Jun. 6, 2023 By Ethan Marshall
The Bayside Village BID held its annual Bell Boulevard Food and Music Fest on June 4, during which Bayside residents gathered to enjoy the food and drinks from various local venues and listen to performances from local bands and artists.
The various food options were as diverse as the population of Queens. The cuisine options included Mediterranean, Korean BBQ, New American, Chinese, Irish, French, Greek, Mexican, Colombian, Gastro Pub, Italian, Spanish, Tex Mex, Southern, Steakhouse and Korean. The cuisines ranged from being traditional and popular dishes to new styles of food. Some of this food included unique desserts, distinct kinds of pizza, classic comfort food, farm-to-table options and brunch specialties.
“Planning the street fairs provides a great opportunity to strengthen relationships with community partners and neighbors; for instance, The Helms Brothers Auto Group became a sponsor of the fest two years ago,” Bayside Village BID Executive Director Christine Silletti said. “Our elected officials Vickie Paladino, John Liu and Ed Braunstein and Community Board 11 have been supportive from the start and wonderful to work with.”
In addition to the food, several bars and pubs made available signature drinks and special beers. Some bars and restaurants offered had bubble tea and smoothies, as well. Those who attended the event also had the option to explore four restaurants there owned by celebrity and award-winning chefs.
Bands and artists provided live music at every block on Bell Boulevard. The performances ranged from rock, jazz, country, pop, American Swing and more. Additionally, some of the music was accompanied by live dancers, who were also willing to provide lessons to those interested.
Several other outlets of entertainment for kids were available at the event. This included shuffleboard, beach ball volleyball, minigolf, face painting, bounce houses and much more. Other features for the event included ping-pong tables, arts and crafts tables and a giant spirograph that uses street chalk.
Each of the games and tables at the Food and Music Fest were run by students from Bayside High School. As they take part in running the event, the students are learning about learning about nonprofits, small business and working their first ever job experience at the Bayside Village.
“I love watching so many of our small businesses demonstrate what they do so well,” Silletti said. “I also really enjoy working with local students. They come for a training meeting where they learn about what a BID is, how they work and why they exist. They also learn their main responsibility — to be nice to people — and how to do the crafts they will be hosting. It’s usually a hoot.”
The Bayside Village BID has been holding this annual event since 2018. Last year marked its return from a two-year absence due to the COVID-19 pandemic. According to Silletti, the idea for it came from the fact that most people have a few favorite restaurants and bars and a few they are curious about, but never visit. The Food and Music Fest grants community members with an opportunity to find additional favorites and connect with small businesses on Bell Boulevard. She also credited Bayside with having a great live music scene to allow for that to be a part of the event, as well.
Funds raised from tickets sold for the restaurant stroll go toward bringing in all the activities and performances on the street. Space and equipment is provided to non-profits that serve the community. Silletti said that 17 different arts or community organizations each offered a different game, craft or fun learning opportunity.
Great Bear Auto’s women’s auto education unit was on hand this year to teach people how to check their car’s oil and change the wiper blades. Alley Pond Environmental Center was providing lessons about various animals. The Astoria Filmmakers Club helped participants create zoetropes (cylindrical animation devices that produce the illusion of motion by displaying a sequence of drawings or photographs showing progressive phases a motion). Additionally, Turn the Page Again Bookstore, Skyz the Limit and Street Lab hosted play and learn centers with building materials, an obstacle course and other child friendly games and crafts.
“Community Board 11 applauds the overwhelming success of the Bayside BID’s Annual Food and Music Fest, 2023,” Community Board 11 Chair Paul DiBenedetto said. “The community came out in droves and the sense of camaraderie was infectious. I can’t wait until next year’s event. Bravo Bayside BID!”