Riverhead Blues Festival sees low turnout, organizers say

The downtown Blues Festival had poor attendance this year, and the event’s lead organizer said competing events held at the same time were partly to blame.

Vince Tria of the Vail-Leavitt Music Hall, which uses the event as its chief fundraiser, said Monday the festival had a lower turnout than previous years despite warm and sunny weather.

“I think we expected more than we really had,” he said.

Mr. Tria said other events such as the Strawberry Festival in Mattituck, the 10K race on Shelter Island, as well as Father’s Day on Sunday, drew people away from the festival.

“There was so much competition out there,” he said. “We picked a bad [weekend] unfortunately, but it is what it is.”

Mr. Tria said he wasn’t sure how much money the festival made for the Vail-Leavitt, if any, or what the final attendance numbers were, as Vail-Leavitt volunteers were still tallying the sales numbers.

Last year, the Blues Festival was cancelled after downtown business owners and government leaders butted heads with Mr. Tria and others in the Vail-Leavitt.

Mr. Tria said the missed year may also have played a part in the final turnout.

“Someone said to me, ‘When you’re away for one year and you come back you confuse people,'” he said.

But while Mr. Tria was unhappy with the festival’s attendance, Supervisor Sean Walter said the weekend was a success for the town.

“Unfortunately, that Blues Festival didn’t do as well, but the town did really well,” he said. “Downtown was hopping, you couldn’t find a parking space.”

Mr. Walter said he is planning to meet with local officials to discuss other ways the town can hold events downtown without using parking space along the riverfront, but he said it’s too early along in the process to go into specifics.

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See Thursday’s News-Review newspaper for more coverage from the Riverhead Blues Festival.

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