2011-08-26 / Community

New Gateway Crafts Show Draws Community Ire

By Howard Schwach


A photo taken at the 2009 RMAC Fall Festival. A photo taken at the 2009 RMAC Fall Festival. For more than 25 years, the Rockaway Music and Arts Council ran a highly-successful Fall Festival, first at Fort Tilden and later at Riis Park.

Two years ago, the festival was forced to close down its Art and Crafts festival because the fees charged by the National Park Service to use its Gateway National Recreation Area for the festival became too onerous, says RMAC president Steve Yaeger.

This year, however, the park service has invited an outside vendor to bring a crafts fair back to Riis Park, and that has the locals angry.

Alan Finchley, who owns Nassau County Craft and Gift, and who once ran a flea market in Far Rockaway, told The Wave this week that he was “invited” by Gateway to “reestablish a successful show at Riis Park, which had been the home of extremely successful craft fairs for years, until about one year ago.”

Finchley plans to have up to 25 vendors on the boardwalk in front of the Bathhouse at Riis Park this weekend, August 27 and 28, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. He says they will be selling everything from handmade crafts to clothing and jewelry.

“We would love to draw people from Rockaway,” Finchley said, “but we are really targeting the people who come to the beach and the boardwalk at Riis Park. The park service wanted to give them something else to do while they are there, and we are hoping to establish an ongoing relationship with them.”

He said that he had to pay a small fee to the park service for allowing the show on the boardwalk, and that he does not expect to make any money on this year’s show. “We’re here for the long run,” he said. “We want to establish a relationship like those groups had in the past.” That has raised the ire of many locals, who would love to reinstate the RMAC’s festival, but have been shut out by the park.

“They never invited us to bring back the festival, never gave me a hint that they were interested in bringing back an art and craft show,” Yaeger told The Wave on Tuesday.

“This is a slap in the face to all of Rockaway and to our organization. They went to an outsider and never gave us a chance to bring our festival back.”

“I don’t know why they invited us rather than the local group,” Finchley said. “You’ll have to ask the park officials about that.” Several calls to park service officials went unreturned.

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