Southold Town to stop ‘Burning Kouch’ festival in Orient

Southold Town plans to take legal action to shut down a covert camping and musical festival in Orient known as Burning Kouch, which is scheduled to begin Friday. The festival, which dates back to 2010, typically attracts between 150 and 400 people, according to an online description of the event.

The free event is advertised through CouchSurfing, a hospitality service and social networking website where travelers can find places to stay.

Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell said no special event permit had been filed for the event and that the Town Board did not support it.

“From our perspective, it is not a permitted event,” he said at Tuesday night’s Town Board meeting. “The town is willing to pursue any and all legal means necessary to make them understand that, in our view, it’s simply not allowed.”

The event is scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. Friday and end 11 a.m. Sunday. As of Wednesday morning, the CouchSurfing website listed 270 people as “going” to the event, adding that 130 spots are available. A description on the site describes it as “one of the biggest NY CouchSurfing events of the year!”

The festival takes place on a 90-acre farm in Orient and features musical performances, beach outings, barbecues and other activities.

Tom Foster of Orient expressed concern about the festival at Tuesday night’s Town Board meeting.

“This has been happening every year,” Mr. Foster said. “I’m here to report back to the people in Orient, what, if anything, can the Town Board do to eliminate this event?”

The Town Board passed a resolution at the meeting to allow town attorney Bill Duffy to retain an outside firm to go to court for a temporary restraining order against the event. Mr. Duffy said he hopes to have the paperwork done by Thursday, the day before the event is set to begin.

According to profiles of those listed online as planning to attend, the Burning Kouch festival draws people from around the world.

“We’re not going to go to court and spend money on an outside counsel to get a TRO that we don’t plan on enforcing,” Mr. Russell said. “If we are successful in that TRO we are going to enforce it with any and all means.”

The website does not provide an exact location for the event and says the space is donated by a CouchSurfer who goes by the name Bob K. An address is provided to guests within one week of the event, the website says. Residents said the event takes place at Ezair Farm in Orient. The property owner could not immediately be reached for comment. An organizer of the event, responding to a request for comment through CouchSurfer, said they did not want any media attention.

Maureen Dacimo of Orient, who runs Narrow River Marina with her husband, wrote to Town Board members to express concern about the event and said littering is often spotted on Narrow River Road, the boat ramp, beach and marina parking lot. The first year the event was held, she wrote, there was trespassing on the marina property, docks and boats and vandalism to boats.

Dick Leslie of Orient said in past years he could hear noise from the event from his home on a hill near Long Island Sound.

“You couldn’t live in the neighborhood and not know that something unusual was going on,” he said.

The online instructions warn revelers to walk down toward the beach only with someone who has attended in the past.

“When you go, do not trespass on the neighbors’ property under any circumstances!” it reads. “Do not touch any of their belongings! This is one of the fastest ways to ensure the event ends early and we are not welcome back anymore.”

The CouchSurfing website links to a list of additional rules and guidelines for the weekend, describing it as “a laid back, hippie, free spirited, amazing vibes weekend where we eat, drink, party, swim, and do anything safe that connects you not just to your fellow man but nature.”

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Photo: The band Yankee Bang Bang performs in 2012 at Burning Kouch in Orient. (Credit: YouTube screenshot)