Winery planning rock fest

06/24/2010 12:00 AM |

Folk-rock icon Richie Havens is one of the notable musicians set to perform at Peconic Bay Winery for two days in midsummer. Winery manager Jim Silver said he is confident the festival will go smoothly.

Woodstock icon Richie Havens. Classic rock band Mountain. Power pop rockers The Smithereens.

To Jim Silver, general manager of Peconic Bay Winery, these aging but still celebrated performers are big names — but not that big, like The Rolling Stones — which is why he’s not worried a bit about the impact of NOFO Rock and Folk Festival, a two-day outdoor event featuring 12 acts to be held at the Cutchogue winery on July 31 and Aug. 1. The concert will not conflict with the annual Riverhead Blues Festival, which will take place July 17 and 18.

“Sure, if we booked Lady Gaga here you probably couldn’t even get into Suffolk County,” he said. “But these are older names to appeal to an adult demographic, which is what we have here locally. This won’t be a Woodstock, but we are hoping for at least 800 people.”

After the success of a sold-out performance by jazz singer-guitarist John Pizzarelli on grounds just outside the winery’s main building last September, Mr. Silver said he felt ready to host a bigger show. To organize this festival, he teamed with former Southold Town supervisor Josh Horton, who will be singing at the concert with his band, Big Suga.

“After I saw how well the Pizzarelli show went, I just realized how easy it was to do this,” Mr. Silver said.

The concert will be held on fields farther away from the winery building and Route 25 than the Pizzarelli show was held last year, he said, so parking and traffic control will be “easy.”

“Our big, open fields could hold 5,000 people, but we’re not expecting that many,” he said. “And all the cars will be taken off the street. People will have to walk about 400 yards from where they will park to where the concert will be, but we’ll have a shuttle.”

Mr. Silver said he had hired a security company to handle parking and security on site to take that burden off of Southold Town police.

But police Capt. Martin Flatley is worried. He said that Mr. Silver and Mr. Horton did not consult with the police before going ahead with their concert plans. He said he was notified only when he saw that the Southold Town Zoning Board of Appeals had granted a special events permit for the show.

“The permit only said ‘music concert,’ and to me that means a band or a single performer,” he said. “I think that’s misleading, given the nature of this show.”

Capt. Flatley said he hoped that the winery can indeed handle its own security. He said that his officers had their hands full last August during “Barge Bash,” another concert organized by Mr. Horton, at which local bands performed on a floating barge between Founders Landing and Goose Creek Bridge in Southold. Most of the concertgoers were also on boats or in the water.

Before “Barge Bash,” Mr. Horton had argued that he didn’t need to go through the typical permit process, because representatives of Sea Tow and the Coast Guard had agreed to provide safety patrols, eliminating the need for coverage by additional town bay constables. The town police had little time to develop a security plan for the event.

Of this year’s event, the police captain said, “I don’t know if they can handle the whole thing themselves, but I do know that it is a large concert and I’m anticipating that some of the winery’s neighbors won’t be happy. Unfortunately, it’s a wait-and-see-what-happens situation at this point.”

Before deciding whom to book for the rock and folk festival, Mr. Silver said that he and Mr. Horton had used a website that shows how many people each individual act usually draws. Mountain, for instance, usually attracts about 250 people to their shows. And $45 per ticket per day “should keep things honest,” he said.

“That’s not cheap,” Mr. Silver said. “Whoever buys a ticket probably really wants to see these acts. We wanted to keep things small and profitable, not big and out of control. And we want to have some of these bigger names come here. You’re always hearing of them playing places on the South Fork, but the North Fork is always ignored.”

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