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Stay Key’s marathon performance ends with a party in Riverhead

08/16/2015 6:00 AM |

They crammed into every square inch of the bar at Outerbanks Restaurant, singing, celebrating and cheering on a night that felt like New Year’s Eve combined with a jovial karaoke party. Some came to witness history, some to cheer a friend, others to support a cause. 

Just past 8:11 p.m. Saturday night, as the party reached a fervor, the crowd erupted with a familiar plea at the end of a show: “Encore!” they yelled.

Darren Stakey was happy to oblige. After nearly five consecutive days of singing and playing the piano, a marathon performance of more than 4,000 songs, a span of 111 hours in which he slept for only brief intervals, Mr. Stakey happily sat back at the piano that had been his home since 5 a.m. Tuesday and grabbed a harmonica. For his final song, Mr. Stakey — who goes by the name Stay Key — went to a Long Island classic: Billy Joel’s “Piano Man.”

Using what little was left of a hoarse voice that had been worn down days earlier, Mr. Stakey led the crowd in one final sing-along.

Exhausted, perhaps even a bit delirious, and running on faint fumes, Mr. Stakey had done it.

The Riverhead man’s quest to raise money and awareness for Autism Speaks by attempting two Guinness Book of World Records reached its conclusion Saturday with a countdown party, the final chapter of a seemingly impossible mission.

Mr. Stakey’s two records — for longest marathon singing and piano playing — can’t be officially confirmed by Guinness until all the paperwork and video is submitted next week. But for the hundred-plus people jammed inside the restaurant, it didn’t make a difference.

Somehow, with the help of a support crew that included his sister Renee, mother Rosemary and friend Heather Rand of Southold, Mr. Stakey managed to accomplish his goal, whether it gets confirmed from Guinness or not. Mr. Stakey, 33, had actually surpassed both records earlier in the afternoon, but kept going to reach his goal of 111 hours, 11 minutes, 1 second. The event started on Aug. 11.

For the final hour, the crowd helped encourage Mr. Stakey to the end like an injured runner limping toward the finish line.

Mr. Stakey led the crowd in a variety of songs over the final hour, from “Killing Me Softly” by The Fugees, to Don McLean’s “American Pie” to Sublime’s “What I Got.”

The final countdown featured a medley of patriotic tunes from “America the Beautiful” to “God Bless America” to “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee.”

Mr. Stakey stood up as the clock hit 8:11, walked toward the crowd and raised his left arm, jumping with enthusiasm.

After going nearly a week without a full night sleep, Mr. Stakey planned to get a solid eight hours Saturday. But not much more. After all, he had to be at church Sunday morning to lead the choir.

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Darren Stakey celebrates after 111 hours, 11 minutes and 1 second of playing the piano and signing. (Credit: Joe Werkmeister)

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