Success and setbacks at yearly street fair

Success and setbacks at yearly street fair
Main squeeze: Jiamin Ma and John Hu enjoy ice cold lemonade at Bay Ridge’s Fifth Avenue Fest on June 3.
Photo by Melanie Fidler

Bay Ridge celebrated one of its favorite thoroughfares with rides, games, music, and food — lots of food — at its annual Fifth Avenue Spring Festival on June 3, though the day wasn’t without its little disappointments.

People from across the borough and across the city jammed Fifth Avenue from 69th to 86th streets, riding ponies and bumper cars, dancing to live bands, shooting hoops at the Brooklyn Nets truck, and eating and drinking both at concession stands and at Fifth Avenue’s old standby restaurants, many of which put chairs and tables out on the sidewalk for the afternoon.

Rocco’s Pizzeria between 78th and 79th streets hosted its eighth-annual Pizza-Eating Contest, with proceeds going to the Francesco Loccisano Memorial Foundation, a cancer-fighting non-profit named for a Bay Ridge teen who died in 2007. The crowd cheered on Ridgite and competetive eater Will “Big Will the Champ” Millender against five out-of-town competitors, but Millender managed only 17 and one-eighth slices in 12 minutes — falling short of the 23 eaten by Frank “Tiger Wings” Brunelli of Philadelphia, Penn., and the 23-and-a-half crammed down by Pat “Pat from Moonachie” Philbin of Moonachie, New Jersey. Millender said he didn’t take the loss too hard, though.

“It’s OK. We’re really all a big community,” the reigning champion of Brooklyn’s annual cheese-eating festival said, adding that he’d competed with Brunelli previously.

Festival event manager Chip Cafiero said he had his own small letdowns: Cafiero sat for much of the afternoon because of an injured leg, and was concerned that not many people seemed to be buying things from vendors, a fact he chalked up to the weak economy.

“Four, five o’clock in the afternoon, everybody should have something in their hand,” said Cafiero. “But people just don’t have as much money this year.”

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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