Hilton Garden Inn - Stony Brook

Music and arts festival at Cedar Beach

September 26, 2005 | 12:12 AM
This year's Music and Arts Festival at Cedar Beach promises to be badder and bluesier than ever, with a national act performing for the first time and nearly twice the number of vendors as last year ready to pitch their wares.

The 15th annual event, sponsored by the Council of Dedicated Merchants Chamber of Commerce (CDM) and the Long Island Blues Society, will feature 29 performers on two stages, the chance to win a Gibson Lucille guitar signed by blues legend B.B. King and 100 arts and crafts booths — compared to 60 last year.

A portion of the receipts will go toward keeping the blues alive in America — by aiding organizations such as Katrina's Piano and the Tipitina Foundation, which are working to replace musical instruments lost in Hurricane Katrina.

If the weather is good — the National Weather Service was predicting Tuesday that it'll be partly cloudy and around 75 with just a chance of showers — this year's festival should be the biggest one ever according to Dr. Mark Gresser, a CDM vice president known in some circles as Dr. Blues. Gresser, also a Blues Society vice president and Long Island Music Hall of Fame planner, has been organizing the event since its birth in 1991.

"This is Long Island's oldest blues festival, and it's a unique venture joining the business and cultural communities to benefit the larger public," Gresser said. "We started out on a haycart down on the dock at Old Man's Boatyard and it's gotten bigger every year. People just love live blues and they love hanging out on the shore on a beautiful day, hearing great music and having a great time."

This year's great music will include a performance by nationally known Mitch Woods of Mitch Woods and the Rocket 88s — who, according to Frank-John Hadley of Downbeat magazine, "rocks the joint with some of the jumpin'est piano we've heard."

"He's one of the premier purveyors of jump, boogie and swing blues today, in the style of Louis Prima and Louis Jordan," Gresser said.

The Rocket 88s won't be joining Woods for his beach-fest performance, set for 2:30 pm Saturday, but the whole band will rock out later that night at Stony Brook University. They'll play the University Cafe at 8:30 pm as part of Long Island Blues Weekend.

Another big-name performer who will play this weekend is Louisiana Red, an award-winning traditional bluesman who was a protege of Lightning Hopkins. Red's going to be backed by Long Island's own Doug "Harmonica" McLean — just as he was back in the '70s when he lived in Port Jefferson. That show will be held at 8 pm Friday at Brookhaven National Laboratory's Berkner Hall.

Tickets to the Red-McLean and Rocket 88 shows are $15 each. Details can be had by calling Charlie at 467-4156 or logging onto liblues.org.

The cost of entry to the beach festival, on the other hand, is however much an entrant wants to give to the CDM and Blues Society — the suggested donation is $2. The two groups will split general revenues 50-50 as usual. Financial aid for Gulf Coast musicians who lost their equipment will come from the Blues Society share of fair receipts and the raffle tickets sold for the Gibson guitar.

The CDM's revenue will go toward its many community programs, including the Long Island Works business-education partnership at Rocky Point High School, the supply of fighting men and women in Iraq and the four $500 scholarships the chamber gives out each year. One scholarship goes to a business-oriented graduating senior at each of three high schools: Miller Place, Rocky Point and Mount Sinai, while another is given to the graduating son or daughter of a chamber member, according to Mike Poveromo, a CDM officer and former president.

Music will be heard from two stages, set farther apart than in the past to minimize any acoustic clash between bands playing simultaneously. One stage, located in its usual spot in a corner of the eastern parking lot, will be for electric performances. The other, located on the far west side of the lot, will be dedicated to acoustic performances.

This year marks the festival's return to its traditional end-of-season time. It had been held in May the last few years, Gresser said, but the organizers decided to go back to September after clashing with the Miller Place Parent-Teacher Organization, which holds a carnival on the beach in May.

Poveromo said moving it back to September may be one reason so many more vendors are coming this year.

"Arts, crafts, lawn furniture, jewelry, karate demonstrations, sportswear, toys, t-shirts — you name it, it'll be there," Poveromo said.

The festival is primarily sponsored by the CDM and Blues Society, but also by Brookhaven Town, Blue Point Brewery, Alternate Power Solutions, Family Time Party Rental and Times Beacon Record Newspapers. For more information, one may call 821-1313.

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