ASTORIA — Astoria Park is going car-free for three Sundays in August.
The neighborhood's annual Shore Fest returns this weekend, transforming the park's waterfront from a busy roadway into a festival ground filled with food, music and crafts by closing Shore Boulevard off to cars.
"It's a very unique experience. It's really special," said Martha Lopez-Gilpin of the Astoria Park Alliance, which partners with the city's Department of Transportation to throw the summer event on Aug. 4, 11 and 18.
"All of a sudden we're transformed...to what the original space was like — a real shore."
Shore Boulevard, which runs the length of Astoria Park from Astoria Park South to Ditmars Boulevard, has been a problem spot in recent years, known for drawing party goers who park their cars near the water's edge and blast music.
But from 1 to 6:30 p.m. during Shore Fest, pedestrians will get their run of the street.
"When the cars are off and there's peace, and you can hear the water and you can look out over that vista in that close way — it's pretty magical," Lopez-Gilpin said.
Each Sunday of Shore Fest will be centered around a different theme. On Aug. 4, neighborhood blog We Heart Astoria is sponsoring a food festival featuring free samples from a bevy of local restaurants like BareBurger, Ovelia, and The Thirsty Koala, among others.
Festival-goers are encouraged to bring a picnic that they can enjoy on the cafe tables and chairs that will be set up along the waterfront, or to participate in the annual watermelon-eating contest. City Harvest will be sponsoring a cooking demo for kids.
On Aug. 11th, Astoria-based recycling group Build it Green! NYC, which sells reclaimed furniture and materials, will be running a number of Shore Fest events like arts and crafts for kids, a clothing swap, and a composting demo. Socrates Sculpture Park will be running a pinata making workshop.
The final Sunday, Aug. 18th, will be the Big River Jam, a day of live musical performances from local bands, plus a ukulele social.
"It's all about participation and community and relating to each other," Lopez-Gilpin said.
A full list of Shore Fest events can be found here.