Can a ‘Mardi Gras’ fill Blues Festival void?

02/16/2011 4:20 PM |

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | The Blues Festival in 2000 had a Mardi Gras theme.

While the prospects of the Riverhead Blues Festival’s returning to downtown Riverhead remain in doubt, town and business officials are working on bringing a Mardi Gras-themed event to the riverfront this summer, said Riverhead Business Improvement District president Ray Pickersgill.

The date has not been set, but Mr. Pickersgill said the BID is looking to hold a one-day event sometime in August, or possibly late July. It will be held in the downtown riverfront parking lot and feature multiple stages, he said.

“There are three nationally known Mardi Gras bands we’re trying to get and some local bands,” Mr. Pickersgill said.

The national bands he mentioned are the Lost Bayou Ramblers, a Grammy-nominated Cajun band from Louisiana, the Hot 8 Brass Band, from New Orleans, and the Jambalaya Brass Band, whose members were originally from New Orleans but now live in Brooklyn.

“We’re also going to have crawfish and all kinds of other things like jugglers, stilt walkers and a fire breather. They’ll be all kinds of crazy stuff. It’s going to be a Mardi Gras,” Mr. Pickerskill said, adding that, if it’s successful, he hopes it becomes an annual event.

While the Mardi Gras may be making its debut in downtown Riverhead, the Riverhead Blues Festival may just have played its swan song there last year after 12 years.

Members of the board of the nonprofit Vail-Leavitt Music Hall, which has run the Blues Festival since 2006 as its chief fundraiser, have indicated they may be looking to move the event to a new location this year, citing difficulties they had last year when the Riverhead Chamber of Commerce sought to run the festival.

At one point there were even dueling permit applications in Town Hall from the Chamber and Vail-Leavitt.

The Vail-Leavitt group eventually got the go-ahead to run the 2010 festival, but president Bob Barta said earlier this year he would move the festival if it appeared similar difficulties would happen again in 2011.

Where the Blues Festival will be held this year remains unclear, as Mr. Barta has not returned calls from the News-Review and Vail-Leavitt treasurer Vince Tria declined to comment when reached last Thursday.

Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter said there’s been no application to hold the festival in Riverhead Town, and officials at Suffolk Community College, whose eastern campus had been suggested as a possible festival site, said it will not be held there.
Mattituck’s Strawberry Fields has also been mentioned as a possible event location, and Southold Supervisor Scott Russell said Wednesday he has been in contact with event organizers.

“A few weeks back, Bob Barta inquired about the use of the Strawberry Fields for the Blues Festival,” he told the News-Review. “He was e-mailed an application. We have not received it back.”

The Blues Festival, originally run by the BID as a free, three-day event, was the brainchild of Tom Gahan, who ran it from 1999 to 2003. When the BID, which received town subsidies to run the festival, ran into debt running it, Vail Leavitt eventually stepped in and took over in 2006, charging admission for the first time and making it a two-day event.

Ironically, one of the earliest Blues Festivals, in 2000, had a Mardi Gras theme. Reached for comment, Mr. Gahan was critical of the festival’s recent direction.

“Since 2003 the Riverhead Blues Festival has spiraled downward to a mere glimmer of its former self,” he said. “Actually, it’s now in shambles. Vail Leavitt Music Hall seizing control and copyrighting the name did not insure its continued success. Neither did their business practices.

“The Riverhead Blues Festival should be returned to the vision under which it was created, a free event to promote downtown’s growth and Riverhead’s name in a positive way. Those issues seem to have been long forgotten.”

OTHER PLANNED EVENTS

BID members last week outlined some other events they plan to hold this year, as well as how they plan to spend their $141,818 budget.

The group, which runs a district that collects taxes from downtown business owners for events and promotions, plans to spend $15,600 on the Thursday “Cruise Night” car shows, which will run for 26 weeks over the summer. The money represents about $600 per event for live entertainment, Mr. Pickersgill said.

The second biggest expense is $14,500 for the Fourth of July concert and fireworks, which was also very successful last summer, Mr. Pickersgill said, adding that the BID hopes Brady Rymer and his band will play again this year. The BID is also allocating $2,000 for the cardboard boat race, which drew hundreds of spectators and participants downtown in its first year last summer.
Other events being planned include the country and western concert, which made its debut last year, the annual holiday bonfire, an oldies concert, a jazz concert and an allocation of $3,000 toward the Country Fair, run by Townscape. The BID is also kicking in $5,000 toward the downtown River and Roots Community Garden, proposed for town land on the south side of West Main Street, just north of Grangebel Park.

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Comments

comments

30 Comment

  • Why is government involved in the Blues Festival? We need some people who are not motivated by greed or politics to return the festival to its roots. It’s about a good time–not impressing people with your business acumen or connections. I’d rather have a bunch of acoustic players sitting at picnic tables along the waterfront playing traditional blues music than what I’ve seen of late: second tier acts commanding first tier money which in turn takes funds from local acts that are in many cases the equal of some national acts. Some individual with more ego than taste has been pulling the strings here. Return the Blues Festival to the people. And if the Long Island Blues Society has a problem with that, they can sit this one out as well. Power to the people.

