A visit to Pearl River’s business district on a recent morning reassured that the downtown’s old-fashioned charm endures.
Dozens of independent shops, restaurants and service establishments were quietly conducting business as usual up and down Central Avenue and its environs.
But beneath the seemingly placid surface, preparations were in high gear for the sixth annual Pearl River Day, set for Oct. 6.
That’s when locals and visitors will again gather for the Pearl River Chamber of Commerce’s biggest fundraiser.
Matt Reid, a Pearl River resident and chamber member, is chairing this year’s family-oriented street fair and festival.
“We’re probably about four months into the planning, but August is when you really gear up,” Reid said.
As September unfolds, he said committees are busy finalizing everything from vendors to sponsorships. “Right now, it’s crunch time.”
The festival will again spotlight the community and its shops, restaurants and other businesses. The day not only offers fun activities, but also is designed to give exposure to and ideally, broaden the customer bases of the businesses.
“Now we have to get the word out,” Reid said. “That’s one of the most important parts of it.”
He added the event has a natural audience of Pearl River residents; the goal is to bring more potential customers to the community.
Festival attendees will find plenty of local establishments joined by all kinds of vendors.
Michelle Worob, who again heads up the vendor committee and has served as event chair twice before, said Pearl River Day has attracted some 20 percent more vendors each year since its start. This year more than 120 are expected.
“We’re definitely looking for unique, craftier items,” she said. “We just try to bring in people that will accent what Pearl River already has.”
The exhibitors, she noted, primarily come from Rockland County, upstate New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Connecticut.
“We definitely have a good stock of vendors that have been with us since day one,” she said. “Every year it kind of grows as vendors talk to each other at other events.”
Organizers are hoping to top last year’s event, which they say drew 6,000 people to town.
“It was throngs of people,” Worob said. “You couldn’t see across the street.”
There will again be a spotlight on food, showcasing Pearl River’s restaurants and food destinations – Worob’s Luigi O’Grady’s Deli & Catering, a Middletown Road business, will have a booth, for example – along with vendors selling festival-style fare.
The day will also feature music and other entertainment, demonstrations and shopping specials. Children’s activities will range from face and pumpkin painting to sand art.
A perennial draw, Reid added, is the talent competition. This year’s, “Pearl River’s Got Talent,” expanded from just a singing showcase to also include everything from dance to magic.
Preliminary rounds have been held, with those advancing, mostly ages 5 through 19, ready to perform next month.
Isabel Haley, who owns The Danu Gallery with her sister-in-law Audrey Haley, said the competition is a great element of the day as so many young people get involved.
“It also brings a lot of grannies and granddads out,” she said.
The Danu Gallery, an elegant shop that showcases Irish-themed gifts, art, home goods and jewelry and will mark its seventh anniversary in March, has participated in Pearl River Day since its start.
And Isabel Haley, whose job as head of the sponsorship committee includes everything from event T-shirts to securing sponsors for specific activities, said while it’s not the only objective, Pearl River Day does benefit retailers.
“I don’t think it’s necessarily a shopping day,” she said, but noted that her own shop has indeed gained new customers who first discovered The Danu Gallery during Pearl River Day.
For her, she said, the day goes beyond that one element. It’s more about drawing locals together and showcasing what Pearl River is all about.
“There’s definitely a great sense of community spirit,” she said. “People come out and support it.”
All proceeds from the day benefit the chamber and its beautification fund, which supports downtown-district improvements along with seasonal decorations such as holiday lights.
For the event, running from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Oct. 6, Central Avenue will be closed between John and Main streets, with William Street closed between Franklin and East Washington avenues.
For more details, visit pearlriverny.org.