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Mike BarryEye on the Island

By Mike Barry
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Belmont Celebrations

The night before the Belmont Stakes has always been a festive one in Garden City and Floral Park and this year will be no different.

The night before the Belmont Stakes has always been a festive one in Garden City and Floral Park and this year will be no different.

In a sign of the times, however, Garden City's Belmont Festival, to be held on Friday, June 5 from 6 to 10 p.m., has been slightly scaled back. There will be no parade but a broader array of new and old street fair features, such as a children's art contest, four live bands, and a chicken wing tasting competition, should boost the energy level along Seventh Street. The Festival's theme is "A Salute to America" and attendees are encouraged to wear red, white, and blue.

The children's art contest is open to Garden City youngsters in grades K-6. Elementary school students are being asked to create images of thoroughbred horse racing and place them on heavy white poster paper, sized 16 to 20 inches. The use of generous amounts of red, white and blue colors is being encouraged, too. The deadline for entries is Saturday, May 30 at 5 p.m. and they must be hand-delivered to the contest's sponsor, Sunflower Fine Art Gallery, 172 Seventh Street, Garden City. The posters should include on the back of the artwork the student's name, age, grade and school. The Gallery is awarding cash prizes to the top three winners and all entries submitted by the deadline will be displayed in Garden City's store windows.

Building on the Garden City Belmont Festival's patriotic theme, the sponsors have recruited Afterburner, a highly acclaimed U.S. Air Force Band of Liberty, to perform on Seventh Street on Friday evening, June 5. Afterburner and three other local musical acts-Papa Rowe, Six Gun and Fivestones-will offer the live entertainment along with street performers, face painters, and clowns. Those needing a more definitive reminder that the Belmont Stakes is being held the following day can inspect a thoroughbred horse racing starting gate, or chat up Belmont Park's Sammy the Bugler, renowned for his 'call to the post' before the start of every race at the Elmont race track.

In a new Festival feature, four restaurants have agreed to participate in a 'Wing Off' between 7 and 9 p.m., with their chicken wings being judged by Festival attendees who pay $8 for a plate of wings and a ballot. Uptown Grille, J.P. McGeevers, Murphy's and Walk Street have, as of this writing, confirmed they'll be putting their wings to a taste test. All of the 'Wing Off' proceeds will benefit the Mollie Biggane Melanoma Foundation, named after a 20-year-old Garden City woman who died from skin cancer in 2000.

Meanwhile, on that same evening (Friday, June 5) between 5 and 10 p.m., Floral Park is holding its annual Belmont Festival on Tulip Avenue between Verbena Avenue and Plainfield Avenue. Hot Lettuce, Flight Control and All Occasion DJ are providing the entertainment, along with the Ryan Irish Dance Academy's students. There will also be a variety of culinary delights available from Floral Park's restaurants and pubs. If you have young children with you, they will be able to enjoy inflatable rides courtesy of Jump Around Bouncers and Coca-Cola, as well.


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