The organizers of Nile Rogers’ Freak Out Let’s Dance Festival, held last August at Martha Clara Vineyards in Riverhead, are planning to return this August for a mid-summer weekend festival that has raised concern amongst some North Fork residents.
The festival, this year slated for Aug. 12 through Aug. 14, is slated to occur on the same weekend as the Riverhead Polish Town Fair, and, unlike last year when it was held on two days mid-week, will occupy one of the busiest weeks of the summer season. Acts will be on stage from noon to 11 p.m. over the three-day event.
Members of East End Arts in Riverhead have been touting the event since its comeback was first announced in mid-December. East End Arts is in discussions with festival organizers to fold (so to speak) the Riverhead JumpstART! arts festival into the FOLD festival, where local bands are expected to share the stage with big name acts.
Last year, Beck, Pharrell Williams, Duran Duran and Keith Urban were among the artists who participated in the FOLD Festival, which sold fewer tickets than anticipated. But this year, organizers are hoping the revamped timing and expanded lineup will draw a bigger crowd.
The permit for the festival was slated for approval by the Riverhead Town Board on Dec. 31, but the vote was delayed after Jamesport-South Jamesport Civic Association President Angela DeVito pointed out at that meeting that the town hadn’t completed an Environmental Assessment Form for the event. Other Jamesport residents also aired concerns about the increased traffic the event would bring.
The Riverhead Town Board is now expected to vote on the permit at their Jan. 14 work session.
“I intend to support it and I think the town board intends to support it,” said Town Supervisor Sean Walter at the board’s Jan. 5 meeting, after several people involved with the festival took the podium to support it.
Martha Clara Vineyards General Manager Juan Micieli-Martinez told the board that the vineyard has always reached out to its neighbors to allay their concerns when they hold large events.
“FOLD seeks to highlight all the things that make the East End unique,” he said. “Riverhead is a cool place to be. Nile Rogers sees it.”
Suffolk Theater Artistic Director Daniel Binderman agreed, describing the concert as “one of the most extraordinary collections of artists and entertainers you’ve heard anywhere.”
East End Arts board member John McLane added that Mr. Rogers has been very involved with charity work. He pointed out that the inclusion of local musicians on the main stage will be “a huge opportunity for local artists.”
He added that much research has been done that shows that the arts are an important driver of the economic success of a community.
“We all understand the intrinsic value of arts, but we need to quantify the benefits,” he said.
“If this was happening somewhere else on Long Island, I’d be jealous,” added East End Arts President Jim Lennon.