Pop music producer Nile Rodgers wants to return to Riverhead again this summer — this time with a three-day music festival Aug. 7-9 that will open in downtown Riverhead on Friday, Aug. 7 and continue Saturday and Sunday at Martha Clara Vineyards, where promoters say they expect 9,500 people to attend three concerts on each day of the weekend.
The Friday night event downtown would feature music performed on a barge docked on the river and activities along Main Street, which organizers are hoping could be closed to motor vehicle traffic for the evening.
Riverhead restaurateur Dennis McDermott, Martha Clara Vineyards general manager and winemaker Juan Micieli-Martinez and event manager Molly O’Connor pitched the plans to the Riverhead Town Board at its work session Thursday morning.
Nile Rodgers Productions brought Swedish star AVICII to Riverhead for a concert last August. That concert benefitted All for the East End, a not-for-profit organization formed in 2012 as a fundraising arm for East End nonprofit groups.
The concerts this summer will not be affiliated with AFTEE, McDermott told board members Thursday.
“We’re not AFTEE,” McDermott said. “We’re sort of son of AFTEE.”
“AFTEE decided this year not to hold a second concert but they are going to do some other type of fundraiser, like a golf tournament,” he said. The group has decided it will “look in a little bit further,” McDermott said. “We sort of believe that we have to like take care of AFTEE and then go forward again.”
“I’m on the board of AFTEE so I can speak with all authority possible,” McDermott added.
“Nile Rodgers Productions was so taken with Riverhead, by how well the town received them, they want to continue it every single year, with or without AFTEE,” McDermott said.
“They didn’t want to lose momentum,” he said.
Nile Rodgers Productions is a for-profit entity, McDermott said, but it works with the We Are Family Foundation, a nonprofit founded by Rodgers after Sept. 11. The event will have a charity component, he told town board members.
Specifics regarding what charitable entity or entities would benefit from the concerts have yet to be worked out, McDermott said Friday.
“We are meeting with Niles and Peter Herman on March 19,” McDermott said.
AFTEE board secretary Claudia Pilato expressed surprise Friday that an AFTEE board member was working with Rodgers to plan a concert this summer that didn’t include the organization.
“The AFTEE executive board was absolutely unaware that any concert was being planned on the North Fork this year,” Pilato said.
She said AFTEE and Nile Rodgers Productions have “outstanding issues from last year’s concert that were preventing us from moving forward this year.” Pilato said AFTEE has been looking to meet with company representatives in the hope of resolving those issues.
“We now have a meeting set up in April,” she said.
Pilato is vice president and marketing director at Bridgehampton National Bank, AFTEE’s principal event sponsor last year. She helped coordinate the group’s marketing and sponsorship efforts.
The final numbers are still not calculated, but the event netted AFTEE an estimated $50,000 after production expenses, Pilato said.
McDermott said he was not familiar with the details of any outstanding issues from last year’s event.
“AFTEE doesn’t want to go forward with the concert and Nile does,” McDermott said. “Nile Rodgers Productions doesn’t think they need their [AFTEE’s] approval.”
The two-day festival at Martha Clara will feature three concerts each day, O’Connor said at Thursday’s meeting. Morning concerts will feature children’s music. The afternoon session will be for the 13- to 18-year-old crowd, she said. Anyone under age 18 is always required to be accompanied by an adult on vineyard property, O’Connor noted. The evening concerts will be for those 18 and older.
Councilwoman Jodi Giglio expressed concern about traffic and noise impacts on nearby residents. She said she heard complaints last year from people who live along Herricks Lane and roads off Herricks.
Micieli-Martinez said the stages would be turned to face north this year, to minimize sound impacts on the residential areas to the south. He also said the Herricks Lane vehicle entrance to the parking area would feature a double loop to keep cars from lining up in the roadway.
The Nile Rodgers festival is planned for the weekend when the vineyard typically hosts a beer festival, Micieli-Martinez said. Martha Clara won’t be hosting the beer festival this year, he said.
The downtown component of the weekend festival was attractive to town board members. McDermott said he’d already met with Deputy Supervisor Jill Lewis Police Chief David Hegermiller, Business Improvement District Management Association president Raymond Pickersgill, East End Arts executive director Patricia Snyder and Tanger Outlets general manager Janine Nebons about the Friday night event.
The BID would seek the special event permit, McDermott said. Admission to the downtown event will be free, he said. The Suffolk Theater and Vail-Leavitt may have performances on their stages that would require an admission fee, though.
“By kind of co-opting what Nile Rodgers is bringing to Martha Clara, it can really help,” he told the board.
McDermott, who owns theRiverheadPROJECT restaurant on East Main Street, said he’d like to see Main Street restaurants put tables outside that night and the L.I. Wine Council have a tasting tent.
“Before they move forward, is there a general consensus of support for this?” Supervisor Sean Walter asked the town board at the end of the discussion. There were no objections raised.