Editorial: Childishness killed the Blues Festival

02/16/2011 11:08 PM |

We’re quite sure there’s no saving the Blues Festival, the granddaddy of all Riverhead’s summer events. It has drawn anywhere from 10,000 to 20,000 visitors downtown annually, many of them Long Islanders who learned for the first time that Riverhead was actually built along a river.

There was no greater showcase for the town. Boaters would come from across the East End to tie up along the Peconic River boardwalk days before the weekend event to get a prime spot. The grass in the riverfront park was always plush and manicured. Despite the presence of alcohol, disorderly conduct was never a big issue.

Rain or shine, the Riverhead Blues Festival was a guaranteed good time for East Enders and all those who made the trek from afar. How could it not be? Music was in the air.

But behind the veneer, egos were at war in downtown Riverhead. Have no doubt, all the recent problems that have led to the festival’s apparent demise here stem from the enmity between Vail-Leavitt Music Hall treasurer and local radio station owner Vince Tria and Business Improvement District president and salon owner Ray Pickersgill. Aside from their personal animosity, each man has his faction, and their differences are irreconcilable. So much for the festival being all about the music and boosting downtown Riverhead.

This is more like “High School Musical.” As a middle school teacher would say to seventh-graders after breaking up a fight, it really doesn’t matter who started it, or who is ending it. You’ve ruined something for the attendees, performers and business people who benefitted because you couldn’t put your differences aside like adults and work on behalf of the community you both love so much.

That’s not to say some good can’t come out of all this. Mr. Tria and the Vail-Leavitt Music Hall board have reached out to Southold Town officials to explore the possibility of holding a music festival at Strawberry Fields in Mattituck. We imagine such an event could be quite successful and help fill the coffers at the nonprofit music hall to keep it up and running.

And Mr. Pickersgill is already working on bringing a Mardi Gras-themed music event downtown this August as part of a bolstered lineup of summer events that, according to some business owners, helped boost sales in the struggling downtown last summer. Such an event could help ease the pain of losing the Blues Festival.

Of course, no one is rooting for these men to fail, because Riverhead needs them both. But they both need to grow up.



15 Comment

  • Yes. these men do have to show that they can rise above these petty egos that they have, especially Mr. Tria. He is the older of the two and seems to show his stubbornness on his sleeve. His ego was on the line and now he’s showing us what he’s capable of doing.

  • I think personally,that the Strawberry Fields location would be a superior location.Its a larger area,im sure a carnival wouls be asked in,with fireworks,and you wouldnt have to roast on blacktop on a hot July summer day.Riverhead had its day,lets move it over to Mattituck.

  • GROW UP! The basis behind this “community gathering” is food, fun, music, an occasional beer spilled on your shoes and an all around good time. On a more serious note, think about what will benefit the town… not inflate certain egos… too much hot air in a balloon WILL cause it to burst.

  • Just like last year the Vail is in what I fondly refer to as “oh pity me” mode. Vince should understand this isn’t like the good-ole-days anymore. Phil is gone & he’s not the ombudsmen anymore. Sean is in & he has his own people…I call it politics & Vince should understand that. That being said, I don’t for one minute believe the president of BID is looking to undermine the blues festival, the Vail has been able to do that on it’s own. Now they profess to being businessmen, so they should be able to understand that the town just laid-off 13 employees, taxes are going though the roof, school funding has been cut, so u know whose gonna pick up the slack, we r also paying for that town dump reclamation fiasco, so I can understand why the town doesn’t want to shell out another 60K to an org. who refuses to show their financials in a timely fashion to the town hall. Remember 2003? Who were the cage rattlers then asking to see the financials of the blues festival, which was “free” to the public? No, I say to the Vail apply for a permit, then cover the expenses of policing, set-up/clean-up, show mobile, fencing, etc. Just please don’t be so arrogant as to think that while charging admission u should be entitled to $60,000 of “free” in-kind services at the expense of the Riverhead taxpayers & the business district. I don’t see many businesses complaining about not having the festival, as many of them lose money on the festival weekend b/c there is no parking available. No, I don’t often say this but, I agree w/ Vince when he wrote he’ll move the festival & save Riverhead $60,000. Bravo, a grand idea Vince.