Vacationers in Sag Harbor who come in August get to enjoy something those who come any other time of the year do not: free concerts in Marine Park.
For more than two decades the Sag Harbor Chamber of Commerce has presented a wide variety of talent on Thursday evenings in August that attract hundreds of music fans to hear everything from country to rock & roll. It is something residents and visitors alike look forward to and gives the Chamber and the series’ sponsors an opportunity to give back to the community.
“It has become a fixture in Sag Harbor,” said Marlene Markard, who is coordinating the series this year for the Chamber.
The concerts kick off tonight, Thursday, August 7, with Caroline Doctorow and her band. The show starts at 7:30 p.m. in the band shell provided by Suffolk County.
“The Chamber does a lot of ‘give back’ events,” said Markard. Among them are the annual Halloween parade down Main Street and bringing Santa Claus to town.
“We get about 200 people to Marine Park for the concerts,” said Markard, who added that translates to more visitors coming into the village in the evening and helping the downtown business district.
“It helps to drive the economy,” she observed.
There are a number of challenges to putting on a series like this. In addition to the coordination of schedules and planning for the band shell, the Chamber needs to raise the money to produce the shows, a sum between $7500 and $8000 for this year’s concerts.
“The Chamber just doesn’t have the budget for this,” said Markard.
So to finance the series, the Chamber turns to its membership to find sponsors.
“We called hundreds of potential sponsors,” said Markard, noting that most of the organization’s members are “mom & pop” businesses that don’t have a lot of disposable income.
She said only one small business —Â Michael Hemmer Surveying —Â was able to participate, and the Chamber found themselves turning to larger businesses that frequently contribute to help community events: Suffolk County National Bank, Apple Bank, Bridgehampton National Bank, Fisher’s Antiques and Il Capuccino Restaurant. In addition, the Chamber received help from Weber & Grahn and KeySpan.
“As the operator of a former ‘mom & pop’ myself, I know how lean a year this has been,” said Markard. “Hopefully, if the economy flattens or improves, we’ll get more next year.”
“I really have to thank the sponsors, without them there wouldn’t be summer concert series.”
There is a lot of diversity in this year’s series, observed Markard.
In addition to Caroline Doctorow, who released her sixth album earlier this year, there will be strains of country-rock, Big Band and reggae coming from the park.
Doctorow has cultivated a reputation of creating music that fits into styles that are traditionally American, such as blue grass and folk.
Following Doctorow, on August 14, will be Six Gun, a band that plays a driving country-rock, and regularly plays standards such as Charlie Daniels’ “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” that boasts an exciting fiddle solo.
On August 21, tunes from Benny Goodman and Glen Miller can be expected when Big Band East takes the stage.
Closing out the series on August 28 will be the steel drum and reggae of Vivian and the Merrymakers.
Markard herself said she toyed with the idea of singing along with Big Band East. A former cabaret singer, Markard even went to a rehearsal with the band.
“I thought better of it,” she said with a laugh.
Instead, she’ll be emceeing the shows.
All concerts begin at 7:30 p.m. and last about two hours. Guests are encouraged to bring a lawn chair or a blanket, and come early with a picnic dinner.