Sag Harbor Community Band Shows Will Go On — For Now

The Sag Harbor Community Band performs at the American Legion. Michael Heller

Members of the Sag Harbor Community Band were all dressed up, but had nowhere to go Tuesday, July 6, when the first of two scheduled weekly performances at the American Legion had to be canceled when a thunderstorm rolled through the area.

The band, which took a hiatus from its summer schedule last year because of the coronavirus pandemic, is scheduled to perform again on Tuesday, July 13, at 8 p.m.

The two performances were approved by the Sag Harbor Village Board at Tuesday’s organizational meeting, but whether the band will be allowed to continue to play in the location it has called home since 1964 remains up in the air.

The venue became an issue last month when Police Chief Austin J. McGuire, citing safety concerns, told the Village Board that he could not recommend it approve the band’s summer schedule at the Legion because audience members sit on lawn chairs on Bay Street, which has traditionally been blocked to through traffic by two police cars.

The compromise allowing two shows to proceed was reached between village officials and the band. Mayor James Larocca, speaking at the Village Board’s organizational meeting on Tuesday afternoon, promised the band it would have an answer for a permanent venue in time for its July 20 performance.

Tom Rickenbach, the band’s treasurer, who appeared before the board last month to seek permission for weekly shows in July and August, said he hoped the village would relent and allow the band to continue to perform at the Legion.

“It’s the best location to have the concerts,” Mr. Rickenbach said, adding that a proposal to have at least some shows in Marine Park would pose logistical issues for band members who would have to lug their equipment back to a storage unit behind the Legion Hall after dark.

“It has worked without complaint or incident,” he said of the Legion site. “Sure, it takes a little effort, but to make Sag Harbor the wonderful place that it is takes a little effort.”

Chief McGuire said his department, which has lost four part-time officers to full-time jobs elsewhere since spring, simply does not have the manpower needed to assure public safety, and said he could not think of any police department that would willingly sign off on allowing an audience to sit in a street in a community as busy as Sag Harbor.

He has urged the Village Board to encourage events like the band’s concerts and crafts shows to be moved out of the village center to reduce the risks that occur when large groups of pedestrians enter streets that are clogged with vehicles.

Because of the pandemic, last year band members gathered at the Clubhouse in East Hampton to hold weekly outdoor practices, Mr. Rickenbach said, adding that members looked forward to performing before a hometown crowd.

That appeared to be the case on Tuesday night as band members milled around in front of the Legion Hall to see if the show would go on, even as thunder rumbled in the distance and lightning flashes lit up the sky. But a torrential downpour at about 8 p.m. effectively ended any thoughts of performing.