Cowboy hats will be tippin' and boots will be kickin' in Riverhead this weekend at the 5th annual Country Fest LI, Long Island's country music festival held at the Dorothy P. Flint 4-H Camp. Country fever has reached Suffolk County, and this two-day event, July 25-26, is open to the whole family.
"Country is one of the only music genres where you can bring your grandma and your little kids," says event organizer and chair Bill Quinones. "Look in the crowd and you'll see everyone from a local Riverhead farmer to a Wall Street guy who has his summer home down the block."
The Long Island Boot Kickers lead the way for line dancing in between sets with DJ spun music as well as during certain songs during the live acts.
If you're not into country rock, check out neo-traditional country music of the Roadhouse Band, which begins playing at 2 p.m. This band, now in its 20th year, focuses on covers of acts like Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, George Strait and Alan Jackson.
"People want to hear songs that they remember so they can enjoy themselves," says bassist Vic Fusco of Lake Grove. "The young people like to dance while the older folk enjoy just listening."
Jessica Lynn brings her power-packed show to the stage at 5:10 p.m. Complete with choreography and a nine-piece band, Lynn fuses pop and rock with country twang.
"There's nothing like playing music outside," says Lynn of Westchester, who sings and plays guitar. "It puts people in a great mood and creates a cool atmosphere."
ALSO PLAYING Dakota Rose at 11 a.m., Ali Isabella at 12:30 p.m., Rattlesnake Dawn at 3:30 p.m. and Yankee Rebel at 7 p.m.
Jillian Rae of Cold Spring Harbor kicks off the day at 11 a.m., her fourth appearance at Country Fest LI.
"It almost feels like you are not on Long Island anymore," she says about the southern-style atmosphere at the festival. "The country spirit is definitely spreading and I'm happy to be part of it."
Her solo acoustic performance will debut her new song "Country Wannabe," from her upcoming EP.
Since 1981, Six Gun has been working the live music scene on Long Island, mixing contemporary Top 40 country with classic country and southern rock. The band starts at 2:55 p.m.
"I've seen the country scene on Long Island grow and contract a number of times," says founder and lead singer/guitarist Joe Spena of Middle Island. "Right now, it's really hot."
Coming off the road opening for Tim McGraw, the Joe Bayer Band is riding high with a new single, "Beyond the Backroads."
"We put on a high-energy type of show," says Bayer of Coram, who plays at 5:40 p.m. "The crowd gets involved by singing back to us. We try to make sure they have fun."
ALSO PLAYING Whiskey Road at 12:15 p.m., Southbound at 1:35 p.m., Stagecoach Junction at 4:15 p.m.
While the music is the heart of the festival, there's still a multitude of activities to keep you busy in between catching sets.
A full carnival featuring rides and games is on site along with a field of country-themed vendors and food trucks dishing up barbecue, corn dogs, fried chicken and handmade pretzels.
Take a ride on a pony ($5), a mechanical bull ($5) or a monster truck ($10). Hayrides around the camp are free. RE/MAX sponsors a balloon encounter ($1) where you venture inside an inflated hot air balloon on its side (1-5 p.m. July 25 only). If weather permits, tethered (attached to a cable) balloon rides ($15) will be offered (July 25 only).
At the Kids' Corral, children can get their faces painted, receive a temporary tattoo, create a candle or race in human hamster balls down a track ($5).
"When we started our event was kind of like a backyard barbecue with live music," Quinones says. "Now the Long Island country music scene is embracing it."
WHEN|WHERE 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Saturday, July 25, and 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Sunday, July 26, at Dorothy P. Flint 4-H Camp, 3186 Sound Ave. in Riverhead
INFO 631-482-5657, countryfestli.com
ADMISSION $14 (free ages 10 and younger), $20 two-day pass