35th Savin Rock Festival a success, ‘despite some rain’

WEST HAVEN, Aug. 1, 2016 — The 35th annual Savin Rock Festival showcased a stellar lineup of musical groups that, despite some rain, helped attract a solid four-day attendance for the city’s flagship festival.

Presented by the Savin Rock Festival Committee, the 2016 edition, held in Old Grove Park, once again used the recipe that made West Haven’s 20th-century amusement park so successful: games, entertainment, rides and good food — and good beer.

For the first time since the event’s debut in 1982, organizers offered alcoholic beverages, pouring four craft, domestic and imported draft beers, along with a hard cider and a wine, in the expansive, fenced-in beer garden on Palace Street, near Altschuler Plaza.

On Saturday night, July 31, with an estimated crowd of 3,000, festival headliner The Official Blues Brothers Revue, featuring Wayne Catania as Jake and Kieron Lafferty as Elwood, performed a somersaulting set of blues, gospel and soul classics from the timeless repertoire of The Blues Brothers, captivating the frenzied throng with hit after hit for 90 minutes as revelers transformed the rain-drenched Grove into dance party central. The duo was anchored by the eight-piece Intercontinental Rhythm & Blues Revue Band.

The festival, sponsored by the University of New Haven, kicked off Thursday evening, July 28, with a beautiful rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” by Caitlin Morrissey.

Eight to the Bar was faithful covering swing, boogie-woogie and Motown standards and was followed by The American Longboards, which surfed through a catalog of sunny California favorites spanning the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s.

On Friday night, July 29, after welcoming remarks from Mayor Edward M. O’Brien, The Bronx Wanderers, billed as a “high-octane rock ’n’ roll experience,” played a 90-minute, showstopping mix of ’50s, ’60s and ’70s chart-toppers.

The 102nd Army Band, composed of members of the Connecticut National Guard, warmed up concertgoers with pop and rock anthems, culminating in a touching tribute to U.S. service members with a performance of “God Bless the USA,” the popular 1984 patriotic song written and recorded by country music artist Lee Greenwood.

Throughout the weekend, the picturesque Grove provided a backdrop for the many quality entertainers that set up residence in the 146-year-old park, including alternative rock band The Bamboo Treehouse, rhythm and blues group The Nu Groove Band, crooner Michael Rea and Rubber City, which was powered by a horn section that rivaled such bands as Chicago and Tower of Power.

They were complemented by Milford native Brian Smith, former co-host of WPLR’s “Smith and Barber the Morning Show,” who, as the “ringmaster” of ceremonies, segued the bands with hysterical bursts of comic relief.

For the 22nd year, Marenna Amusements provided the rides and games.

The food court along Palace Street housed a smorgasbord of local food trucks and vendors, which served up eggplant Parmesan subs, fried dough, lobster rolls, split hot dogs and roast beef sandwiches, as well as anginetti cookies, fried Oreos and frozen custard.

Demonstrating the Jaws of Life tool, members of the West Haven Fire Department pried open parts of a vehicle to free those trapped inside.

Veteran crafter Rich Evans was joined by returning crafters Margi Sperandeo, owner of Savin Rock Soaps, and Liza Improta, accompanied by Sue Tomasheski, to sell their wares.

Evans, in his 26th year as a festival vendor, displayed his collection of vintage baseball cards and other memorabilia, while Improta and Tomasheski spotlighted their Avon skin care and Nerium International anti-aging products, respectively, and Sperandeo showed her handcrafted skin care products.

Crafters Beth Amoro, her mother, Suzanne Patry, and her son Jeremy Amoro sold paper bead handbags and jewelry made in Nairobi, Kenya, where Patry’s daughter Janet Patry now lives.

Janet Patry is the founder and executive director of New York City-based Right 2 Thrive. Her nonprofit organization’s mission is aimed at gathering resources and establishing locally based programs in Nairobi that empower people living in disadvantaged areas to improve living conditions and develop self-sustaining communities.

The festival closed Sunday, July 31, with infectious concerts by oldies group Vinnie Carr, Furious George, On the Serious Side, Soul Jar, The Asberry Boys and The Navels, a Stevie Nicks cover band.

— MICHAEL P. WALSH, Public Relations Information Coordinator


View scenes from the 2016 Savin Rock Festival.