Riverhead’s street painting festival turns 28 Sunday

It’s been nearly three decades since some forward-thinking East End Arts staffers brought the popular Mosaic Street Painting Festival to Riverhead’s Main Street — and this Sunday’s Memorial Day weekend tradition is expected to be bigger than ever.

“We have new artists, many that we haven’t even met yet, so we’re very excited,” said East End Arts creative director Wendy Weiss.

“We’ve also got some new downtown businesses joining us for the first time this year, plus many of our returning businesses.”

The annual event was originally inspired by artists in Grazie di Curtatone, Italy, where an annual street painting competition draws chalk artists from all over the world. Ms. Weiss said that as far as she knows, Riverhead’s chalk art festival is the only one of its kind on Long Island.

This year, organizers have introduced a vertical wall option alongside the Craft’d building on Main Street, ensuring that artists who prefer to remain standing or have difficulty kneeling can fully participate in the chalk art extravaganza.

Ms. Weiss said there’s still time to reserve a square of Main Street to design, but hopefully anyone who shows up will be able to get one. 

“We do have a lot of preregistered squares but we always, always make more for people who come the day of. Signing up beforehand reserves you a spot, but we definitely make as many as we can.” 

The event, which draws everyone from well-established pastel chalk artists to newcomers and families with young children, runs from noon to 5 p.m., with a rain date Monday from 2 to 5.

“It’s a great mix of people of all abilities,” Ms. Weiss said. “As far as the different skill sets with the art, the kid art is kind of always my favorite to see, where the kids just let their imaginations run wild.”

Organizers are hoping for just the sort of the day they got last year: cool and sunny. Ms. Weiss said that she won’t even look at the forecast until Friday — “too much stress,” she said last year.

“You can’t help but just be kind of happy” at the festival, she said. “It’s lively and vibrant and it’s nice to see a community come together like that. It’s sort of wholesome in the best sort of way, where a happy tradition remains strong.”