Back in full swing: Third Avenue Festival returns to Bay Ridge after pandemic hiatus

A dance-a-thon outside of Bridgeview Diner during the 46th Annual Third Avenue Festival.
Photo by Arthur de Gaeta

Bay Ridge’s iconic Third Avenue Festival made a triumphant return to the neighborhood on Oct. 3, despite the cancellation of the Ragamuffin Parade that traditionally precedes it. 

“It went fantastic,” said Doug Kelleher, a manager at Third Avenue mainstay Cebu. “I think this year was one of the best Third Avenue Festivals as a whole and at Cebu.” 

The decades-long tradition took a raincheck last year due to the coronavirus pandemic — as did nearly all in-person events across the city — and was met with some concern this year as the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant prompted a citywide mandate requiring COVID-19 vaccination for indoor entertainment. 

Kids enjoy arts and crafts at the festival.Photo by Arthur de Gaeta

The continued spread of the coronavirus also led the Ragamuffin Parade Committee to make the difficult decision in late August to cancel the annual children’s parade, originally scheduled for Oct. 2.

But the Third Avenue Festival was still a huge success, with the afternoon’s summer-like weather allowing patrons to dine outdoors, making it more manageable for business owners to check the vaccine status of the few diners who decided to eat inside, Kelleher said.

A baby smiles with Goofy.Photo by Arthur de Gaeta
A performer serenades the crowd.Photo by Arthur de Gaeta

As per usual, music, vendors and shopping galore encompassed the thoroughfare from 69th to 94th street, but the introduction of outdoor dining setups during the pandemic brought an entirely new element to the festival, according to Kelleher, who told Brooklyn Paper that — for the first time ever — diners were able to remain outside after the fair’s 6 pm closing time, instead of being ushered back inside.

“People didn’t have to move,” said Kelleher. “We don’t have any illegal or extra seating. Just the outdoor setups already out there.” 

Kids go for a ride.Photo by Arthur de Gaeta

Still, some business owners hope next year’s festival can go even later.

“It started too early, people don’t usually come out on Sundays at 10 o’clock in the morning,” said a Third Avenue proprietor who preferred to remain anonymous. She argued the festival, especially one in a late-night metropolis like New York City, could easily go on until at least 9 or 10 pm — much like the avenue’s annual Summer Strolls.

Dancers take the stage.Photo by Arthur de Gaeta

“We live in New York City… if we lived in upstate New York, maybe 6 o’clock would have been good,” she said. “But we live in New York City, we never go home early.”

This year’s festival was expected to be the last organized by local legend Chip Cafiero, the man who has made both the storied street fair and its preceding parade possible for the last 43 years, though he says we can never be too sure until next year.

“I say that, but,” Cafiero laughed when asked if he will return for the festival’s 47th iteration in 2022, “we’ll see what happens.”