Long Islanders pulled out their wide-brimmed hats and cowboy boots this weekend for the third annual Country Fest Long Island, a music festival at the Dorothy P. Flint 4-H Camp in Riverhead.
This year, the festival featured 12 Long Island country acts, with six different performers each on Saturday and Sunday.
Among those performing Sunday were 15-year-old Jillian Rae, the Mary Lamont Band and The Grand Central, a younger country band with a more contemporary sound.
“The Long Island country fans are fantastic,” said Mary Lamont. “We didn’t always have such a following.”
Aside from the music, Country Fest hosted a variety of vendors, carnival rides and other country-inspired entertainment. Visitors were invited to take a ride through the fields in a giant red monster truck or learn how to line dance with free lessons from the LI Bootkickers, a Long Island line dance company.
“It’s another way to get the community together and experience a culture that’s a little bit different,” said John Roth, 36, of Center Moriches, the husband of Stagecoach Junction lead singer Jessi Lee Roth. “It gives the artists an opportunity to express themselves to the people too.”
As Stagecoach Junction played old country tunes, Steven Gocinski, 11, of South Hempstead climbed on top of a small mechanical bull, ready to take a ride. He had never been on a mechanical bull before, but he wasn’t scared of a challenge. As the bull began to spin, Gocinski held on tighter and tighter – until he was thrown off less than 20 seconds later, bouncing lightly on the inflatable ground below him.
“It was hard,” Gocinski said, shaking his shoulders and still giggling from the ride.
For Native Events, Inc. owner and Country Fest producer William Quinones, 40, of Ridge, promoting a local atmosphere was central to the festival. All entertainment and vendors were Long Island-based companies, intended to bring new business to local communities.
“I wanted to do more of a festival than a concert; I wanted a day out,” Quinones said. “I think it’s important for this event to be locally based and locally sponsored so that people can see they don’t need to leave Long Island.”