2013-09-04 / Front Page

Growing Up Astoria

By Catherina Gioino

On August 10 at Katch Brewery and Grill, members of the Facebook page Growing Up Astoria were in line for a reunion party to see their friends from the neighborhood. The event, which ran from 4:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m., gave guests the chance to reminisce about the days of old over drinks and fun appetizers, all while listening to classic hits from the ‘70s to today’s pop.
The 6,630-member Facebook page is owned and run by Vincent Serio and Scott Derenzo, who have been running the page for the past five years. Serio is well known in the Astoria community and has decided to change the page’s reunion venue after being held for the past four years at the Bohemian Hall Beer Garden. By teaming up with Katch Brewery, Serio said he was able to help get his guests free gear as well as better drink specials in honor of the fifth anniversary. Juliana Serio also works with Serio as the manager of the page as well as events.
Queens borough president candidate Peter Vallone Jr. was in attendance at the event, as well as candidates looking to win his soon to be vacated City Council seat Danielle De Stefano and Gus Prentzas. You can find the Growing Up Astoria page on Facebook at facebook.com/groups/growingupastoria or you can visit the upcoming site, www.growingupastoria.net.
Catherina Gioino: Tell me about Growing Up Astoria.
Vincent Serio: Growing Up Astoria is something I started as a Facebook page. It’s something that I thought about for a while and with the help of my wife Juliana, we wanted to find a way to bring people together whether they were out of state, in state, out of country; to bring them together to reminisce, to reconnect, to share photos and memories and just bring people together so they can enjoy and remember their old neighborhood.
The event tonight is the fifth anniversary of our Growing Up Astoria Reunion. The last four years we’ve had it at the Bohemian Hall Beer Garden. It was kind of a big place and we wanted to find a place that was a bit cozier that we could have our own setting with our own people where there wasn’t a mixed crowd of people from other boroughs and counties. And Katch, this new place was nice enough to offer us their location to use as our new venue and we took the offer. This is our first year doing it here and we’re really excited.
Juliana Serio: One of the great things is that Katch has been very, very generous by making sure that we’re all being taken care of and all of our guests are being taken care of, which has been one of the reasons we’re doing it here.
CG: Are you working with other Astoria organizations and businesses?
VS: We’re trying to. The last four years we were lost in the beer garden, it just didn’t fit us. With Katch, we’re trying to make arrangements and trying to build relationships with different local companies and establishments and bring people together in Astoria. We want this to be beneficial for everybody.
CG: What do you hope will come out of this event as well as any more to come?
VS: First and foremost, that everybody has a good time. Besides that, renewed friendships for people who haven’t seen each other in 30, 40 years. So that’s what we’re trying to do. And as you can see around us, people are shaking hands, hugging, kissing and smiling. People are reconnecting. Some people haven’t seen each other in 15, 20 years. I have people coming from all over the country to be in this. People drove three, four, 500 miles to be here today and that’s a special thing.
CG: Tell me more about the Web page you’re making.
VG: Well the Facebook page is now over 6,600 people and I think that we need more. We’re kind of limited to what we can do on Facebook because Facebook is run and owned by Facebook. I really can’t do what I want to do on Facebook and I think a Web page enables us to grow in different directions in things that Facebook would limit us. A Web page that we created, we’re the boss, we set the parameters of what we want to do with the page so we’re trying to build something that we can use that will benefit local businesses, benefit people that look at the page if they’re coming into town to look at reservations, to get maps. And we’re looking at it as a place to enjoy and converse. Our Web page is growingupastoria.net and it’s something that I put up last year and it’s still in the works. I’m working on it with a web designer and it’s something that I’m very proud of. This was something that was a thought. I spoke to my wife five years ago and we decided to go through with it and now here it is five years. We have local businesses requesting to be sponsored. They’re coming to me and this is an honor and a privilege to do this and be the one to pass this along. I’m looking at people wearing shirts and shaking hands and I’m very proud that I came up with this idea. I think the best part about it is that people from all over the country and all over the world are coming together today to reconnect.
JS: I think there are a few more things to add about the Web page. One of the things I like a lot is that there’s almost a lost history in New York so people find photos proving stories they thought were lore and not true. I learn a lot about Astoria—I’m not from Astoria, I married an Astorian but I’m learning a lot about Astoria and the mystery of these amazing underground tunnels that led to the park or the history of old corners where people post the picture from 100 years ago and a picture from today and it’s amazing to see how much it has changed. I think that is what people like to see as part of Astoria and to enjoy about the page. It’s not just about people who grew up in Astoria but anyone who has a love for Astoria or an interest for Astoria. It’s cool.
VS: We found that there are people who moved to Astoria and we figured that we should find out where the neat spots to go to are where the food is. It’s neat to see these people who didn’t grow up in Astoria who moved here a year ago and see them connecting with us and getting on the page seeing where they can find the best slice of pizza or the best park. The great thing is that people have used the page to find their dogs. It’s remarkable that something I created can help people do those things and bring people together.
CG: What do you see in the future?
VS: This is the first year it’s really been serious. I see this growing to more people in a bigger event and maybe something more than just a reunion, like maybe some kind of festival or a carnival. Maybe a cruise or trip. It could be a lot of things.
JS: Some of the things that we are looking at is maybe not only one event a year but making sure we keep our friends connected throughout the year and not just our one time reunion in the summer. It could be organizing a cruise that people could choose to join or a little holiday party at a bar or some soccer game together. Who knows, we have to get people’s interest together. But we want something more throughout the year. As interest has grown, there are more opportunities that were not there before.
VS: We’re happy to have the Gazette here and we’re happy to have all these different businesses and people here to eat, drink and be merry.

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