NOFO Rock & Folk Fest returns, without last year’s disputes

KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTO | Concert goers entertain themselves with hula hooping between musical sets at last year's NoFo Rock and Folk Festival.

Rock and blues legend Johnny Winter will perform at Peconic Bay Winery in Cutchogue on Father’s Day and the NOFO Rock & Folk Fest returns for a second year in late July, starring John Sebastian, Foghat and other major recording artists from the 1960s and ’70s.

And unlike last year, when NOFO promoters battled Southold Town in a state Supreme Court action just days before the concert, any static would come from a loose speaker wire, not Town Hall or the courts.

This year the permit application sailed through, all the required paperwork has been issued and the town and promoters say they look forward to the shows.

“The town has been very good to work with,” said Josh Horton, a former town supervisor and co-producer with Peconic Bay Winery of the NOFO concerts and the Father’s Day show.

His successor, Supervisor Scott Russell, agrees.

“We got very comprehensive plans from the promoter and feel that all concerns have been addressed,” he said. “Personally, I think it will go as smooth as last year’s event.”

So what went right? The first NOFO event.

Although some in Town Hall had feared that the first of its kind show here, with world-famous Woodstock-era acts such as Leslie West and Richie Havens, would cause nightmarish traffic and noise far exceeding the droning thump-thump-thump of helicopters heading to and from the South Fork, all went well.

Parking was contained on site, traffic flowed under control and helicopters remained the primary cause of noise complaints.
“Clearly there are fewer unknowns,” said Mr. Horton. “Viewed in the context of NOFO 2010’s success, there’s a greater comfort level for the size, spirit and the reality of the concert.”

As town law requires, NOFO’s promoters had received a special events permit from the Zoning Board of Appeals anticipating daily crowds of 800 for last year’s July weekend show. The dispute arose when town obtained a copy of a letter sent to prospective vendors that said attendance was expected to be “well over 15,000.” Mr. Horton said that number was a “clerical error.”

In response, the Town Board added 21 conditions, including limiting on-site parking, ending the music an hour earlier at 6 p.m. and charging promoters $6,500 for police overtime. At the time, Mr. Russell said the permit application “contained so many misrepresentations that it is almost fraudulent.”

Saying the board overstepped its authority, the promoters brought an action in state Supreme Court. Justice Jeffrey Spinner agreed with them, voiding the added conditions.

Yet some of those contested conditions, including the police payment and the 6 p.m. music cutoff, were included in this year’s permit without challenge.

“What we objected to was the process,” Mr. Horton said. “We objected to a legislative body rewriting a permit issued by the ZBA.”

When the musicians take the stage for NOFO II on Saturday and Sunday, July 30 and 31, on-site parking will be limited to 400 vehicles per day, the stage must be repositioned to face away from a nearby funeral home and other businesses, the promoters must pay nearby business owners for security costs if overflow parking heads to their properties and all guests and vehicles must be gone within an hour after the music stops.

“Last year the attendance and traffic was exactly what we hoped for and anticipated,” said Mr. Horton. “Our expectations and goals for this year are relatively similar. We simply want to provide a quality music and arts festival that is enjoyable for families and music lovers and benefits the community as a whole.”

The promoters made a post-festival donation of $5,000 to the East End Arts Council last year and anticipate doing so again this year.

The Johnny Winter show, which also has all required permits, takes place Sunday, June 19, from 4 to 7 p.m. The show opens with a performance by the North Fork-based Jon DiVello Band.

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