It’s unlikely the Riverhead Chamber of Commerce, in just a few months, could pull off anything close to what musicians and revelers have come to expect each year from the Riverhead Blues and Music Festival, even with the financial support of the Business Improvement District.
It’s also clear that the Vail-Leavitt Music Hall, which has been running successful Blues Festivals downtown since 2006, isn’t interested in yielding to or even sharing control of the event with the chamber or the BID.
And questions linger over whether the BID would have the power to help financially, considering the ongoing argument over who controls the BID, the Town Board or the BID management association’s board of directors.
Yet, there are two competing permit applications in Town Hall to run the two-day festival in July, one from the Chamber of Commerce and one from the Vail-Leavitt Music Hall.
Vail-Leavitt members have been planning this event since last fall. It is the only organization in a position to run it properly come July. And every week that the Town Board delays granting the Vail-Leavitt permit, it puts the popular event, which draws 10,000 to 20,000 people to downtown Riverhead, deeper into doubt.
Make no mistake, this coup attempt is not solely about putting on a bigger and better festival, as Supervisor Sean Walter has asserted and very well may believe.
Grumbling from downtown business owners over abrasive festival organizer Vince Tria, treasurer of Vail-Leavitt, set this attempted takeover in motion. Those complaints were exacerbated by rumor and speculation, shaded with varying degrees of truth, that were circulated in an attempt to muscle Mr. Tria out of the picture.
It’s apparent that Mr. Tria isn’t going anywhere. And without him and Vail-Leavitt, there will be no Blues Festival. Certainly not as we know it. And if that happens, everybody loses.
Let’s assume for a minute that the status quo is maintained, and Vail-Leavitt keeps control of the festival. That doesn’t mean 2010 can’t mark one of the best and most peaceful events on record.
To accomplish that, Mr. Tria’s mettle will be tested.
Consider that several downtown businesses actually lose money over the weekend of the Blues Festival, while Vail-Leavitt makes tens of thousands of dollars. Understandably, that doesn’t sit well with some downtown proprietors.
Mr. Tria should be sensitive to, and address, their concerns