As the leaves begin to fall, the weather goes from warm to brisk and Huntington residents know it's time break out their favorite sweaters, everyone around town is cued that it's once again time for the annual Long Island Fall Festival.
Set to take place at Heckscher Park for the 17th year this Friday through Monday, organizers say the annual event draws more than 100,000 people in four days and grows every year.
"We usually start planning for the festival two weeks after the festival ends," said Larry Kushnick, festival chairman and vice president of the Huntington Township Chamber of Commerce. "Everyone has such a great time participating in the organization of the event."
Kushnick, who has been volunteering at the festival since its inception, said he has taken on more and more responsibility until becoming its chairman a few years ago.
"I don't think there's any other festival like it," Kushnick said. "It's got a unique layout in that it takes place around the lake at Heckscher Park. It's a beautiful location. It's also special because the Town of Huntington is a vibrant energetic town where people come out to support all the events that occur in town."
While the festival is a tradition in Huntington, there a new aspects that keep residents coming back year after year. New this year are special appearances by Andrew Zimmern, host of the Travel Channel's "Bizarre Foods," and Samantha Brown, also of the Travel Channel.
"Every year, we get the same vendors and people look for them," Kushnick said. "They say, 'I can't wait to find the guy who sells sweaters or the woman who sells jewelry.' People come and do their Christmas shopping here."
There are also musical guests performing during the weekend on three stages throughout the park.
"Different people suggest acts and we take advice from the Huntington Arts Council," Kushnick said. "We look for good local acts to promote. People come to us and say they want to perform, and we have people that go out and look for acts. This year we have Long Island bands that have a huge following including That 70s Band, Mystic, and Upper Cut."
Bill Bohn, a member of the Chamber of Commerence, said he has been volunteering with the festival for years.
"When the festival started it was supposed to be a community-oriented gathering," Bohn said. "It was originally called 'Celebrate Huntington.' It took on a life of its own until it became the Long Island Fall Festival that it is today. People come from all over. They park their cars a mile-and-a-half away and walk down to the festival."
Bohn said the festival is also a positive for local merchants as people often visit the restaurants and stores in town when they leave the park.
"That's an aspect of why people gravitate to Huntington Village," Bohn said. "Huntington has a lot to offer in addition to the Fall Festival."
The festival has about 25 sponsors, including North Shore Financial Group, and many have said the turnout often helps their businesses.
"It has been our pleasure to be involved with the festival for over six years," said Vincent Casillo, of the North Shore Financial Group. "We have been sponsors for the last four years. It is the one event we look forward to each year because of the high closing ratio we achieve from the festival attendees."
The Long Island Fall Festival will take place Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday at Heckscher Park. For more information, click here.