Home News Local News Major blues festival in the works for Calverton, but permit questions linger

Major blues festival in the works for Calverton, but permit questions linger

Festival headliners are Donna the Buffalo and Popa Chubby. Photos: Blues and Roots Festival.

A new blues festival is coming to town.

L.I. Sports Park on Edwards Avenue in Calverton is planning a two-day blues fest in September featuring headliners Donna the Buffalo and Poppa Chubby. 

The Long Island Blues and Roots Festival, set for the weekend of Sept. 8 and 9, will run from noon to 10:30 p.m on Saturday and from noon to 8 pm. on Sunday. General admission tickets are $29 per day ($39 after Aug. 1). VIP tickets are $149 per day, $249 for the weekend. Tickets went on sale April 20.

The event’s website promises a “Woodstock-like experience,” selling passes for on-site tent and RV-camping and boasting a two-day lineup with performances by more than a dozen blues and rock artists.

L.I. Sports Park owner Dean Del Prete said he wanted to do a blues festival because he thought the Riverhead Blues Festival was a great event and was sorry to see it cease production.

The sports park is located at the former Calverton Links golf course site — a sprawling 82.5-acre parcel.

Del Prete is in the process of obtaining a site plan approval that will allow him to operate “a multi-purpose sports park and event site” there. He believes he will have final site plan approval in plenty of time to host that event, as well as a yoga and arts festival he’s planning to host on Aug. 18.

After Del Prete bought the property he began applying for special event permits to host various events at the site. In 2016, the town board directed him to seek site plan approval from the planning board in order to be able to regularly host events there.

The site plan approval does not do away with the requirement for a special event permit, according to town officials. Del Prete will still need special event permits from the town for individual events expected to draw a crowd larger than the site’s existing parking can accommodate. His site plan approval will allow him to hold events expected to draw a crowd of no more than 435 people — a figure based on the availability of existing parking on the site.

“As I understand it, the threshold is if our infrastructure could support it, we don’t need the permit,” Del Prete said.

“We’ll have a good sense of what the attendance will be like 60 days before the festival date.” If it looks like it will exceed the maximum of 435 people, he said, he will apply for a special event permit.

Planning Board counsel Richard Ehlers said he does not believe overnight camping would be permitted under the sports park’s site plan approval. He was unsure whether the town code would allow the town board to issue a special event permit to allow camping.

“My understanding is if we had some overnight camping, it would be permitted,” Del Prete said. “But I get it,” Del Prete said. “We’re going to make sure we file whatever we have to file.”

Del Prete, 53, grew up in Levittown and lives in Westhampton. His involvement in the recreation field began with paintball. He loved the game and decided to open up his own field. He founded and operated the second paintball facility in the country, he said. It was located in Coram and operated for 20 years. Over that time, he opened nine more locations, including one on Edwards Avenue in Calverton, not far from the sports park site.

“People love paint ball,” Del Prete said. “I would hear people saying things like, ‘I had the best time of my life,’ — like right up there with becoming a parent. I was like, ‘Really?’ It was incredible. It was the rage and really huge,” he said.

The interest in paint ball waned, even as Del Prete bought the former golf course and he found himself looking into other possible uses for the sprawling site.

“I found these mud runs and I decided to try it,” he said. “And it was magical.”

He knew he was onto something “magical” after the first event he held.

“I’m walking behind this couple that had finished the mud run. They were kind of old and out of shape,” he said. “She put her arm around the man and said, ‘I’m so proud of myself right now.’ That was a moment for me,” Del Prete said.

“I knew I had something that was pretty cool.”

Last year, he had the mud run at the 4H camp because his site plan issues with the town had not been worked out.

“We actually had two wedding proposals on site!” Del Prete said. “For someone to take that moment to pop the question — well, it’s an indelible moment,” he said.

“I love that stuff.”

L.I. Sports Park offers various golf games — Frisbee golf, soccer golf, mini-golf — hiking, bubble parties and, of course, paint ball.

“I love to connect people doing something healthy, doing things they love,” Del Prete said.

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Denise Civiletti
Denise is a veteran local reporter and editor, an attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including a “writer of the year” award from the N.Y. Press Association in 2015. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website. Email Denise.