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Greenport’s Dances in the Park. (Photo credit: Lily Dougherty-Johnson)

There’s something magical about an outdoor summer concert in Greenport. Maybe it’s being cooled off by a summer breeze when your feet can’t stop moving to the beat, or the feeling of just sitting on a blanket, taking in the tune and seeing the sun set in the distance. Maybe it’s that communal spirit of friends and neighbors coming together to enjoy a good show. One thing is certain — if it’s a Monday night in Mitchell Park, it’s going to be special.

Dances in Mitchell Park is a beloved tradition for locals and visitors alike throughout July and August. Every Monday at 7:30 p.m., crowds flock to the waterfront park to catch a free concert. 

Now in its 22nd year, Dances in Mitchell Park has become a true summer staple, which is exactly what former Greenport Village mayor David Kapell envisioned turning the 5-acre expanse between Front Street and the waterfront into back in the late ’90s. The project was completed in 2001 and named for restaurant owner Harry Mitchell, whose eatery once sat there.

Run by an ad hoc, rotating committee of volunteers, Dances in Mitchell Park entertains hundreds during the course of the summer, and the annual event is supported by donations and sponsors, which includes the village board, the Business Improvement District and Friends of Mitchell Park.

“It’s always upbeat, all sorts of different kinds of music,” says Lily Dougherty-Johnson, a Greenport Village trustee and one of the event’s planners.

When it first kicked off two decades ago, it was a low-key concert when Mitchell Park was still very new. Today, it’s one of the biggest attractions of the summer, with thousands gathering annually and a diverse lineup of musicians that packs in not just Greenporters but flocks of folks from neighboring hamlets for a night on the park’s grassy expanse. 

The volunteers work diligently to bring in both new acts and fan favorites. While there are new bands each year, there are some local favorites that come back every season, such as Winston Irie and Gene Casey.

Dances in Mitchell Park’s Monday night spot on the calendar was intentional, chosen as a way to not interfere with busy weekend plans and give locals and summer folks an extra treat for coming out on a weeknight. 

“Sometimes it can be hard on a Monday night,” says Dougherty-Johnson. “But it’s a very beautiful scene. All the people there, the music, and it’s such a beautiful spot … We purposely put it on Mondays because there’s enough stuff going on weekends.”

Dougherty-Johnson recommends coming with friends or family, grabbing some takeout from local restaurants and bringing your dancing shoes — but if you’re not into dancing, you can of course just relax and enjoy the show.

“It’s not that people have to dance,” Dougherty-Johnson says with a laugh. “Though plenty of people do!”

Also this year, on Labor Day, the group is planning a Battle of the Bands for musicians that didn’t get to play over the summer. The winner, says Dougherty-Johnson, will be chosen by the audience and get a slot in next year’s series. 

Here’s this year’s lineup:

July 8 Aqua Cherry
July 15 Noiz
July 22 Bachatu
July 29 MJT
Aug. 5 The HooDoo Loungers
Aug. 12 Southbound
Aug. 19 Mambo Loco
Aug. 26 Winston Irie