Great Neck Plaza Autofest shines after threat of Hurricane Joaquin

Joe Nikic

Great Neck Plaza Business Improvement District Vice Chairman Jay Corn said not even the threat of Hurricane Joaquin could dampen the successes of Sunday’s 31st annual Village of Great Neck Plaza Autofest and Street Festival.

“With the hurricane in the northeastern states, a lot of people’s mindsets changed since they thought the weekend was going to be a washout,” said Corn, who was chairman of the BID’s Autofest committee. “But I think we really made the right call to not postpone and it turned out pretty well.”

But Sunday ended up with blue skies and a bright shining sun after morning clouds dispersed.

“We’re so thrilled that our 31st Autofest and street fair turned out to be such a beautiful day,” Village of Great Neck Plaza Mayor Jean Celender said. “It’s always a great event and a give back to the community where we say thank you for supporting the downtown and supporting our wonderful community. That’s the genesis of what this is all about.”

With heavy rainfall and inclement weather on Friday and Saturday, the BID considered pushing the Autofest to Oct. 11, but Corn said other local car shows happening that weekend would have hurt attendance as much as the weather.

While the weather cleared up in time for the festival, Corn said, the possibility of rain impacted how many car owners and festival-goers showed up.

“Any time there is any kind of a threat of rain, it really curtails turn out in terms of automobiles as well as spectators,” he said.

Corn did not have an exact number of car owners who called out of the show, but said the number of spectators was a little less than the festival has gotten in years past.

“In the past we have gotten up to 30,000 people, but Sunday was on the lighter side because of weather protection for the weekend,” he said. “I am estimating that we had between 15 and 20,000 people in attendance.”

Corn said the BID was very successful in raising money for the Wounded Warrior Project.

“As of right now, we have raised just under $5,000 for Wounded Warrior,” he said. “It’s more than twice of what we raised last year, but I still think we can do better.”

The BID was giving away free special edition Wounded Warrior/AutoFest cotton hats for people who donated $15 or more.

Festival-goers were offered live music, a petting zoo, pony rides, carnival games and rides, as well as the opportunity to view about 50 classic cars lined up along Middle Neck Road.

At the main stage located at the intersection of Middle Neck Road and Grace Avenue, the Meade Brothers performed for the majority of the festival, playing a variety of classic rock music.

Festival attendees were also watched Celender sing on stage with the Meade Brothers.

“The Meade Brothers are always great and I got to perform with them,” Celender said. “They made dreams come true today.”

Corn added that he received a lot of compliments for the musical performances from the Meade Brothers and the Banjo Rascals.

While there was an abundance of entertainment, the focus of the show were the cars, highlighted by the feature showcase 1934 Rolls Royce Parkward Saloon and the one-of-a-kind 1926 Stutz “Speedster.”

“This is for charity and it’s a lot of fun to be a part of,” said Mark Rudes, owner of the Rolls Royce. “When you own cars like this you want to take them out and show them anyway. Why not do it for a good cause?”

The Stutz was custom-built for Cornelius and Grace Vanderbilt and is owned by president of the Vanderbilt Museum Steve Gittleman.

Elected officials also appeared at the festival, including Town of North Hempstead Supervisor Judi Bosworth, Town Councilwoman Lee Seeman, Town Councilwoman Anna Kaplan (D-Great Neck), Town Clerk Wayne Wink, Receiver of Taxes Charles Berman, Nassau County Legislator Ellen Birnbaum (D-Great Neck), Village of Thomaston Mayor Steven Weinberg, Great Neck Park District Chairman Dan Nachmanoff and Great Neck Chamber of Commerce President and Kings Point Trustee Hooshang Nematzadeh.

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