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Kelly Connaughton

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Why is the Chamber moving its music night to Wednesdays at the Windmill?

The main reason is that, as you know, the Windmill is in need of restoration. The Chamber of Commerce wanted to do something to shift attention over to the Windmill and add value to our efforts there and focus our resources. Not only would it drive more donations, we also thought it might be fun. Wednesday is kind of an off night and this way people could also watch the yacht races. The reason we changed the time was to bring more people into the village during off hours. During 4 to 6 p.m. would capture people coming from the beach late afternoon who would hopefully want to stick around later for dinner or to see a show.


What has also changed about the music series?

The bands are a little smaller; we have been trying to reduce. We do quite a few events and we want to do anything we can to help drive business and give people a reason to stick around. The smaller area works really well; people can bring a blanket or a chair to sit out on the lawn. The Windmill is an iconic part of Sag Harbor. Sitting out and looking at the bridge and the water is a beautiful view.  There is an eclectic mix with local roots from all over the East End. We have blues, jazz, soul, Americana, R&B, reggae, a little rock, world-music, pop and original music. These are names people will recognize and with five concerts gives us the ability to be somewhat flexible. The Sag Harbor Community Band plays on Tuesdays and it will be celebrating 55 years of free concerts. Now there is also something on Wednesday, in the middle of the week that will benefit the village.


How does the Chamber hope this will gain financial support for the Windmill?

Mostly by holding them at the Windmill and raising awareness. Those who don’t know about this effort are going to. We will have a table set up asking for donations as well as a little merchandise. Local artists donated these notecards of beautiful images of musicians playing in front of the Windmill. With a five-dollar donation they will get a free notecard. It is a nice memento to help support a great local effort. It’s something they can walk away with from the community and feel good about.


How will the money raised be used to help restore the Windmill?

As [chamber of commerce president] Robert Evjen said we aren’t losing our music series, we’re just reframing it. First thing is to get each of the blades restored. It costs about $10,000 to $15,000 a blade. We already raised over $20,000 with the help of the community. It’s really a positive thing. We hope this series will help close the gap. The summer is when we have the most traffic. Everyone who is going to Sag Harbor has to go past the Windmill and with all the signs it can’t help but raise awareness.


The Chamber of Commerce will present its five free performances at the Sag Harbor Windmill on Long Wharf from 4 to 6 p.m. every Wednesday (August 1, 8, 15, 22 & 29)

Music Fest Set to Go

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The music festival was announced at the home of John Landes in Sag Harbor.

The music festival was announced at the home of John Landes in Sag Harbor.

by Emily J. Weitz

Last September, The Sag Harbor American Music Festival turned the village into one giant musical performance, with 22 groups playing in 17 different venues over the course of two days. This year, Kelly Connaughton, co-artistic director of the festival, hopes to ride on the previous successes and to infuse new energy to make it even bigger. At the kick-off party at John and Lindsay Landes’ Sag Harbor home Tuesday night, the musical community turned out to show its robust support.

“This time last year, we were just explaining what the Sag Harbor American Music Festival is,” said Connaughton at the event. “Nobody knew what to expect, and to be honest, we didn’t know what to expect. We had a vision. We had an idea that Sag Harbor is a beautiful place and we wanted to share it with the world.”

The festival was a success, said Connaughton, so much so that they came out in the black and, combined with proceeds from HarborFrost in the winter, had some extra to give back to the community. Connaughton explained that, from the beginning, the plan had been to give back.

“One thing we wanted to do was start a scholarship fund,” she said.

While that fund is still a hope for the future, this year they were able to donate $500 towards a new digital piano for the Sag Harbor Schools. Dr. John Gratto, Superintendent, was there to express his gratitude.

“This digital piano will benefit all our music students,” said Gratto as he accepted the check from Connaughton. “Many students will touch this, and be practicing on this great piano. We at the school are very appreciative, and look forward to collaborating over the years. This is the start of a great partnership.”

The 2012 Sag Harbor American Music Festival will take place on September 28 and 29. This year, the mainstage will be in the Old Whaler’s Church.

“Pastor Mark Phillips is donating the space,” said Connaughton, “so all the money we are raising goes to more grants and more musicians.”

