July 05, 2006

Town Sings The Blues

The Seventh Annual Riverhead Blues Festival may be a shorter event than in previous years, but its promoters anticipate a big success, with scores of blues fans turning out to see the more than 30 performers scheduled to play.

Fans will converge on the Peconic Riverfront this weekend to listen to acts such as Hooch and The Bluesicians and former Riverhead resident Sam "the Blues Man" Taylor. Other locals to perform include MacHooch and the Riverhead Building Supply Gospel Choir.

Aside from the riverfront, venues including the Vail-Leavitt Music Hall and Club 91 will be open to fans.

And while listening to great music, festival-goers can peruse vendors' wares, have a bite to eat at a local establishment, or enjoy a carnival ride.

The band Blues Roots will kick-off the two-day festival on Saturday at 11 a.m. with nine acts to follow on the Main Stage. Music will ring out across the riverfront until 11 p.m. The guitars will sound again Sunday at noon and go until 4 p.m. when the festival comes to a close.

Making its debut in 1999, the Blues Festival attracted an audience of about 7,000 and four years later, attendance swelled to more than 9,000. Last year, over 10,000 fans enjoyed the biggest ever three-day event, enjoying the music of more than 60 blues artists. But despite the popularity of the festival, last year, the festival flopped financially.

Run by the Business Improvement District Management Association, a group hired by the town to oversee BID, the festival ran over budget by nearly $30,000.

According to a report prepared by the town, the festival took in some $77,360 in sponsorships, fees, merchandise, and donations, but spent just over $105,288. That accounting does not include the $35,000 the Town of Riverhead provided for in-kind services, such as police protection and clean-up.

In an effort to save the festival, the board of directors of the Vail Leavitt Musical Hall stepped up and offered to run the festival with the help of the BID. Their plans are to turn the festival finances around and ensure that the festival grows each year to include more bands. It is also hoped that once in the black, the festival will serve as a fundraising mechanism for the non-profit music hall.

In an effort to help achieve their goal, the promoters have opted to charge a $5 donation entrance fee. The fee will furnish festival attendees with a wristband that will permit them into the festival on both Saturday and Sunday.

The Town of Riverhead also helped with expenses for this year's fest, providing in-kind services and insurance. The town is hopeful that in the future, the festival will become self-sufficient and not require town funding.

For more information on the blues festival, www.rbf2006.com/.

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