Patchogue's Great South Bay Music Festival sets attendance record

Yaphank residents Sophie, 9, and Roman, 3, show

Yaphank residents Sophie, 9, and Roman, 3, show off their body paintings while at the Great South Bay Music Festival at Shorefront Park in Patchogue on July 19, 2014. (Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams, Jr.)

A record-breaking crowd turned out for the three-day Great South Bay Music Festival that concluded Sunday night, fueled in part by a push to add bigger acts and those more appealing to children, organizers said.

"We wanted it to be more about families," said festival producer Jim Faith, adding that past festivals have had between 9,000 and 11,000 attendees.

This year, a crowd of about 16,000 attended the three-day concert event at Shorefront Park in Patchogue. Other than a light drizzle as the final day of music started, sunny skies dominated.

The festival continued past efforts to include more well-known acts that would be geared toward children, Faith said. There was also a move to get more headline artists to go along with the usual blend of local musicians.

"The level of the experience and costs have gone up," Faith said, referring to the inclusion of artists with appeal stretching beyond Long Island.

Faith said the 2014 festival was vastly different from the inaugural show, which contained about 30 acts. The version that concluded Sunday night boasted more than 55, a third of which are headliners, Faith said.

"I like to bring legends," he said. Among those legends was storied blues guitarist B.B. King, who was scheduled to perform Sunday night.

But Faith cautioned against slapping a category or genre on the 8-year-old event.

"We never want to be a folk festival or blues festival. It's just about great music."

Helping bring in more toddlers -- their parents and family members in tow -- was musician Laurie Berkner. Her kid-friendly brand of sing-along songs are crafted around such pre-school-age staples as ice cream, bumblebees and fireflies.

Faith said the addition of Berkner, who performed Sunday, represented an investment in the festival and would help boost attendance.

Marcus DaSilva, 44, of Eastport, was back for more Sunday after attending Saturday with his wife. Sunday, he brought his two children, ages 4 and 7, to see Berkner's show.

"Today is a hot day," he said, referring to the various acts, not the weather.

Faith said when he saw light drizzle falling on the festival earlier Sunday, he was concerned that the new focus on a more varied roster of acts would be dampened by a drop in attendance.

But eventually the clouds lifted and the sun appeared and if any festival fans decided to change plans, "we probably got them back today. They know this is the best place to be. You've got the southerly winds and a great breeze."

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