The mainstage artist, already signed on, will be legendary blues musician John Hammond. Inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 2011, Hammond has won many awards and accolades over the years. He also has a connection to the East End.

“He used to play regularly at the Talkhouse,” explained Connaughton, “and this is a homecoming. Ticket price will be limited to $20, until we sell out.”

Though no specific names or venues were revealed for Saturday’s musical offerings, the after-party will be held at Bay Street Theatre. Connaughton explained they will book musicians and promote shows as sponsors sign on. Sponsorship varies from supporting a solo artist, duo, trio, or quartet to sponsoring at a Founders’ level. Advertising and promotion is offered in exchange. Email Kelly@sagharbormusic.org for details.

Insights into Promotion

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Bag Lunch Series coordinator Kelly Connaughton, left, with scheduled guest speakers Linda Miller and Matthew Iscoe.

Bag Lunch Series coordinator Kelly Connaughton, left, with scheduled guest speakers Linda Miller and Matthew Iscoe.

by Andrew Rudansky

New board member and chair of the membership committee Kelly Connaughton of the the Sag Harbor Chamber of Commerce thinks 2012 is the year chamber members can expand their business.

In an effort to facilitate this economic growth, the chamber has begun a new promotions and marketing campaign for Sag Harbor.

“In the past people have rightly asked what has the chamber done for businesses in the area,” said Connaughton. “We are trying to show what we can do to better serve our community.”

The first chamber promotional event is set to kick off this week, when the “Bag Lunch Series” begins this Friday, April 13.

The series will run every Friday this month, April 13, April 20 and April 27 from 1 to 2:30 p.m. It is free for members of the chamber, while guests are invited to attend for a $25 donation.

“We ask that people bring their own lunch, that way it keeps it simple. It keeps the focus on the meeting itself,” said Connaughton, “and it can be fun, you can bring whatever you want.”

Connaughton said the lunches will be a more casual event than the traditional chamber dinners.

“As a new member I started coming to the [chamber] dinners; I liked them but I noticed the same faces coming to the dinner every time. It would be the same 30 or 40 members,” she said.

Connaughton thought many of the members might not be coming to the dinner and evening cocktail events because of the late time and more formal setup.

“This in particular is meant to give our members some practical skills and knowledge to grow their business this season,” said Connaughton. “We have incredible speakers and the event gives attendees an opportunity to network.”

The chamber hopes the informal question and answer series, comparable to an afternoon lunch break, would be more accessible; attracting new members while helping existing members become more involved.

While the chamber does have over 250 member businesses, Connaughton said that not every business on Main Street is a member.

“All of the lunch discussions will be very casual, the audience will lead the discussion,” said Connaughton. “All we are trying to do is create a forum.”

The first of the lunches will be held at Phao, located on 29 Main Street in Sag Harbor and will feature guest speaker WPPB radio host Bonnie Grice. She is scheduled to give a presentation about increasing a business’ public profile within the community entitled “Connecting With Your Community: Public Radio speaks to All.

The following Friday, April 20 the chamber hosts the second lunch at Sen at 23 Main Street. Digital media experts Linda Miller, Matthew Iscoe and Jim During will give a talk named “Expand Your Business: Leveraging Free Digital Media.”

Miller and Iscoe, both of Hamptons Creative Group will talk about the wide range of free digital promotion available.

Branding specialist and Huffington Post columnist Robbie Vorhaus will be hosting the third and final event of the series on Friday, April 27. The lunch will be held at Bay Street Theatre. The topic of Vorhaus’ lunch will be “Creating, Building and Sustaining Your Personal Brand.”

He will focus on communicating the “story” of a brand and how it can grow a small business. Connaughton said not only the brand of the business, but the brand of the entire chamber and village can draw business into the area.

We are looking at other ways to support Sag Harbor,” said Connaughton. “All of the businesses here have Sag Harbor in common, that is our common brand.”

For more information about the Sag Harbor Chamber of Commerce and the Bag Lunch Series please visit www.sagharborchamber.com, or call Kelly Connaughton at (917) 715-4116.

HarborFrost Announced for 2012

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By Claire Walla

Riding the coattails of last year’s well-attended event, this year’s HarborFrost celebration was officially launched this week. And according to Sag Harbor Chamber of Commerce member Robert Evjen, it will up the ante over last year’s inaugural fest.

