By Annette Hinkle
It’s not every day you get props from the governor, but that’s exactly what Andrew Cuomo gave to Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center (WHBPAC) during his COVID-19 press conference on August 24.
During his remarks, Cuomo offered a positive shout-out to the WHBPAC for its “Beachstock” drive-in benefit concert on Saturday, August 22, in contrast to the Chainsmokers concert held in Water Mill in late July that drew thousands of people, many of whom ignored social distancing regulations.
“It definitely put us under the microscope,” said WHBPAC’s executive director Julienne Penza-Boone. “We were getting his attention and doing it the right way. Safety is our concern and we wanted to show that.”
Held on the Great Lawn in Westhampton Beach, music fans in 150 or so cars enjoyed Beatles tunes presented by the band Square Feet. This was the second drive-in concert benefit of the summer for the WHBPAC. The first featured Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes, who performed on July 25, the same night as the Chainsmokers event.
“After the Chainsmokers concert, everyone was painted with such a bad brush and it was that much more serious,” said Penza-Boone. “The Southside Johnny concert was all about guidelines and keeping things safe. For this one, we met with the police chief and the mayor and asked them to collaborate with us and we restricted things even further. People couldn’t get out of their cars at all.”
“We definitely had extra eyes on us,” she added. “The governor had asked the Suffolk County health commissioner to be there, and I was able to meet with them when they came to the event. We were ready to be under a microscope and we were excited to show off what we put together.”
“I had a feeling we’d get good marks. Now we know everyone is under watchful eyes.”