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Gene Casey and the Lone Sharks perform at Jamesport Vineyard. (Credit: Katharine Schroeder)
Gene Casey and the Lone Sharks perform at Jamesport Vineyard during a previous Winterfest concert. (Credit: Katharine Schroeder)

Winterfest: Live of the Vine, now in its eighth year of providing cabin fever-suffering East Enders with a respite from the winter doldrums, returns for live concerts and more with a kickoff party at The Suffolk Theater in Riverhead Feb. 6.

Patrons of the six-weekend festival can also expect non-music related happenings, like a roundtable with winemakers Jim Waters and Anthony Sannino, among Winterfest’s roster of events. And for the first time Riverhead breweries Long Ireland Beer Co. and Crooked Ladder Brewing Co. have signed on to offer live music in their tasting rooms, organizers said.


Though it used to host jazz acts exclusively, the festival was opened up in 2014 to performers from other musical genres. The festival will run weekends from Feb. 21 through March 29.

“From folk to jazz to blues, there will literally be every type of music,” said festival producer Jim Faith. “It will be very diverse.”

Also of note is the addition of headline acts.

The rock band The Smithereens will take The Suffolk Theater stage on Feb. 21 at 8 p.m. and jazz guitarist Stanley Jordan will perform at Raphael on March 14 at 4 p.m.

“We’re doing that to have a broader audience and more visibility and we’re expecting more people,” said Pat Snyder, director of East End Arts, which secured a large grant to organize the festival.

The organization received $59,000 from the New York State Economic Development Resource Council, which helped cover the cost of hiring Faith. The event is also sponsored by Suffolk County National Bank.

Snyder noted the six-week long event not only brings visitors out to East End businesses, but its gives local musicians a place to play in the off-season.

“For the arts community this festival provides work for a lot of our musicians,” Snyder said. “We have so much talent on the East End and we’re happy for them to have venues to perform.”

While last winter’s brutal weather impacted attendance, Snyder said she’s hoping Winterfest brings about 10,000 people out to the East End.

Faith said advertisements this year have targeted Long Islanders, while in past years marketing efforts have mostly focused on those living in Manhattan and Connecticut.

“There’s been lot more advertising on the Island and in Nassau County, as well as off-Island,” Faith said. “I know that not a lot of Long Island advertising has been done in the past.”

Playbill-style booklets, featuring a listing of events, artist bios and more, will be available at participating venues, Faith said.

Winterfest kicks off at The Suffolk Theater on Feb. 6. Randy Jackson of Zebra, Kerry Kearney Band and Jacks Waterfall will perform. Tickets are $25 in advance and $30 at the door. The venue opens at 6:30 p.m. for dinner and drinks. The bands will go on at 7:30 p.m.