Steinway Street fair draws young and old

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Toddlers and seniors and everyone in between passed along Steinway between 28th and 34th...

By Dustin Brown

Steinway Street inaugurated the local street fair season Sunday as thousands thronged the already popular shopping district for some hard-to-beat outdoor specials.

Toddlers and seniors and everyone in between passed along Steinway between 28th and 34th Avenues or the event, which featured merchandise, food and entertainment for anyone wishing to brave the year’s first 80-degree day.

Sometimes it felt more carnival than street fair as when one swarthy barker enticed passersby with high-stakes dart strikes at a balloon-covered wall.

But more often than not it was a place to pass an April day visited by July weather, a way to take in some sun along with a few noteworthy bargains.

“It’s great, it’s always great,” said Astoria resident Zenite Parker, who walked along the street holding her dog Lulu in her arms. “There’s a lot of people, and you see it’s cheaper than the regular stores.”

Proceeds from the Steinway Street fair fund community activities organized by the Astoria Local Development Corporation, which has sponsored the event for the past eight years.

While CD sellers blared pop music hits from their tables, less sonorous renditions of the same songs drew huge crowds to the outdoor karaoke stage erected by the Nickelodeinn Restaurant and Cafe at 28-34 Steinway St.

They weren’t playing to the easiest of crowds.

“The first little girl was kind of cute, but he’s clearing out the crowd somewhat,” said Queens Village resident Michelle Greene, 35, as one semi-professional shrieked through his selection.

When it came to the kids, however, praise was universal.

“The young people really surprise me,” said Wesley Curtis, a singer and songwriter who served as master of ceremonies for the event. “A lot of them have very mature voices for their ages. And the older people impress me with their spirit.”

Creativity wasn’t limited to the stage, however. When Ned’s Italian Sausage ran out of beef for its cheese steak, griller Margarite Hunt offered a delectable variation she called the chicken cheese steak. Culinary daredevils who opted for the steakless steak were treated with a dollar discount off the going cheese steak rate of $7.

Street sales are a way of life for many of the merchants who proffered their wares on Steinway. Rita Gonzalez has a store in Long Island’s Roosevelt Mall but travels to fairs in the city every weekend to sell “puzzle vehicles,” miniature cars that run on a changeable track.

Not all of the merchants can be seen carting their trade from one street fair to the next, however. Waheed Harara of CBC Electronics decided to set a table outside his store after losing sales in previous years to the outdoor vendors.

He had some expert advertising assistance from his son Shaheen, who offered some sophisticated turns-of-phrase to lure people toward the table.

“We all hope you can buy what you can, and we hope you enjoy what you buy,” he blared through a megaphone to passersby.

Victoria’s Secret had much the same idea, setting a rack of bras on the street along with a sign inviting customers in for a free fitting.

No matter how enticing the streetside offers were, however, the outdoor attractions were not enough to keep everyone out in the sun.

“We just came up here to buy cat food,” said Nunzio Signorella, 35, of Astoria. He had no intention of sticking around.

Reach reporter Dustin Brown by e-mail at or call 229-0300, Ext. 154.

Posted 7:05 pm, October 10, 2011
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