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Planning for a big Woodhaven homecoming

Brian Hyland is coming home to Woodhaven, the town where he grew up, went to school and where he lived when he sang the #1 smash hit “Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini.”
Just imagine that for a moment. He was 16 years old, a graduate of St. Thomas the Apostle and student at Franklin K. Lane High School, and a neighborhood kid who lived off 78th Street.
His dad belonged to a club that met around the corner at the Union Course Bar, known today as Neir’s Tavern.
With success came the opportunity to move, which his family took, relocating to Long Island. But in his heart, Hyland remained a kid from Woodhaven.
He went on to have a long career, scoring nearly two-dozen Top 100 hits along the way, including “Sealed With A Kiss” and “Gypsy Woman.” He still tours today. We went to see him at Westbury Music Fair in 2019 before the world upended for a year, and he’s playing in September in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.
And one week after he leaves that the stage, Hyland will be back in Woodhaven for a homecoming party like we haven’t seen around here in ages.
The main event will be an unveiling of a sign at the home he grew up in near the corner of 78th Street and 87th Road. It won’t be one of those blue-and-yellow markers you are used to seeing around town; you aren’t allowed to put those up for living people.
Instead, with the consent of the homeowners, we will be placing a beautiful marker on the property of the house for all to see. That ceremony begins at 3 p.m. on Saturday, September 18, and everyone is welcome to attend.
That has to be a bit of a surreal moment for someone, but also a nice one. We’ve all revisited our childhood homes. Brian Hyland has done the same whenever he visited Woodhaven on one of his many trips back to the New York City area for a show.
No matter how many years go by, your childhood home is still your home. That is where you grew up, and if you look hard enough and close your eyes you can see your loved ones coming out the front door.
After the ceremony, we’ll take a short walk, an Itsy Bitsy Parade you might say, over to Neir’s Tavern where we’ll have a great big “welcome home” bash for Hyland.
We’re expecting a lot of former residents of Woodhaven to come for the day, so it will be a homecoming party for a lot of people.
But if you’d like to avoid the crowds and say welcome home to Brian Hyland before the ceremony, the Woodhaven Cultural & Historical Society is hosting a private gathering, a meet-and-greet with Brian.
Everyone who attends the will receive an autographed item and get a nice photograph taken with him. Food and beverages will be provided.
Tickets are $75 and all proceeds will used to pay for the sign and the party. The locale of the meet-and-greet is being kept under wraps, but it will be in the confines of Woodhaven.
One special guest that weekend will be Laurie Ennd. She manages the “Memories Growing Up In Woodhaven” group on Facebook and was instrumental in making this happen.
Again, everyone is invited to the ceremony at 3 p.m. and the party afterwards at Neir’s (Brian will be attending both), but if you would like the full homecoming experience, email us at woodhavenhistory@gmail.com and get a ticket for the meet-and-greet.
There are a limited number of tickets (we are keeping the attendance low), and they are going fast. It’s going to be a great weekend and we are really looking forward to welcoming Brian home.
One last thing, Make Music NYC will be coming to Woodhaven this Monday, June 21. There will be live music at Forest Parkway Plaza at Jamaica Avenue from 3 to 6 p.m. This event is sponsored by the Woodhaven Business Improvement District.
This will also mark the public debut of the Woodhaven Art Circle, a collection of artists from our community. Several artists will be showing off their work and we’re hoping other local artists will attend and introduce themselves to the group.
And we’ll also be looking for volunteers to make a tribute video for Brian Hyland, so come Monday and enjoy some music as we start planning the biggest homecoming party Woodhaven has seen in ages!

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