A Woodhaven tradition that keeps growing
by Ed Wendell
Oct 16, 2019 | 460 views | 0 0 comments | 37 37 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The annual Wonderful Woodhaven Street Fair has been bringing rides, food and vendors to Jamaica Avenue since 1980.
The annual Wonderful Woodhaven Street Fair has been bringing rides, food and vendors to Jamaica Avenue since 1980.
slideshow
The 1981 poster for the 2nd Annual Wonderful Woodhaven Street Fair, which ran only five blocks. Today, the street fair is one of the largest in New York City.
The 1981 poster for the 2nd Annual Wonderful Woodhaven Street Fair, which ran only five blocks. Today, the street fair is one of the largest in New York City.
slideshow
What’s the best part of the annual Wonderful Woodhaven Street Fair? That depends; it’s a massive gathering each October on Jamaica Avenue from Woodhaven Boulevard to 80th Street, so there’s bound to be something for everyone.

For the kids, it’s probably one of the rides. When I was a kid, I enjoyed The Whip. It seems tame now, but as a little kid I loved that sensation as the car would creep along and then whip you swiftly around the turn.

The King Kong was also a lot of fun. I was never brave enough to sit in the top row, but I loved watching the older kids raise their hands and try to touch the elevated train.

These days, the kids go crazy over the big inflatable bouncy houses. That will be their fond memories of the street fair when they grow older.

Other people enjoy the food: the sausage-and-pepper heroes, zeppoles and funnel cakes, and fried Oreos. Even if you don’t eat anything at the fair, you’ll have the smell of it in your nostrils for hours afterwards.

Others enjoy the shopping, going from table to table looking for fun and unusual items to bring home. Last year I came home with a few cheap hats, this year I came home with cheap sunglasses.

The key to shopping the street fair is to walk away the first time you see something you like. You might find the same exact thing a few bucks cheaper a block or two down the road.

When the Wonderful Woodhaven Street Fair started it was actually much smaller.

“Plans are being made to close part of Jamaica Avenue (80th to 85th Street) to traffic for the block party of the year!” read an August 1980 press release from the Greater Woodhaven Development Corporation.

And that’s the best possible description of our annual street fair: one giant block party now stretching from 80th Street all the way to Woodhaven Boulevard.

The rides, food and shopping all draw residents out of their homes and to Jamaica Avenue. And that’s my favorite part of Woodhaven’s Wonderful Street Fair: the people.

Walking one end of the fair and back is the easiest way to run into just about everyone you know. And as you’re stopped in the street talking to one friend, sure enough two or three more will pass your way.

It’s also a great place to run into former residents, those who have moved away but have to come back once a year for the sights, smells and tastes of their youth.

Sure enough, I saw friends carrying home a taste from their past, a paper bag dripping with grease destined to be a late night snack that will produce nightmares for sure.

Many thanks to Lisa Komninos, executive director of the Greater Woodhaven Development Corporation, and Maureen Bermingham, Debbie Cronin, Lina Gao, Krystian Genelsa and everyone else who worked on bringing this massive block party to us again this year.

And when the last ride was deflated, the last food cart cleaned up and the last vendor packed up, Lisa and the rest of the GWDC will start preparing for next year’s Wonderful Woodhaven Street Fair, which will be a 40th anniversary celebration.

Congratulations to all involved for another outstanding street party.

Speaking of gatherings, the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association will be hosting its monthly Town Hall meeting on Saturday, October 19, at American Legion Post 118 at 89-02 91st Street behind PS 60. The meeting starts at noon and everyone is invited to attend.

Like the GWDC and the street fair, the WRBA is a longtime Woodhaven institution founded in 1972. Its official purpose at the time remains its mission today: to foster "an interest in civic, social and political affairs."

The WRBA advocates on behalf of the residents of Woodhaven, promotes neighborhood spirit by bringing together residents and local leaders, and seeks to engage all in the betterment of our community.

We’d love to see some new faces at the WRBA Town Halls and neighborhood gatherings over the next 12 months. This way, we’ll have a whole new host of friends to run into at next year’s Wonderful Woodhaven Street Fair in 2020. See you there!

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