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Riverhead Blues & Music Festival returning to Vail-Leavitt

Blues Festival

The Vail-Leavitt Music Hall in downtown Riverhead has announced it will host a blues festival next month.

The indoor event will feature the following performances:

Friday, Sept. 16 — ‘Blind Boy’ Paxton and special guests

Saturday, Sept. 17 — Andy Aledort and The Groove Kings plus Rob Europe

Sunday, Sept. 18 — Historic Films presented by Joe Lauro

Friday, Sept. 23 — Kerry Kearney with Frank Latorre plus Four O’Clock Flowers

Saturday, Sept. 24 — Long Island Blues Challenge band winner plus Barta’s New River All-Stars

Sunday, Sept. 25 — Historic Films presented by Joe Lauro

Friday, Sept. 30 — Jim Kweskin and Geoff Muldaur plus Bruce MacDonald

Saturday, Oct. 1 — Robert Ross’ Jazz-manian Devils plus Long Island Blues Challenge solo/duo winner

Sunday, Oct. 2 — Terry Waldo

Performances begin at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and at 2:30 p.m. Sundays. Doors open a half-hour earlier.

The original blues festival, which was the nonprofit theater’s largest fundraising event, was canceled in 2013 after Vail-Leavitt lost more than $8,700 on the 2012 event. That’s when the outdoor festival was moved from its usual July date to Father’s Day weekend in June, which is when other big attractions like the Strawberry Festival also took place.

An effort has been underway in recent years to bring the annual event back.

In addition to the music hall’s latest fundraising efforts, county Legislator Al Krupski (D-Cutchogue) also helped it secure a $5,000 grant for the festival.

Bob Barta, president of the Vail-Leavitt Music Hall, said one challenge planning for the indoor event has been creating a diverse lineup with limited resources.

“We’re not talking about thousands of people,” he said, comparing the previous festivals. “While this weather proofs the event, the downside to our charming venue is it only seats about 200 people.”

Mr. Barta added the more intimate setting provides visitors enhanced learning opportunities, such as watching rare footage of musical performances presented by filmmaker Joe Lauro of Historic Films in Greenport.

“Groups will still play some old favorites,” Mr. Barta explained, “but this will also provide an opportunity to see and hear other things you won’t find anywhere else.”

Visit thevail.org for ticket information as it becomes available.

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Photo: Robert Ross at the 2012 Blues Festival in Riverhead. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)