Sag Harbor American Music Festival Plans Its Return

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Hopefully Forgiven performs at Sag Pizza during the 9th Annual Sag Harbor American Music Festival in Sag Harbor in September 2019. MICHAEL HELLER

The sounds of silence that descended over Sag Harbor when COVID-19 derailed the annual Sag Harbor American Music Festival last year may be lifting.

Kelly Dodds, the director of the nonprofit festival, which has hosted a weekend of largely free music across Sag Harbor for the past decade, told the Sag Harbor Village Board March 9 that she was optimistic the festival could return this year, if even on a reduced scale

“We are being really conservative in our projections,” she said, “but we have to have some concept that is agreed upon between us and the village that obviously has some leeway depending on any changes in the situation.”

Under a proposal that was enthusiastically received by board members, Ms. Dodds said she hoped the festival could be held on the weekend of September 25-26, with bands scheduled to perform alternating shows on two main stages, one in Marine Park, the other in John Steinbeck Waterfront Park, from about 11 a.m. to 7 or 8 p.m. on Saturday.

A total of 10 acts would perform on those two stages, she said, and if the pandemic continues to recede, the festival would like to present smaller scale pop-up performances in public places such as the John Jermain Memorial Library courtyard, the Custom House lawn, or the front entrance of the Old Whalers Church during the course of the day. Sunday would be the rain date only.

Ms. Dodds offered several options to avoid overcrowding including last-minute notification via social media or the festival’s website of what acts were performing at pop-up locations around the village and a system requiring fans preregister for the performances at the main stages to avoid large crowds milling around. She said hay bales could be arranged to define individual pods for small groups of people around the stages.

Whether the festival can return depends on fundraising, which is ongoing, Ms. Dodds said. Much of the festival is underwritten by local businesses with other money coming from individual sponsors. The festival typically holds a handful of concerts for which tickets are required, but that may not be feasible this year, Ms. Dodds said.

She added the festival is fortunate because it has very little overhead and depends on volunteers to pull off the event, but she said if paid concerts could not be held, it would have to undertake a larger fundraising drive.

Board members encouraged Ms. Dodds to formally apply for a permit for the event. “I think the village could use some uplifting after COVID,” said Trustee Aidan Corish.

“It’s my favorite event in the whole calendar,” added Trustee James Larocca. “I can’t think of a year it didn’t go well.” Citing the festival as a popular event for the local population, Mr. Larocca encouraged Ms. Dodds to plan on a two-day event.

“Our goal is to do something, no matter what,” she said this week. “We are just trying to make it plausible enough that we can carry it off. Hopefully, there will be no shutdowns.”

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