Bensonhurst festival puts diversity on display

Going for a spin: Iurii Lytvyn of Sheepshead Bay straps into the Gyroscope ride at the 14th annual 86th Street Bensonhurst Festival on June 10.
Photo by Elizabeth Graham

People crowded 86th Street for rides, food, and nicknacks during the 14th annual 86th Street Bensonhurst Festival on June 10, which had the largest variety of vendors in recent years.

Event manager Chip “Festival Guy” Cafiero called it the one of the best ever — at least when it came to the diversity of sellers who set up stands for the day along the stretch from 19th Avenue to Bay Parkway.

“This is the most successful one we’ve had so far in terms of the number of vendors,” Cafiero said, pointing out that the booths weren’t limited to just the usual Italian sausage and corn-on-the-cob hawkers, but also included private artisans selling handmade items.

However — just like at the Bay Ridge Fifth Avenue Festival, which Cafiero also oversaw — the weak economy put a damper on the day’s festivities.

“I have vendors coming up to me and telling me they’re not making enough money. People don’t have as much to spend,” said Cafiero, noting that many of the stalls were resisting closing up at 5 pm, hoping to make a few last dollars off latecomers and procrastinators.

Still, Cafiero said that the number of people coming out for the street fair — both to buy and to sell — has steadily increased over the past few years, which he credits to the neighborhood’s growing immigrant communities.

“This is almost entirely a Russian and Chinese festival these days,” Cafiero said.

And that diversity is what makes the festival so special, according to Frankie Marra, whose band played classic rock covers the entire six-hour length of the festival, with just a brief break in the middle.

“It’s a great day, it’s a Brooklyn event, and it’s a great time to bring all different kinds of people together,” Marra said.

Reach reporter Will Bredderman at (718) 260–4507 or e-mail him at wbredderman@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/WillBredderman

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