As the sun began to set in Greenport Monday evening, families and friends of all ages gathered in Mitchell Park with blankets, beach chairs and pizza, ready to begin what’s become a favorite tradition for the summer.
The Monday night Dances in the Park series began about 15 years ago and draws hundreds of people each week.
The event is something that locals, and even some Greenport visitors, plan their weeks around.
Sarah Malone and Gerry Desmond, who live in Greenport, never miss a Monday night.
“It’s just a beautiful thing,” Ms. Malone said. “It’s a community event. You see your friends you haven’t seen all winter and friends you only see in the summer.”
Ms. Malone and Mr. Desmond sat together on beach chairs as the crowd swayed to the music of No Request Band, which played classic rock songs.
“It’s the diversity,” Mr. Desmond said. “Music brings everybody together.”
The event, which is volunteer- and community-run, began as a way to bring everyone together through music and Monday night was chosen to make it something specifically for locals to enjoy.
Constantine Mihaltses and his son Mikhail live in Bayside Queens, but visit so often during the summer that they consider themselves part-time Greenport residents. Mr. Mihaltses said he plans his trips around the Monday night concert series.
“We’ve been to almost every one since 2007,” he said.
“We know all of the bands,” his son added.
The father and son said this is one of their favorite parts of summer in Greenport and they have seen it get larger each year.
Greenport native Diane Mulvaney, who now lives in East Marion, has been running and planning the event for about 10 years. When it first began, she said, it started slowly and was loose and unstructured. A band would begin playing in the park and community members came to watch. Some bought buckets from the hardware store to collect money throughout the night. Whatever money was collected was used to pay the band afterward.
“It was just so important to me to keep it going,” Ms. Mulvaney said.
One night after a concert about 10 years ago, Ms. Mulvaney said she learned the community was having difficulty finding volunteers to help run the event. That’s when she decided to make the commitment each year to put on the weekly concerts. She works hard during the offseason to find and book bands.
“I love it,” she said. “We need something like this. If we’re a small town and you want to keep small-town living, you have to have somewhere to go and something to do.”
The event receives most of its funding from the local IGA. This year village restaurants like Andy’s, American Beech and Noah’s have also contributed, as have the Friends of Mitchell Park.
Greenport Village itself is also a supporter of the event, organizing security and garbage cleanup each week.
The cost of the series varies from year to year, but averages about $20,000.
Dances in the Park features some bands that return, such as the local family band Swann Live. Members of the soul band Russell Smith and Alethia Ford came out for the first concert of the season and their band will play next Monday night.
“I love it because I love being outdoors and I love seeing the people get involved,” Ms. Ford said. “We grew up out here, so being able to come back and give back is awesome.”
Ms. Ford lives in Laurel now, while Mr. Smith lives in Mattituck. While they still live close by, it’s special for them to play in their hometown.
“I just love everybody coming together and seeing everyone,” Mr. Smith said. “It’s like a party.”
The band members said one of their favorite things about playing outdoors is watching people of all ages get up and dance together.
“It’s amazing,” village Trustee Doug Roberts said, as he came to enjoy the Monday night party with his wife. “The people who started this event, we all owe them a great favor for coming up with this idea and all of us here we’re just sort of keeping it going.”
Photo caption: Timothy Staron and his son Andrew of Southold at Dances in the Park Monday night in Greenport. (Credit: Krysten Massa)