In addition to honoring those who have bravely fought to defend our country overseas, Memorial Day informally marks the start of summer. Each year, to embrace the sunshine and warm weather, the Levittown Chamber of Commerce invites the community to come to its annual Memorial Day Fair behind the Tri-County Flea Market. “It’s our single fundraiser of the year,” said Steven Philmus, president of the Levittown Chamber of Commerce, “and it has always been a successful event for more than 20 years.”
From May 22-May 26, crowds enjoyed a slew of rides, including a ferris wheel, flying swings, and carnival games where they could win one of many prizes.
“It’s a fun day,” stated Michael Lavine, who was enjoying the festivities with his wife, Sabrina.
But what really wowed the crowd was the circus, which featured a mother-son motorcycle team bracing danger in a steel ball.
“The motorcycle acts take such skill and are so cool,” said one resident.
However, not all were so enthusiastic about “Close Encounters of the Exotic Kind,” a performance featuring lions and tigers.
“It is incredibly disappointing that the Levittown Chamber of Commerce would host such a cruel and antiquated act,” said John DiLeonardo, president of the animal advocacy organization Long Island Orchestrating for Nature (LION), which held a demonstration against the mistreatment of the animals. “Not only does Close Encounters have an abysmal animal welfare record, but inviting this out-of-state show strays from the mission of any local Chamber of Commerce. We will be contacting the Chamber and requesting that they never host an exotic animal act again.”
According to the handlers, Vincent and Georgina Von Duke, they do not declaw their big cats or remove their canines, unlike most other exotic animal acts.
“Whenever animals of any species are being exploited under the disguise of entertainment, they fall in the hands of our elected officials as to whether this should be tolerated or even welcomed by society,” President of Hope for Hempstead Shelter United Diane Madden said during the demonstration. “The message here is that our town and county officials must accept the responsibility they have historically disowned, which is to protect these voiceless beings.”
Philmus explained that the Levittown chamber certainly plans to reevaluate having exotic animals at the event based on the comments that were made.
“We don’t want anyone to be upset and don’t want to alienate a group of people,” Philmus said. “That’s not the purpose of the event. It allows us to get together and have a fun weekend for people.”