Attention zombies, ghouls and other nasties—your presence is requested this Halloween in downtown Riverhead for the very first Edgar Allan Poe Festival.
For three days, from Friday, October 31, through Sunday, November 2, the streets of Riverhead will be filled, not with shoppers on their way to the Tanger Outlets, but with creatures, ghosts, dancing zombies, ghoul-driven hearses, and a headless horseman. It’s all part of a fiendish plot on the part of playwright Sal St. George, and the Riverhead Business Improvement District Management Association (BIDMA), to make Riverhead the ultimate Halloween destination for family-friendly fun. “I did the Charles Dickens event in Port Jefferson for 10 years. I knew Christmas was covered. Staying with the theme of great literary figures, Poe is synonymous with Halloween.” As a former creative consultant for the Dickens Festival, St. George knew exactly what he would need to do to turn downtown Riverhead into a Halloween haven for three days, and create an event with the same potential for longevity as the Dickens Festival.
The vision for a three-day spook-tacular had been rattling around in St. George’s brain for years before he approached the members of BIDMA to announce his intention to make Riverhead “the Halloween capital of Long Island.” Before anyone could say “Ichabod Crane,” the call went out to all the local monsters and zombies to gather in Riverhead to prepare for a weekend of storytelling, parades, street performances and the odd flash mob or two.
The festivities will officially begin on Friday, October 31 with trick or treating on Main Street starting at 3 p.m. with classic Poe tales of terror being told throughout the day, while the boo-tiful people roam among the guests, providing entertainment until parade time at 7 p.m. The paranormal parade including an assortment of ghost-driven vintage cars, hearses and a haunted fire truck, will begin at the Riverhead Library and wind its way to the Aquarium.
Be aware, there’s more going on in Riverhead on Halloween than just trick or treating. St. George admits, “There’s an ulterior motive. Please don’t tell your children that the festival is educational.” St. George is thrilled to use the festival to introduce kids to the works of Poe, Washington Irving, Mary Shelley and other literary greats of the macabre.
If you’re already a fan of Poe, you’ll enjoy the display of Poe artifacts on loan to the Suffolk County Historical Society from the Edgar Allan Poe Museum in Richmond, VA.
Movie fans can time warp themselves over to the Suffolk Theater on Halloween to take in The Rocky Horror Picture Show, but be advised this one is definitely not for the kids, and audience participation is part of the experience—for a nominal fee, the theater will provide you with a goodie bag of props to hurl at the screen. If you’re looking for less of an intense movie experience, wait til the final day of the festival for screenings of classic Vincent Price movies, The Pit and the Pendulum and The Fall of the House of Usher.
After the sugar high from all that trick or treating subsides, you can wrestle your little witches and goblins to bed so that they can be ready for more of the Poe Festival. Some of the highlights of day two and three are East End’s Arts Family Pumpkin Carving Workshop and Contest at 1 p.m. Stencils, tools, templates and, of course, pumpkins will be provided, along with instruction and words of encouragement. The workshop will be followed by a public vote from 3:30 to 5 p.m., with prizes awarded to the scariest, most creative, and all-around Best in Show carved pumpkin.
St. George has packed a ton of activities into the weekend, including the Peconic Ballet Theatre’s interpretation of The Raven, one of Poe’s best-known works, and a costume party for the kids complete with a concert featuring Brady Rymer and Jen Kane.
The first Edgar Allan Poe Festival will be a ghoulishly good time. Treat yourself to Halloween in Riverhead this year, and remember it’s BYOZ—bring your own zombie. riverheadbid.com