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Lights out for this year's Huntington Lighthouse fundraiser

Pam Setchell is president of the Huntington Lighthouse

Pam Setchell is president of the Huntington Lighthouse Preservation Society. Credit: Danielle Silverman

Sometimes the show cannot go on, especially in the middle of a pandemic.

That’s the case for the annual Huntington Lighthouse MusicFest, which is being canceled for the second year in a row, another victim of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The event would have featured bands performing atop the 108-year-old guidepost in Huntington Bay. It’s the biggest fundraiser for the Huntington Lighthouse Preservation Society, formerly called Save Huntington's Lighthouse, keepers of the historic structure.

“It’s gut wrenching,” said Pam Setchell, lighthouse preservation society president. “We have tried to figure out 85 different ways that we can do it and we just can’t, taking into consideration the safety of the bands, the volunteers, the enormous crew it takes to put it on in a confined space, it’s just impossible.”

Setchell said there were just too many hurdles to overcome to keep everyone safe, including making sure people social distance on the lighthouse and on boats in the water.

The event drew 1,200 people in 2018. The event was scheduled for Sept. 5.

Organizers said the 2018 festival brought in $54,000, the most the event has ever raised. Previous festivals have brought in about $40,000 each year. The majority of that money is collected by teen crews that go from boat to boat collecting donations. The remainder comes from call-in donations and ads in the music festival journal, Setchell said.   

Last year’s festival was canceled because of unforeseen logistical circumstances, said Suzanne Pelisson, the society’s communications manager.

Town Clerk Andy Raia said he has worked as a volunteer at the festival for 10 years. While disappointed the festival won’t be happening this year, he said he understands the reasons.

“There’s months and months of preparation that goes into planning this and in the end, we just don’t know where we’re going to be in a month or two,” he said. “So you have to err on the side of caution.

Last year's event was canceled due to administrative hurdles with the town, Setchell said.

Vita Scaturro, Huntington Chamber of Commerce vice chairwoman, said in an email that taking a pause is a smart and safe decision by the organizers. 

“We are disappointed about the cancellation of this iconic event but certainly understand due to current planning complexities and potential risk caused by the ongoing pandemic,” Scaturro said.

Setchell said while the million dollar-plus work on the foundation of the lighthouse is complete, the lighthouse has ongoing needs for maintenance. The next improvement project purchase is new replica windows that come with a price tag of about $40,000.

Already facing a tough season raising money, Setchell said the cancellation of the music fest is a big financial blow so they are looking at other ways to raise funds.

“We have a new book that has come out that when purchased through us, the proceeds go directly to us to restoration. We’re going to be doing some online auctions to raise some money,” Setchell said. Also planned is a fund drive.

“I’ve been prolonging and prolonging and dreading the possibility to say it, but as the weeks have ticked by you have music festival one by one that have had to cancel,” Setchell said.

Lighthouse history:

  • Completed in 1912 at the junction of Huntington Harbor and Lloyd Harbor
  • Slated to be torn down in 1984 and replaced with a steel tower
  • Residents organized efforts to preserve the structure
  • Named to the National Register of Historic Places in 1989
  • More information can be found at huntingtonlighthouse.org

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