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Mike BarryEye on the Island

By Mike Barry
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Belmont Countdown

The Garden City and Floral Park Belmont Festivals, to be held on Friday evening, June 4, give Long Islanders a festive way to mark the night before the thoroughbred racing world convenes in Elmont for the Belmont Stakes.


There is no admission fee to either festival, and each one is open to the public.

Garden City’s annual celebration takes place on Seventh Street, Garden City, from 6 to 10 p.m. and features live music, family-friendly activities, and a chicken wing tasting contest, which pits a number of the community’s restaurants against one another.

Afterburner, the U.S. Air Force Band of Liberty rock group, will headline this year’s musical line-up in Garden City. Those with youngsters can have them interact with the clowns, street performers and face painters who are a staple of this event. Additional attractions include bounce rides, a Belmont Park starting gate, and an appearance by Sammy the Bugler, renowned for his ‘Call to the Post’ prior to the start of each race at Belmont Park.

Four Garden City restaurants are currently confirmed to take part in the chicken wing competition: Uptown Grille, J.P. McGeevers, Murphy’s, and Walk Street. Judging their fare will be members of the general public who, between 7 and 9 p.m., can purchase for $8 a plate of wings and a ballot. All proceeds from the contest benefit the Mollie Biggane Melanoma Foundation, named for a Garden City resident who died from melanoma at the age of 20.

The Garden City Hotel, the Village of Garden City, and the New York Racing Association (NYRA) are the sponsors of the Garden City Belmont Festival.

Meanwhile, Floral Park’s Belmont Festival on Tulip Avenue, Floral Park, starts on that same night (Friday, June 4) at 5 p.m. and continues until 10 p.m. Their salute to the Belmont Stakes will include live music from three bands, traditional Irish dance performances, and kid-friendly features like those found in Garden City, such as amusement rides and circus-style entertainers.

Restaurants and other eateries will line Tulip Avenue, offering culinary samples and tastings to passersby, too.  The Floral Park Belmont Festival is sponsored by the Floral Park Chamber of Commerce and NYRA, with the cooperation of the Village of Floral Park.

These gatherings, I realize, may not be everyone’s cup of tea. The Garden City Hotel is offering options for those who want to get into the spirit of things, or who are planning to attend the big race on Saturday, June 5. Designer Christine Moore, for instance, will be in the hotel’s gift shop on Thursday, June 3 and Friday, June 4 from 2:30 to 8 p.m., presenting her annual trunk show for women seeking the right hat to wear to the Belmont Stakes. Rein, a hotel restaurant, has ensured that it will draw a crowd by announcing Rein will broadcast racing news throughout Belmont weekend on its three large-format plasma TV screens.

Oh, yes, there is the Belmont Stakes itself, which should be an interesting race, even though neither Super Saver, the Kentucky Derby winner, nor Lookin at Lucky, the Preakness Stakes’ victor, will be there.

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