Oct. 31, 2012 By Bill Parry
Several businesses located on Skillman Avenue have come together to hold the first annual Festival of Flags.
During the festival, which will last for 10 days beginning Nov. 1, each business will fly a flag of a country it wishes to represent. In doing so, each establishment will offer specialty food, drinks and music to reflect its adopted nation.
The event celebrates the cultural diversity of Sunnyside. It’s timed to coincide with the international flavor of the New York City Marathon.
The Skillman Ave. business group, which formally calls itself the Skillman Project, represents pubs, restaurants and other businesses located on the Avenue from 45th Street through to 53rd Street. It got its start after a core group of bars and restaurants began to organize pub crawls that quickly became a neighborhood hit.
For the Festival of Flags, a vast array of countries will be represented.
The Brogue will fly Brazil’s flag; The Copper Kettle will celebrate Scotland (expect bagpipes); Flynn’s Garden Inn will represent Poland; Aubergine, Germany; Quaint, Italy; and Murphy’s Bar, Jamaica. Claret Wine Bar will celebrate Spain with flamenco music.
Meanwhile, Padraig Connelly, the owner of The Dog and Duck, chose Belgium, since he is fond of that country’s beer, chocolate and cheese.
The core group of bars & restaurants made it a point to invite other businesses to join in, and several were willing. Saffron Garden, Skillman’s Famous Pizza, T.J. Asian Bistro, Stray Vintage, Tiny You and Jim Brothers Wine and Liquors will all take part.
“We’re up to 16 businesses who will display flags and we’re expecting even more to join in the spirit of things,” said Stephen Murphy, the manager of Murphy’s Bar.
Jill Callan, the owner of Tiny You, took time out from a children’s Halloween mask-making session to explain her first-time participation. “It just makes sense to join in,” she said. “Anything to be further involved in the community is good.”
Callan said she chose France because, “I’m a little obsessed with France.”
Mohamed Bessai, the owner of Olympic City Real Estate, decided to partake. “We are neighbors; you’ve got to be part of it and follow the crowd to promote Skillman Ave,” he said. His office will represent the USA.
Meanwhile, Cafe Marlene owner Ana Kitich, who is from Slovenia, will fly the flag of Yugoslavia.
Slovenia gained independence in 1991 during the breakup of Yugoslavia.
Kitich explained her choice by saying “We wanted to bring it back for a week or so. We’ll have traditional music of the six republics that made up Yugoslavia before it broke apart.”
The entire event is designed to draw attention to the restaurants, pubs, and businesses involved, and to create a greater sense of community.
The owners took a break from their planning session at Claret on Thursday afternoon to present Father Brian Dowd of Queen of Angels Church with a van full of canned goods (worth $2,000) for area food pantries.
The food donation was the end result of last month’s Pub Crawl, which drew 390 participants.
Skillman Ave. bar & restaurant owners deliver canned food to Father Dowd to aid food pantries.