A night of music & memories in downtown Riverhead

JAMES TUTHILL PHOTO | The Party Dolls take the stage as the sun sets behind Grangebel Park to the west.

Local music lovers were able to travel back to an era of their choosing Saturday night at the first-ever Oldies concert event sponsored by the Riverhead Business Improvement District.

The free concert along downtown’s Peconic Riverfront consisted of three bands: The Acchords, Party Dolls and Symphonic Soul. The Acchords’ catalog extended back into the ’50s and early ’60s doo-wop. The Party Dolls sang a medley of disco and ’80s pop hits. Symphonic Soul then closed out the night with a set of  memorable Motown hits from the ’60s and ’70s.

The Oldies concert was held the same weekend the Riverhead Blues Festival is typically scheduled. A warring Riverhead BID and nonprofit Vail-Leavitt Music Hall, which has run the Blues Festival over the past several years as a fundraiser, led to the cancellation of this year’s two-day festival.

“We wanted to try and cover a larger field of people with the music played at this event,” said John Mantzopoulos , 43, of Greenport, who is a BID board of directors member and owner of Athens Gyro & Grill on East Main Street. “The Blues Festival only played one type that may not have been for everybody.

“These bands provide more variety.”

Accompanying the music at the festival were numerous stands selling merchandise to match the nostalgia theme,  including old pinup calendars and posters. The food stands included spots for many Main Street favorites such as the Athens Grill, Dark Horse, Tweed’s and Julia’s Pizza. Revelers also got to choose from traditional carnival fare such as apple puffs, zeppoli and ice cream.

The event kicked off about 5 p.m. with attendance in the low hundreds and then swelled to a crowd of 1,200 to 1,500 people at it’s peak. Many were coming in by boat and lining the riverfront boardwalk from Peconic Avenue to Atlantis Marine World in the east.

The concert was funded through the BID, which taxes downtown business for events and promotions, rather than town taxpayers themselves — so the free concert was exactly that for a majority of the attendees.

The Oldies event was only one of a series of events being run by the BID this summer. Visit www.Riverheadbid.com for a complete schedule.

JAMES TUTHILL PHOTO | The Oldies event Saturday drew about 1,500 revelers at its peak.