Riverhead OK’s Blues Fest permit; organizer promises big show

JOHN NEELY FILE PHOTO | Performers at the 2010 festival. There was no 2011 event.

The Riverhead Blues Festival got the official OK from the Riverhead Town Board Tuesday, and Vail-Leavitt Music Hall treasurer Vince Tria promised a big show.

“This will be one of the best Blues Festivals ever,” he said.

Mr. Tria said this year’s event, a fundraiser for Vail-Leavitt, a downtown nonprofit theater, will have a big name headlining act.

Johnny Winter, listed in 2003 as one of Rolling Stone magazine’s “100 Greatest Guitarists of all Time,” is tentatively signed to perform at the festival, which is scheduled for June 16 and 17, Mr. Tria said. Johnny Winter has had several Grammy-nominated records and also produced albums for blues great Muddy Waters.

Vail-Leavitt, which has run the event since 2006, opted not to hold the festival last year, after the Riverhead Chamber of Commerce, backed by the BID and Supervisor Sean Walter, tried to take over the event. But this year, Mr. Walter and BID members said they support Vail-Leavitt in bringing back the Blues Festival.

“I’ve got my fingers crossed and my legs crossed,” Mr. Tria said as the Town Board prepared to vote on a special even permit Tuesday in Town Hall.

Mr. Walter voted in favor, as did Councilmen John Dunleavy, Jim Wooten and George Gabrielsen.

Councilwoman Jodi Giglio abstained, because BID still hasn’t produced its insurance for the event. She said she didn’t vote for the special permit applications for last year’s Polish Town Festival or Country Fair for that same reason, and wanted to be consistent.

Both Mr. Wooten and Mr. Gabrielsen expressed concern about fencing off public property for an event that charges an admission fee, but both voted in support of the festival.

The resolution approving the festival states that Vail-Leavitt must produce a certificate of insurance for the event by May 1.

The town code requires insurance to be in place on special permit applications 120 days in advance of the event, but the Town Board gave Vail-Leavitt more time.

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