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Borough residents flock to Woodside street fair

Matela, who immigrated from the Philippines to Queens in 1989 and was in a 10-member band sponsored by the Foundation for Filipino Artists, plays the...

By Alex Davidson

Bart Matela stood in the shade on Woodside Avenue and 61st Street waiting for his friends to arrive.

Matela, who immigrated from the Philippines to Queens in 1989 and was in a 10-member band sponsored by the Foundation for Filipino Artists, plays the bendoria, a type of mandolin. His group, which reunites on special occasions, was just one of many on hand in Woodside Saturday for the 11th annual Independence Weekend Street Festival.

“It’s really nice to play here,” Matela said. “We all used to practice together.”

More than 200 vendors and attractions joined thousands of people at the fair that spanned 59th to 65th streets on Woodside Avenue. Traditional Irish vendors, merchants selling everything from iced lemonade to souvlaki, and plenty of children were just a few of the sights at the street celebration.

The fair attracted a large number of ethnic groups, including Irish, Hispanic, Filipino and other Asian peoples.

Thomas Irwin, a native of Ireland who came to Maspeth 11 years ago, said he had heard about the festival only hours before and decided to come down despite the heat, which reached more than 90 degrees.

“It’s a nice day for it. There are some good buys, some good sales,” he said.

Irwin strolled along Woodside Avenue and browsed the offerings: stuffed animals, baseball hats, T-shirts and handbags. In the end, he decided to keep looking around and enjoy his day.

The affair is sponsored by Woodside on the Move, a non-profit group dedicated to bettering the northeast Queens neighborhood.

Heather Strafer, community director of the organization, said the group had been planning for the street festival since January. She said Woodside on the Move hired a private contractor to organize a majority of the vendors, while she and other volunteers put together a blocklong “Irish Village” that featured Irish crafts, merchandise and entertainment.

“We get thousands of people,” she said. “We’re here to unite the community. All the profits we get from the fair go back into the community.”

The Catholic War Veterans, County Armagh Pipers and representatives from the School of Irish Dance took part in ceremonies during the festival.

Rodica Taylor was visiting from Jacksonville, Fla. and said she was surprised by the variety of attractions and food available at the street fair. She said she was in town to visit her parents and just happened to notice the street fair.

“We’ve been walking around,” she said. “We don’t really have this in Jacksonville.”

Reach reporter Alex Davidson by e-mail at or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.

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