When the Westbury Street Fair takes over Post Avenue on Oct. 14, it’ll be the culmination of months of planning, coordination and hundreds of emails. And while this year’s fair is shaping out to be one of the biggest—and best—yet, it also marks an important milestone for Tom Verni.
Upon being elected as executive director of the Westbury BID on Aug. 22, Verni was thrown right into the midst of helming the organization’s biggest annual event, one that draws thousands of Long Islanders as well as dozens of vendors and community organizations. It’s a lot of catching up to do, Verni admits, but he’s “pretty much on track.”
“I’ve been to the street fair before as a resident, but never had to run the fair. It’s going to be very different this year because I’m in the trenches,” Verni said. “The [BID] board has been very supportive and interactive, and we’re working collectively to keep things on par with where they should be. We expect to have as many, if not more, vendors than last year.”
And in addition to planning the fair, Verni is also making a concentrated effort in improving the partnerships between the BID and local businesses. That includes a huge relaunch of the BID’s digital presence, including a new interactive website and social platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube.
One of the biggest changes to the new website is an expanded business directory, where store owners can log-in and edit information about their business, including hours of operation, upcoming special events and contact information. The BID is also expanding their marketing strategy, using both traditional media sources and targeted Facebook and online ads for the first time.
“This is the Westbury BID 2.0,” said Verni. “The core mission statement of the BID is still the same. The biggest change is that the general interaction between the BID and businesses is going to be increased, the use of technology is going to be really increased.”
That increase in technology and shift in marketing strategy will be a “tangible and noticeable” change, added Verni.
“We’re recommitting ourselves to the advocacy and promotion and marketing of local businesses within the BID district,” said Verni. “We’re providing them a number of newer options that have not been available in the past. The job of the BID is to help them market themselves through social platforms. These are things that haven’t been done in the past, but will be done coming into the new year.”
Verni said he hopes to have those digital platforms up and running smoothly by the time the street fair rolls around, to make sure business owners know what the BID is offering and how they can take advantage of it.
“The 25th anniversary of the BID [Business Improvement District] is next year. We want to commemorate the anniversary with a new and improved BID that the local businesses haven’t seen before,” said Verni. “We want to let the local businesses know what’s coming up, and get this stuff up and running so it’s ready for the time of the anniversary.”
And while business owners at the street fair can learn more ways to get the word out about their business, attendees can look forward to enjoying a day filled with food, music and children’s entertainment. In addition to vendors, Verni noted that this year’s fair will feature an expanded food court, with Spanish and Caribbean food trucks serving up their fare. This year’s event will not include a petting zoo, but will feature increased inflatables for the kids. Another new addition this year is a bandstand at the south end of the fair by Orchard Street, where live bands will perform from noon to 4 p.m., along with a stage for entertainment by the north end by the Space.
“We’re hoping the weather will be favorable,” said Verni, noting that the rain date is Sunday, Oct. 15. “If the weather is on par, it’s going to be the biggest event we’ve had. It’s everything we’ve done in the past, just beefed up to another level.”
The street fair takes place Saturday, Oct. 14, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, visit www.westburybid.org.