In addition to fireworks over Long Wharf and ice sculptures on Main Street — both events are returning in keeping with the event’s “Fire and Ice” theme — Evjen said this year the event will also incorporate a three-and-a-half-hour set of live music, which he referred to as “Musical Brunch.”

“The bottom line is we wanted to extend the day over last year’s half-day event,” Evjen explained. The music will begin around 11:30 a.m. and last until 3 p.m. when the rest of the day’s activities will begin, starting with the first ice sculpture carved on Long Wharf. “We wanted to make it a full day this year and entice people to come down to the village early for brunch.”

And, of course, live music.

The musical portion of the day is being organized by Kelly Connaughton, head of the Sag Harbor American Music Festival (which, like HarborFrost, also made its debut in 2011). Though the details are still being hashed out, Connaughton said the morning will include performances by at least five artists (most likely local), who will play music in the various shops and businesses on Main Street.

The businesses will pay to host the artists and, Connaughton added, that fee will be partially supplemented by the Chamber of Commerce, which Connaughton said she hopes will give the businesses further incentive to pay for a show. In addition to providing live entertainment and bringing shoppers to Main Street, Connaughton added, “It will be great for us to get musicians earning some money in the lean winter months.”

So far, she said she’s received verbal commitments to host music from Page at 63 Main, Phao, Lifes’tyle and BookHampton.

As for the main attractions, Evjen said the fire dancers will be back this year, whipping strings of fire for a crowd at the foot of Long Wharf. Evjen said the Grucci family is already committed to doing the evening’s fireworks show and Fear No Ice will be here again this year (chain saws and all) to create two new ice sculptures on Main Street. The sculpting — to take place at 3 p.m. on Long Wharf and 4 p.m. behind the Civil War monument on the southern end of Main Street at the Madison Street split — will bookend HarborFrost’s fundraising Frosty Plunge, at 3:30 p.m.

In addition to making a mass of bodies shiver and teeth chatter, the event will raise money to benefit the Sag Harbor Ambulance Corps. Last year’s event attracted a crowd of more than 50 participants and more than 100 spectators, according to Evjen. While TV personality Matt Lauer (a Noyac resident) and Southampton Town Attorney Tiffany Scarlato (a Sag Harbor native) wowed crowds by bracing the cold at last year’s plunge, to shake things up this year, rumor has it the Sag Harbor Village Trustees will challenge Southampton Town officials in a race to raise funds for the plunge. (That’s just what we heard.)

As of yet, the 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. slot has not officially been filled with an event, but Evjen said this will most likely include some sort of race along Main Street. Whether this includes dog sleds or bed sleds — both ideas have been floated (the Chamber is currently looking for volunteers willing to conceptualize and organize the event)—the hypothetical race will in some way spotlight the HarborFrost King and Queen.

New to HarborFrost this year, the Sag Harbor Express will be organizing a contest for which those so inclined are encouraged to submit the names of individuals they believe should be crowned HarborFrost royalty. Details will be provided at a later date. (Check back in on our Facebook page for more.) Also, yoga instructor Hailey Schmitz will be hosting a candlelit yoga session at the Sag Harbor Gym Corp. and Dodds and Eder will organize an evening art show.

This year’s event will take place on Saturday, February 11, with a rain date slated for Sunday the 12. Don’t worry, the weekend is sandwiched right between the Super Bowl and President’s Day weekend.

“Last year we planned HarborFrost during Super Bowl weekend, and we didn’t contemplate a snow date or a rain date,” Evjen explained.

When inclement weather threatened to rain on last year’s parade, Chamber members were caught in a pickle. (Fortunately, the rain that came down didn’t deter festival goers from enjoying the day.) This year, Evjen said they’re prepared.

“Our main concern is the fireworks,” he said. Evjen estimated the cost of the fireworks display would be about 60 percent of the event’s overall budget, which is currently estimated at around $10,000. (Last year’s HarborFrost cost about $7,000 to put on.) He added that this year’s fireworks display is expected to be even longer than last year’s.

“Although last year there was inclement weather,” Evjen continued, “The general atmosphere was great. The idea is to build upon that this year.”