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Bay Ridge — On a day on which the weather was perfect, hundreds of thousands of people came to Fifth Avenue for a street fair that offered plenty of music, food and fun.
The annual Fifth Avenue Spring Festival, which took place on June 3, was a big success, according to leaders of the Bay Ridge Fifth Avenue Business Improvement District (BID), the organization that sponsors the event.
The festival route stretched from 69th Street to 85th Street and was packed with rides and games, performance stages, sidewalk cafes and information tables from elected officials.
Visitors walked along the avenue under bright, sunny skies with temperatures in the 70s.
A highlight of the festival was the Eighth Annual Pizza Eating Contest outside event founder Rocco’s Pizzeria, where hungry contestants ate as many pizza slices as they could in the allotted 12-minute time limit. This year, six fierce competitors lined up for battle and, in the end, two were left standing: Dave “Tiger Wings & Things” Brunelli and Pat Philbin, a former five-time Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest entrant.
After 12 intense minutes, they ended up tied at 19 slices apiece as determined by referee Joel Podalsky. A frantic, two-minute overtime battle ensued, with Philbin prevailing to eat four-and-a-quarter slices to Brunelli’s four. A quarter of a slice separated the two, but a handshake in the end proved that both knew that despite the narrow margin, a victor had emerged for 2012. Other contestants included Bay Ridge’s own Will “The Champ” Millender, who finished third for consuming 17-and-one-quarter slices. Millender was the winner of the first two contests and said he is impressed by how far the contest has come under Rocco’s co-owners Joe and Danny Loccisano.
Before the event began, Camille Loccisano thanked Rocco’s Pizza and the crowd for their support and for providing a portion of the proceeds to the Francesco Loccisano Foundation.
Representatives from the Brooklyn Nets brought a truck, complete with a basketball hoop, and invited residents to try to shoot shots like the pros. State Sen. Marty Golden gave it a try and got one in on his second attempt.
Kids went on pony rides, residents enjoyed sausage sandwiches, cotton candy and corn on the cob, and everyone enjoyed the music.
The festival included a karaoke contest, a performance by a belly dancer, and other sights and sounds.
The Bay Ridge Eagle had a tent on 79th Street, where hundreds of people stopped by to chat with Editor-in-Chief Rick Buttacavoli, Managing Editor Paula Katinas, and Sales Manager Marc Hibsher, who handed out free copies of the newspaper.
BID President Jim Clark strolled along the festival route and said he was pleased with what he saw.
“Everything is going great. And I’m glad we have such good weather,” he said.
In order to secure a family-friendly atmosphere, the festival has a ban on drinking or carrying alcohol, Clark said.
“I think it’s one reason for our success,” he said.