By Victoria Espinoza
The holiday season gets its unofficial start for Huntington residents this Saturday. The town has organized many events to kick-off the good times during its seventh annual Holiday Parade and Street Festival Nov. 26.
In addition to the event’s yearly staples, the town has also introduced a scavenger hunt this year to encourage children and families to explore Huntington Village as it is also Small Business Saturday.
The hunt is open to children ages 5 to 12 and will be held from noon to 5 p.m. Participants can register at KidzHitz, on Main Street, where they will receive a game board and clues that, when solved, will take them to 12 locations to get puzzle pieces to put on their game boards. When their board is complete, participants should return to KidzHitz, where they will receive coupons for a free music lesson and a free kid’s cup or cone at Ben & Jerry’s on Main Street. During the day Huntington Public Library and Panera Bread will also be hosting craft activities for kids, and carolers will be singing in the village throughout the day.
Huntington officials also created an interactive map shoppers can access online or on their smartphones and tablets that helps them access information and offers about the various merchants participating in Small Business Saturday. The interactive map contains a printable sheet of coupons, parking details and the parade route.
According to the town, last year 25 merchants signed up to be a location on the map and offered deals for the holiday season, and the site received a total of 2,789 hits, including 1,239 on the day of the parade and festival.
During the day shoppers are also encouraged to cast their votes for the best gingerbread houses in a competition that features two categories: commercial bakeries and home bakers. The houses are on display at the Paramount Theater and what was formerly Freedman Jewelers on New York Avenue.
Huntington Town Supervisor Frank Petrone (D) said the town tries to build on this event every year.
“Each year, new events and features get added to make the day even more special, and this year is no exception, with the expanded gingerbread house competition and additional activities for children,” he said in a statement. “That’s why people from all across Long Island come early and stay late for an entire day of family fun.”
The holiday parade begins at 6 p.m. at the Big H Shopping Center on New York Avenue, and this year for the first time there will be a grand marshal leading the way.
Sal Valentinetti, a Bethpage pizza deliveryman, competed on this season of the reality TV show “America’s Got Talent,” and sang his way to the finals. He’ll lead the Huntington parade and perform a few songs.
“I’m honored and thrilled to be part of this Huntington tradition and I’m looking forward to it,” the 21-year-old said. Valentinetti will perform three shows at The Paramount Dec. 15, 16 and 22.
The parade includes competitions for the best floats in several categories. Judges will choose based on how well participants follow the parade theme of Cartoon Holiday. Local fire departments, businesses and organizations participate in the parade.
After the parade ends, The North Shore Pops, a concert band, will perform in front of the holiday tree in the village along with Valentinetti. After the tree lighting ceremony, the festival will continue on Wall Street, and kids will be able to meet Santa Claus, get their faces painted, play in the bounce houses and enjoy a free cup of hot chocolate.
Free parking will be available at the Huntington train station, with a convenient free shuttle from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.