
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Belmont Weekend

Belmont Racetrack will be at the center of the sports world on Saturday, June 9, as I'll Have Another attempts to win thoroughbred horse racing’s Belmont Stakes and become the first Triple Crown winner since 1978.

In keeping with tradition, Garden City and Floral Park will host Belmont Stakes-related street fairs this weekend but, in a break with the past, the two communities are holding their events on separate days.

Garden City's Belmont Festival will take place on Friday, June 8, from 6 to 10 p.m., on Seventh Street. Admission is free, and the event is open to the public. The festival will feature live music and dance performances, a chicken wing-tasting competition, billed as a “wing off,” and other activities.

The bands scheduled to perform include the Fivestone, Jerry & the Newcomers, The New Vintage Orchestra, Speak Easy and The Village Music Makers. The Broadway Bound Dance Center and the Step Dancers from the Fitzpatrick Academy of Irish Dancers are also going to provide entertainment. The restaurants competing to be named Garden City’s chicken wing champion will do so between 6:30 and 9 p.m. Festival attendees will judge the contest and can secure a plate of wings and a ballot for a minimum donation of $5. All of the Wing Off's proceeds benefit the Nassau County Firefighter’s Operation Wounded Warrior project.

Seven restaurants have already said they'll participate: Rein at the Garden City Hotel, Walk Street, J.P. McGeevers, Lani’s Marketplace, Pop’s Wings, Famous Dave’s and Murphy’s Bar and Grill. In the meantime, families with young children will want to check out the face painters, pony rides, and carnival booths. The Garden City Belmont Festival is sponsored by The New York Racing Association (NYRA) and The Garden City Hotel.

NYRA, the Floral Park Chamber of Commerce, and the Village of Floral Park are sponsoring the 11th annual Floral Park Belmont Stakes Festival on Sunday, June 10, from 2 to 7 p.m. The festival takes place on Tulip Avenue from Plainfield Avenue to Verbena Avenue and, as with Garden City, the gathering is open to the public. There is no admission fee.

Floral Park's festival-goers will also enjoy live music performed by Mike Barry Music (not me, but I'm sure the guy is awesome) Butchers Blind, Rake, The Dogs, and Pete's One Man Band. Radio station KJOY 98.3 FM will be there, too, along with performers from Can Dee Music, Dancin’ Queens and Center Stage. While younger festival attendees may favor its face painters and inflatable rides, their parents will likely migrate to the food and cold beverages.

In addition, horse racing fans can meet Eclipse Award-winning jockey Ramon Dominguez, NYRA track announcer Tom Durkin, and NYRA television analyst Jason Blewitt. All three are Floral Park residents.

Those seeking more tranquil surroundings on Sunday afternoon, June 10, can walk over to Memorial Park, where the Floral Park Art League is hosting its annual art show and raffle. Original oil paintings, pen and ink sketches, and watercolors will be on display. The Belmont Stakes' outcome will determine whether an artist is moved to capture I'll Have Another, winner of this year’s Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, on a future canvass.

Mike Barry, a corporate communications consultant, has worked in government and journalism. Email: MFBARRY@optonline.net