Riverhead Town Board likely has votes to bring Blues Festival back

JOHN NEELY FILE PHOTO | Performers at the 2010 Blues Festival.

The Riverhead Blues Festival appears to have the three votes necessary to gain approval from the Riverhead Town Board, which is expected to vote on the matter at a 2 p.m. meeting Tuesday.

But it’s going to be close.

Vince Tria, the secretary of the Vail-Leavitt Music Hall, which runs the event as their major fundraiser, said they plan to hold it on June 16 and 17 in the riverfront parking lot in downtown Riverhead. They moved it from the customary mid-July date because the weather is too hot in July and because it would be competing with Patchogue’s Great South Bay Music Festival, which also is in mid-July, Mr. Tria said.

Vail-Leavitt didn’t hold a Blues Festival last year, after having staved off an attempted takeover of the festival the year before by the Riverhead Chamber of Commerce, which was backed by the Business Improvement District and Supervisor Sean Walter.

This year, everybody says they support the festival, but it still may just barely have enough votes to pass Tuesday.

The Town Board discussed the matter with Mr. Tria at the Thursday Town Board work session.

Supervisor Sean Walter and Councilman Jim Wooten said they’ll support the festival. Mr. Wooten said he’s troubled by the fact that the festival, which is a paid admission event, fences off public property.

Councilman George Gabrielsen was undecided and Councilwoman Jodi Giglio said she can’t support it unless their insurance is in place, which at this point, it is not.

Councilman John Dunleavy wasn’t at Thursday’s work session but he was following along on the News-Review’s live blog of the meeting and posted a comment saying he supports the festival so long as they get their insurance in before the event. Mr. Walter later called him to confirm that.

Town officials have said they will give Vail-Leavitt more time to get their insurance in, which the town code section on special events requires be in place 120 days before the event. Mr. Walter said he will give them up to 30 days before the event.

Ms. Giglio said she didn’t vote for the Polish Festival or the Country Fair last year because the promoters of those festivals didn’t have their insurance in place before the vote. She said she wants to be consistent.

Mr. Tria said that if they cannot get the insurance, then they won’t host the event.

Mr. Dunleavy said last month that he will be on vacation in Florida in February but will fly up to Riverhead for the regular Town Board meeting, where items are voted on.

[email protected]