Great Neck Plaza AutoFest and Street Fair draws thousands

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A band performs at Great Neck’’s annual summer event that highlights automobiles of varying kinds. (Photo by David Pollard)

By David Pollard

David Palter sat in his folding chair in the middle of Great Neck Plaza with pride as thousands of people passed, stopping to take a look or take photos.

Palter, from Queens, was not the focus of attention, but the 1933 Auburn Boat Tail Speedster he brought to Sunday’s Great Neck Plaza AutoFest and Street Fair was.

This wasn’t Palter’s first foray though. He said he has been bringing his car to the event for the past five years.

“I keep coming because I love it,” Palter said, lounging in his chair. “The people are very friendly.”

His car and over two dozen others were the main attraction at the annual event, which is in its 33rd year. The various makes and models of cars, ranging from Model Ts to the Batmobile, were parked in the middle of Middle Neck Road, which runs through the Village of Great Neck Plaza’s downtown.

Howard Kroplick, 68, of East Hills, admits he has a love for cars and enjoys showing off the seven cars he owns. This time he brought his caramel-colored 1948 Tucker, a concept car and one of only 44 built.

The car’s unique aerodynamic design and the trunk located in the front of the vehicle caught the eye of many.

“I love the crowd here,” Kroplick, the town historian of North Hempstead, said. “It’s good to share this with others. It’s a good car and a historic car and I get the opportunity to tell them a little bit about it.”

During the event, if people were not looking at the cars, they were listening to live music, playing carnival games or shopping.

Jay Corn, vice president of the Business Improvement District of Great Neck Plaza and chairman of the event, said that is one of the reasons the group organizes events like this and others throughout the year at Great Neck Plaza.

Corn said the events are intended help local businesses make money after they have lost a competitive edge to big box stores and online shopping.

“It’s a marketing experiment we tried and it’s working,” he said. “People come to this event and maybe they will do some shopping because this is a community event that isn’t available anywhere else.”

While Corn said the idea is to help drive shoppers to businesses in the Plaza, some businesses have not seen the results.

David Flair, owner of Flair, a shoe, clothing and accessories store in Great Neck Plaza, said it looks good for the day of the event, but after that there is no increase in people spending money at his business or in the village.

“I don’t see anything,” Flair said. “It’s very nice what they are doing. It’s nice for the people who have never been here before to get to know the town, but come next time [weekend] it’s not going to be as full as today.”

Corn said that is not the district’s fault, and the event should be looked at as an opportunity.

“Are they using this to their advantage, handing out promotions to people to give them a reason to come back?” he said.

But the people in the crowd seemed to be enjoying themselves, whether they were spending money in local stores or not.

Samantha Exantus, who came out with her young daughter and mother, said: “I was getting my nails done when I saw it. We love the cars; we are very impressed. This is nice because I never came down here before.”

Corn believes the event continues to draw new visitors every year.

“Old cars appeal to everybody,” he said. “It crosses all lines. They always bring back good memories because they come and see the cars they loved when they were children.”

“It’s all good stuff,” he said.

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