What started several years ago as an impromptu drumming circle at Sagg Main Beach on Monday nights has exploded into an evening of music making, dancing and picnicking. Last summer the gathering was busted by Southampton Town Police after the informal event drew a crowd of nearly 1,500 people. Despite these past altercations, residents from across the East End continue to flock to the Sagaponack beach on Monday evenings, making village officials very nervous.
Sagaponack trustee Alfred Kelman complained of spotting backed-up traffic on the roads leading to Sagg Main last Monday evening. Village mayor Don Louchheim added that the police were called in that night to shut down the gathering. According to village clerk Rhodi Winchell, the police were at the beach again this Monday night to control the crowd.
Allyn Jackson, the Southampton Town’s superintendent of parks and recreation, aided town police officers to help control the crowd and parking on Monday evening. Based on the number of cars parked in the beach’s lot and surrounding streets, Jackson estimated between 700 to 900 people were in attendance at Monday’s drum gathering.
“It was a major crowd, almost as big as there is during the day. They were basically a well-mannered crowd, but it is still a large crowd for the facility,” said Jackson.
He contends the event taxes the resources of the town, as town employees must clean up the beach and empty the beach’s trash cans, which are often overflowing by the end of the evening. Jackson also pointed out the on-site public restrooms close at 7 p.m. He asserts several attendees of the event bring their dogs to the beach, which is expressly forbidden under town code, and a few start barbeque fires, which requires a permit.
However, those gathering at Sagg Main on Monday evenings have every right to be there, maintains Jackson. Outdoor parties of 100 people or more require a permit, but Jackson says there is no leader or organizer of the Monday night drum sessions and added that the musicians cannot be held responsible if hundreds of locals come to watch them play.
“For the most part this is a wholesome activity. The town doesn’t want to be too heavy handed if citizens have a right to gather,” remarked Jackson. “We are just concerned about the large crowds.”
“It is a big party,” declared Louchheim of the gatherings at a Sagaponack board meeting on Monday, July 20. The informal events have steadily attracted healthy crowds in recent summer seasons. Many come to join in the extensive drum circle with a chime, triangle or other small instrument. Others bathe in the music on spread out blankets and munch on the contents of an early evening picnic.
The influx of parking generated from this event, however, is a needle in the side of several homeowners near Sagg Main. Sagaponack resident Patrick Guarino suggested the town put up “No Parking” signs along the roads leading to the beach as a way to deter the outflow of parking. This suggestion, however, would require the village to change certain sections of their village code. Louchheim believes working with local law enforcement to disband the gatherings will eventually curtail excess parking.
Suffolk County Legislator and avid musician Jay Schneiderman would like to see the gathering remain and believes it has become an East End institution.
“Clearly the community wants this. To kill it would be sad,” opined Schneiderman. “Why rain on the parade?”
Although modest in size, Sagaponack village is the site of many unplanned, and planned, events. In anticipation of the summer season, this spring the board agreed to mainly support events benefiting local charities during the permit process.
On Monday, the board approved four benefits, yet only one was linked to a local not-for-profit organization. Though August is heralded as benefit month, eight benefits have been hosted within the village to date and 17 are slated for the coming months.
Mayor Louchheim and the board agreed to progress with outdoor assembly permit applications as usual, but at the end of the season he asked the board to complete a review and ascertain the number of events benefiting local institutions.
“We should look at multiple parties, maybe we limit it to one benefit per site,” added Louchheim.