  • Many a business has gone bankrupt and then with a simple change of the previous business name, example— newfield company to newfields original company. Can’t the Blues Festival be brought back to it’s roots by changing it’s name from Riverhead Blues Festival to “The Original Riverhead Festival of Blues? Like David Wilmott used to say – “And Why Not”

  • wow aren’t you just a bundle of sunshine to be around, it is obvious she is just stressing right now. and YOU are a jerk for even saying these things

  • What Homeowner Insurance Company was used? The Insurance Policy has a Replacement Cost Dollar Value for Primrary Dwelling and as a Replacement Cost for Contents and (Other Dwellings). The homeowner stated that the Insurance only will cover the materials? Every year Insurance Companies usualy review the Replacement Costs in Current Dolllars as to make sure the Homeowner is not underinsured. This Homeowner Policy doesn’t make sense. I insure my home for aprox. $200 per square foot based on todays (2011) building costs.

  • Blah,Blah,Blah.

  • Thank YOU….someone else has a brain here! Or at least BASIC knowledge of how homeowners insurance works. See Dawn…I am not trying to be a “jerk” as you called me but something is not right about this whole thing. And since when can’t a house be inspected for arson?

  • Seriously?? You put that out there for all to read?? Certainly hope nothing as devastating as what happened to this family happens to you! Heartless much??

  • Jade, why the need to punch someone when they are down? I think the owner mentioned the bag of clothing to suggest that they at least have those items to use. Their insurance agent might have not counseled them correctly about the insurance policy. It might have been a fire policy which does not cover contents. Maybe even they were both working they still couldn’t afford a typical Homeowners policy. Some times people are naive and don’t think something will happen. I didn’t get the impression that they want the community to compensate them. Help them, sure why not. Thats what life should be all about helping others. Not kicking them when they are down. I really don’t understand the tone of your memo to someone who obviously has had a loss like this. Its okay to ask for help. And I can also appericate how it might make them uncomfortable to have people come up the drive to look at what is left of what was once their home. I do agree they are lucky that no one was injuired and or killed.

  • Negative commentators: Are you writing from your houses right now? Look around. Imagine that everything, everything around you is gone. The insurance doesn’t matter. These people lost EVERYTHING that they own and their entire house. Are any of you parents? Their 12-year old daughter lost everything that she owned. Can you even imagine what that must be like for her? That’s the bottom line. We all as a local community should find it in our hearts, closets & wallets to help this family. How would you feel if you lost everything and people said these things about you?

    Think before you speak & write. Just because you can be semi-anonymous doesn’t mean that you can be nasty.

  • There’s a big difference in what “Taxed to Death” said and what you said, Dawn. If “something is not right”, maybe that’s how you should have originally worded it instead of attacking this family.

  • Wow, I don’t know if I would be sayin’ that my 12yo lost her Amish Cart,saddles and stuff that was associated with the horse they own, poor little her. I found out last week that a lady in my area that has cancer had to give her cat away because she could not afford the litter and food for her cat which was her only companion and the agway place is going to donate care and food to these people that have luxury animals? I don’t see the fairness.

  • You (Jade) are one of the biggest A-Holes I have ever read, You do not have a clue what you are talking about, You need to shut up.

  • Ok I will say it. Thank God for the 100+VOLUNTEER firefighters and EMTs who selflessly put their lives at risk and left their own familes to battle this blaze!

  • Really? A lot of those first responders are the “union employees” that you are so willing to crush!

  • Oops, I was responding to Jade’s comment but wrote Dawn in my response. Sorry, Dawn.

  • I have Aetna and I could not use these hospitals unless I wanted to pay out-of-network fees in addition to my deductable. At least I have an option now that there is an agreement.

  • At least the COP’s were actually doing something to earn the “hefty” $120K Salaries instead of sitting in their patrol cars in some parking lot talking with one another.

    Thanks to all the “non-public” working First Resppnder volunteer’s that assisted.

  • Now that is very on the money! Bet ya’ get flagged for making sense though.

  • I wasn’t referring to the cops pal. 😉 Get a life… I’m onto you.

  • I cannot understand how this homeowner has not updated their insurance policy in 10 years!!!!!! Who does that? Currenty people should be insured for AT LEAST $200 per square foot. And everyone has replacement cost for contents….unless they have NO mortgage and opt for the cheapest policy available!

  • Justsaying…..NONE of those first responders are union employees! They are VOLUNTEERS

  • Ummm….maybe they cant afford to, because their insurance premiums will go up?

  • ha ha! Go fishing.

  • What Homeowner Insurance Company was used? The Insurance Policy has a Replacement Cost Dollar Value for Primrary Dwelling and as a Replacement Cost for Contents and (Other Dwellings). The homeowner stated that the Insurance only will cover the materials? Every year Insurance Companies usualy review the Replacement Costs in Current Dolllars as to make sure the Homeowner is not underinsured. This Homeowner Policy doesn’t make sense. I insure my home for aprox. $200 per square foot based on todays (2011) building costs.

  • I pay $2300.00 per year!

  • Wow! A fire turns into a fire-storm…wonder why? The bottom line is these folks lost their home. What ever happened to love your neighbor..Have some compassion!

  • Wow! A fire turns into a fire-storm…wonder why? The bottom line is these folks lost their home. What ever happened to love your neighbor..Have some compassion!

  • Common Sense and Responsibility! Plan and make your best decisions in your life is the best you can do….but it could happen to anyone. Learn from your experiences.

  • Enjoy! The Town wake up call is coming! Don’t worry, I’ll text message you on the golf course this Spring.

  • There are a lot of unhappy people out there. Do you feel better now that you have struck this family when they are down? You must all suffer from low self esteem to think that your comments are something that they would want to read. Go out and take a walk on this glorious day and say a prayer for yourselves, you need it, and you know who you are!