Holiday festival gets shoppers in the mood


Sunday’s message was to shop around.

Around here, that is. 

At one point, a flamenco ensemble Romería Flamenca drew crowds as it played penetrating percussion in the opening of Tin Marin’s wide doorway while Moakland rocked traditional Irish music on the main stage before rows of onlookers in white foldout chairs. Revelers between the two munched on local eats or participated in one of myriad activities at the seasonal party, which was making its debut on the South Riverdale strip. 

“They have the block party up there,” said Aundree Noriega, referring to her own North Riverdale streets. “So I think it’s great that it’s down here.”

Sunday’s Riverdale Holiday Festival spanned Riverdale Avenue from West 236th Street to West 238th Street and attracted more than 30 participating vendors and approximately 3,000 visitors — which allowed local merchants to display their goods and residents to partake in holiday deals. Even the floral decorations were local — provided by John’s Botany Bay. 

Organizers South Riverdale Merchants Association and Kingsbridge-Riverdale-Van Cortlandt Development Corporation packed in a petting zoo, clowns, stilt walkers, face painters and musicians. 

To sustain it all, a wide variety of grub was sold street side, and even included candy apples from Tiny’s Diner, without which any street festival would have been incomplete.     “ … It’s so good to see so many people from the community here,” said Yaniris Urbaez, who attended with six children ranging from 9 to 14 years old, some of whom had already received balloon swords from a stilted man wearing psychedelic pants. Other children’s art activities were sponsored by Kidaroo, which worked with Scribble Art Workshop. 

Riverdale resident Michael Jacobson, 28, manned a raffle table organized by Baby It’s You, which in conjunction with others was raffling off toys to benefit Pancreatic Cancer Research Organization and the American Cancer Society – Hope Lodge.  

“I like to volunteer my time,” he said. 

Lucien Fischer, 6, stood on line with his father for Face Painting by Nimia. He was holding what was once a dog-shaped balloon but was hoping for another chance at dog day by having his face painted like a puppy — particularly a Havanese. 

His father, Saul Fischer, said he was pleased with the festival. 

“It seems like it’s beginning and hopefully it will grow into something really great,” he said. 

One child tried to feed hay to a goat and another, stabilized by a quick-moving adult, struggled to stay mounted atop the pony he was riding. 

After solo instrumental guitarist Steve Oates gave the festival a classic touch, Elvis impersonator Tony Grova, decked out in the classic embroidered white suit with a gold belt, sang a little ode to Riverdale when he crooned, “I can’t help falling in love with you.”