UPDATE: Lighthouse MusicFest Canceled as Organizers, Town Debate Handling

UPDATE 1:55 p.m.

Operators of the Huntington Lighthouse Musicfest have canceled the performances this year, saying that it has been unable to work with town officials this year. However, the town fired back, insisting that it supports the Musicfest while challenging the complaint and citing emails and exchanges of information between the organization and town employees as they prepared for the August event.

Pam Setchell, president of the Huntington Lighthouse Preservation Society which has run the MusicFest for 12 years, said the group’s volunteers said had worked closely in the past with local officials to ensure the safety and security of the boaters, participants, volunteers, and the surrounding community each year. But this year, she said,  she has been unable to form a partnership with the town officials to ensure the event happens.

“This year, that partnership with the Town of Huntington does not exist;  therefore, it is with great sadness that we must announce the cancellation of the Lighthouse Musicfest scheduled for August 31st, 2019,” the society wrote on its website. “We look forward to having the full cooperation and spirit with the town in the future, so the Lighthouse Musicfest will live on for years to come.”

But in an email, town spokeswoman Lauren Lembo said, “The Town wholeheartedly supports the Lighthouse Musicfest, and the Department of Maritime Services has been very responsive to Pam Setchell and the Huntington Lighthouse Preservation Society’s requests this year.  We have been planning for the event and we are prepared to assist, as we do every year.

“Information and emails from our Department of Maritime Services directly refute the claim that the Lighthouse folks have no relationship with the Town. In fact, when we updated Maritime’s Lighthouse Musicfest Staging Map on May 21 upon receiving Ms. Setchell’s request for it, Acting Director of Maritime Services Dom Spada provided the updated Map to Ms. Setchell on the morning of May 22, along with the 2019 Lighthouse Musicfest Coordination Plan for the U.S. Coast Guard and other coordinating agencies. Last year, Deputy Director Spada coordinated with all the agencies to provide EMTs and rescue services; there were 12 rescues at last year’s event. Mr. Spada has also been preparing to do the coordination meetings with all rescue agencies, as he did last year, as we get closer to the event in late August. Additionally, Ms. Setchell requested parking assistance from Mr. Spada for the lighthouse crew on June 15 and Maritime coordinated with them in a timely manner on that as well.”

About Setchell’s complaint, the town said, “The Lighthouse Musicfest is a special event hosted by the Huntington Lighthouse Preservation Society, however, they use Town docks and facilities for the event, and the overwhelming number of attendees on Huntington’s waterways for this event requires the dedication of a tremendous amount of Town resources to keep our waterways safe during and after the event. The Musicfest is very costly for the Town, as we provide patrol boats, incur significant overtime costs (approximately $5,000 for the one-day event) and hundreds of dollars in fuel costs, all of which have a massive impact on Maritime’s budget. The same week Mr. Spada provided the Map & Staging Plan to Ms. Setchell, the Town Attorney informed her we would be executing a license agreement with the Huntington Lighthouse Preservation Society to recoup a fraction ($1,000) of the $5,000+ costs that the Town incurs to support this event.

“As of today, neither the Town Attorney’s office nor the Department of Parks and Recreation have received a special event permit application from the Huntington Lighthouse Preservation Society for this event. The Lighthouse Society must also submit insurance protecting the Town against any damage to our docks or facilities. The application must be submitted at least 30 days prior to the event in order for the Town to be able to process it in a timely manner. A license agreement also requires a Town Board resolution.

“Again, the Town of Huntington fully supports the Lighthouse Musicfest and is more than willing to work with their event coordinator to proceed with this year’s installation. Simply put, the Department of Maritime Services is ready, willing and able to facilitate a successful and safe Lighthouse Music festival as it always has.”

Last year’s performance was marred by a boater who persisted in playing loud music from his vessel, interfering with performances and refusing requests to stop, Musicfest operators said. He was moored in Lloyd Harbor waters, outside the town’s jurisdiction.

The MusicFest is billed as the only music festival in the world held on an offshore lighthouse. More than a thousand boaters gather in the waters around the lighthouse to listen to performances by bands.

The end of summer celebration brings together boaters, kayakers, paddleboarders and others to raise funds for the preservation of the lighthouse.  Last year’s event drew more than 1,200 boaters.

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