Franklin Square Civic Association takes charge of festival

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The Franklin Square Civic Association’s Beautification Committee gathered late last month with one goal in mind: To prepare for a full, hands-on approach to setting up the Franklin Square Fall Festival.

The event, which was reinvigorated three years ago, when the Franklin Square Historical Society merged its fall event with the FSCA, brings food, games, prizes and autumn-themed entertainment to the Town of Hempstead’s Rath Park each October.

But the FSCA doesn’t plan to rent games and booths from carnivals this year. FSCA Treasurer and Franklin Square Historical Society Chairman Nancy Youngfert, who led the committee’s meeting, said it needed to maximize its profits by avoiding overspending.

“We spent about $800 last year to raise funds for the Historical Society and the civic group,” Youngfert said. “This year, we don’t want to spend $800. And we want to make several thousands for our associations.”

In order to make this year’s festival the most affordable one yet, without compromising on the fun activities and games, the committee researched past festivals to find a workable formula. FSCA board member Toni Croce pointed out that food is one of the biggest draws for any festival, and committee members agreed that last year’s decision to put the food at the back of the Rath Park parking lot was a mistake.

This time around, the committee agreed to put the grills and food stands at the forefront of the event. Youngfert will help supply hamburgers, hot dogs and corn for the festival, following the Town of Hempstead’s guidelines for such events. Committee members explained that because of the town’s health code, individual restaurants and businesses would not be able to set up their own food stalls without permits. Croce plans on procuring food from local shops by picking up donations for the festival.

“The smell of sausages and peppers at the front will draw anyone into the parking lot,” Croce said.

Because town regulations prohibit the use of propane, the committee will have to rent electric or charcoal grills this year, which also means an absence of crowd-pleasing zeppoles, since they require propane to heat up the oil in which the pastries are fried. The committee does, however, have access to the Historical Society’s building, which has a refrigerator, faucet and heating plates.

As the committee moved on to discuss entertainment options, members settled on locating the Trunk-or-Treat event at the back of the parking lot. In Trunk-or-Treat, which is run by the local Girl Scouts, children and parents decorate their car trunks for Halloween and give out candy to kids who visit. The event was a favorite last year, and the committee decided that if it is set up at the back, visitors will be able to see everything the festival has to offer while on their way to Trunk-or-Treat.

Committee members also said that although they spent a lot to rent games and booths last year, the games were both “underwhelming and unmemorable.” So Youngfert went online to research do-it-yourself options on websites such as Pinterest, hoping to find affordable games that anyone can make and set up. She handed out pictures of the DIY games and activities she found that committee members could easily put together and deliver to the festival.

“We’re going to remember the games this year because we’re going to make them ourselves,” Youngfert said.

The committee also decided to incorporate a dance contest. DJ and Franklin Square & Munson volunteer firefighter Chris Howard offered his services free of charge. And the FSCA will secure a portable stage from the Town of Hempstead.

But the biggest determining factor in the Fall Festival’s success may be how well the FSCA advertises the event. Committee members mentioned that rumors of rain contributed to a lower turnout last year. And older members warned that getting the word out through Facebook alone would not be enough. The FSCA will put fliers up along Hempstead Turnpike and Franklin Avenue, and will talk up the event during upcoming PTA meetings.

“We really want the best outcome possible to build up the community spirit with this event,” said Franklin Square Historical Society President and Founder Paul van Wie.

Committee members said they hoped to reserve Rath Park for a date late in October — ideally Saturday, Oct. 20. The festival will most likely run from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.