Battle over Blues Festival at a stalemate

Who will blink first?
The sides at odds over control of the regionally popular Riverhead Blues Festival don’t appear to be budging in their respective bids for the fest.
Vail-Leavitt Music Hall will not withdraw its application to host the event July 17 and 18, the nonprofit group’s treasurer, Vince Tria, told the Town Board Thursday.
The Riverhead Chamber of Commerce also
submitted an application to host the event on the same dates
and in the same location.
“The Vail-Leavitt will not withdraw its chapter 90 application, and
that means the Vail-Leavitt wants its application honored,” Mr. Tria
told the Town Board, indicating that he was speaking for Vail-Leavitt
president Bob Barta. “We [filed] first, and we’ve done it for four
years in the past, successfully, and we don’t understand why it can’t
be done again this year with the same success.”
The Vail-Leavitt has hosted the festival since 2006 and uses it as a major source of funds for year-round events at the downtown music hall.
The chamber has been working with the Riverhead Business Improvement District on its application, and Supervisor Sean Walter said he’d like to see the BID, chamber and Vail-Leavitt work together to produce the festival this year.
“I’m holding out hope that we can do this together; I think it would be a better event,” Mr. Walter said, noting that he wants all downtown events coordinated by the various entities.
Representatives from each of the three groups met with the supervisor earlier this week, and Mr. Walter said he thought an agreement had been reached, only to find out later that Vail-Leavitt was still seeking to produce the festival on its own.
Mr. Walter said the proposed agreement would have given Vail-Leavitt the same amount of money it raised last year from the festival, but would have had the chamber and BID work on bringing in additional revenue through corporate sponsorships.
Mr. Barta told the News-Review recently that the Vail-Leavitt profited by about $20,000 last year on the festival that costs about $50,000 to produce.
BID president Ray Pickersgill told the News-Review Thursday that the proposed agreement would have given Vail-Leavitt $30,000, if that much money came through the festival, and that additional money would have been used by the chamber to start a scholarship fund for local students.
The BID has said it wants better accounting of the money the Vail-Leavitt makes and spends during the festival, since it receives financial help from the BID and free services from the town.
Mr. Walter said he remains committed to seeing the festival run by all three groups.
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