Edgar Allan Poe Festival taking center stage downtown this weekend

A lamp post contest gathered over 25 participants before this weekend's Edgar Allan Poe Festival. (Credit: Paul Squire)

A lamp post contest gathered over 25 participants before this weekend’s Edgar Allan Poe Festival. (Credit: Paul Squire)

Downtown Riverhead is about to come alive … with the dead.

From the Headless Horseman, to a(nother) re-enactment of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” to beating hearts below wooden floorboards and all things Edgar Allan Poe, if it’s spooky, it’ll be on Main Street this weekend.

And though the first-ever Edgar Allen Poe Festival will take center stage, there’s a lot more going on that flies above and beyond the macabre author of “The Raven.”


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The Business Improvement District — which contracted with Sal St. George Living History Productions, the company hosting the festival — is holding a lamppost decorating contest to set the mood downtown. BID treasurer Bill Allan said more than 25 posts will be decorated on East and West Main Streets, indicating an encouraging level of interest in the festivities.

“I think for the first year we’ve gotten a really good response,” he said. “The imagination on some of the poles is pretty good and a lot of restaurants and business are participating by putting people in their businesses to do readings.”

Mr. St. George, who runs a Charles Dickens Festival in Port Jefferson each December, said he saw a similar opportunity to create an environment in Riverhead as he does each year further west. And Halloween has become the holiday Americans now spend the most money on — behind Christmas, of course.

“We wanted to find something that would attract people, and the name Edgar Allan Poe — just the name will do that for you,” he said. “It conjures an eeriness, strange happenings and the macabre … I think it has legs.”

Close to 50 live book readings will be held downtown Friday through Sunday at over 15 locations, from the Suffolk County Historical Society — which is hosting an official Edgar Allan Poe exhibit — to the Long Island Aquarium, which is unofficially extending Halloween a day by encouraging children to show up in costume at its Bats, Barnacles and Broomsticks party from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday.

Trick-or-treating will take place downtown Friday afternoon and there will be a Poe Parade at 7 p.m. That same night, the Suffolk Theater will screen “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” and there will be a live performance of a song written by local artist Danny Keys in honor of famed DJ Wolfman Jack. On Saturday night, fireworks will be held downtown.

In addition, street performers will become iterations of Mr. Poe himself, as well as Ichabod Crane, “Frankenstein” author Mary Shelley, Bram Stoker and others.

Including, of course, zombies.

Riverhead Free Library director Joy Rankin, who organized a re-enactment of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” video this summer, said Mr. St. George is taking the lead this time around. But she might join the dance.

“Once a zombie, always a zombie,” she said. “You can’t think of a better pick than that.”

For a full schedule of events, click here.

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Photo credit: Paul Squire