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Port Palooza

By Aidan Johnson

Amid the warm summer weather, music filled the air on Saturday, July 30, at the second annual Port Palooza. 

Frank Doris, member of Grand Folk Railroad (left) and Kevin Wood, event creator (right).

Kevin Wood, the creator of this new local tradition, brought multiple bands together into one event at Harborfront Park in Port Jefferson. Wood, a Port Palooza performer himself, was happy to share that there was no cover charge to attend. He dedicated his first song to Dom Famularo, a jazz drummer and close friend of his. 

“Being a part of the village and my role in the village of Port Jefferson inspires me to just give back to it,” Wood said. He added that the event also helped raise money for a good cause. “Port Palooza is about bringing musicians together with one another and, most importantly, raising money for animal rescue and recovery through Jaeger’s Run, our partner in this.”

Jaeger’s Run Animal Rescue Inc. is a nonprofit organization coordinated by Lisa Jaeger. It helps in the rehabilitation of sick, abandoned and injured wildlife and domestic animals.

Lisa Jaeger, coordinator of Jaeger’s Run Animal Rescue Inc., above.
Photo by Aidan Johnson

“Port Jefferson was kind enough to showcase us at the Port Palooza this year,” Jaeger said. “All of the funds that are raised are going into our animal rescue and rehabilitation [programs].”

Jaeger could hardly express the gratitude she felt after receiving the funds. “When it comes to animals, people are very generous,” she said. “It makes me feel good that people appreciate the volunteer work that we do and the timeless hours we put into it. Events like this help us to continue the work we’re doing.”

Each band that performed had its own unique sound. Grand Folk Railroad, one of the bands in attendance, played covers of popular songs such as “Ooh Child” by the Five Stairsteps. 

The group, which consists of Mike Christian, Susan Schwartz-Christian, Gary Schoenberger, Bill Resvanis and Frank Doris, has been around for about 13 years.

“We played at last year’s event, and now we’re back again this year,’’ Doris said. “We got a really good reaction, and it’s always fun to play.”

Susan Schwartz-Christian, member of Grand Folk Railroad, autographs an electric guitar. Photo by Aidan Johnson

Cole Fortier, who has performed in both festivals, said he enjoyed being a part of it once again. 

“I was the opening slot today,” he said. Commenting on the time he had, he added, “I’ve been kind of running around, but I’m living it up. It was really exhilarating.”

While Port Palooza was successful, the event had to overcome its own set of obstacles.

“We came across a few problems,” said Walter Parbudin, a volunteer at the festival. “The skin at the top [of a drum] ripped, so we couldn’t even play it. We found out at 11:30 a.m., and the show started at noon, but I had to go out to Selden to get a new one before the show started. However, the event went really well.”

As much as Wood enjoys putting together these events, he feels that he needs some time off. “I just did the dog festival, and now this one,” he said. “I have to hibernate and rest for six months.”

However, when he is ready to hold another event, the people of Port Jefferson will be ready to partake in it.

Peace, love and local music. 

That was the idea behind Port Jeff’s first Port Palooza — a day-long festival at the Jill Nees Russell Stage at Harborfront Park.  

Spearheaded by Kevin Wood, the village’s parking administrator and owner of The Space downtown, the event was cosponsored by the village as a way to bring people together after the last year and a half. 

“I think it’s going to be the first of many, and it’s a great launch,” Mayor Margot Garant said at the concert. “It’s exactly what we envisioned. So, I’m looking forward to doing it year after year and I think it’s going to grow.”

From noon to 8 p.m., on Saturday, July 31, local artists took on the stage, including Flamenco guitarist Jonathan Fritz; Port Jefferson’s Cole Fortier and his father, Andrew; Mount Sinai’s The Como Brothers; musicians from Port Jefferson’s School of Rock All Stars; Common Ground; Grand Folk Railroad; and a special performance by the Frank Catalano Jazz Quartet from Chicago. Jeffrey Sanzel of Theatre Three kicked off the event with an invocation. 

Wood said this was something that happened after COVID-19 restrictions began to lift. 

“I thought people needed to get together,” he said. “Peace, love and local music. And that’s exactly what this is: peace, love and local music, with the exception of the last act which we’re importing from Chicago.”

Although the jazz quartet is Chicago-based, it still had a local connection. Wood’s grandfather, Al Gallodoro, was a world-renowned saxophone and clarinet player with the Paul Whiteman and NBC Symphony orchestras. Catalano knew of him, too. Wood and the musician met once at a New York City club, and they began talking. Catalano eventually bought one of Gallodoro’s saxophones.

“It couldn’t have gone to anyone better,” Wood said. 

Ending with jazz, the festival had it all — pianos, guitars and heavy metal. The one thing that didn’t make the set list this year was rockabilly, “but that will happen next year,” Wood said. 

The Como Brothers took the stage, playing their viral Port Jeff anthem, “Take Me Home” along with several new songs. Over the last two years, the brothers have been releasing such songs sporadically on their Spotify account, which will lead to an eventual EP release. 

Matt Como said when Wood reached out to them asking to play, they were thrilled. 

“This is actually the first full, original gig we’ve done in a while because of the pandemic,” Matt said. 

“It’s great to be playing for people again,” Andrew Como added. “We’ve been holed up in our basement writing new songs, so this gave us the chance to show people what we’ve been working on.”

Wood said that although the event was free for all to enjoy, raffles were held to raise money for the Middle Island-based animal rescue, the Star Foundation. A red guitar signed by all the musicians along with a pet portrait, hand painted by local artists Nancy and Bob Hendrick, raised over $1,500 for the foundation. 

The Como Brothers head to the Jill Nees Russell Stage at 2 p.m.

Peace, love and music will be the themes of the day when the first annual Port Palooza heads to Harborfront Park’s Jill Nees Russell stage, 101 E. Broadway, Port Jefferson on Saturday, July 31 from 11:50 a.m. to dusk.

A mini music festival on the harbor, the day will feature an invocation by Jeffrey Sanzel and music by Jonathan Fritz, Cole Fortier, The Como Brothers, MJT Band, School of Rock All Stars, Common Ground, Grand Folk Railroad and the Frank Catalano Jazz Group.

Bring seating and a picnic. Free. Questions? Text 516-939-8960.