Celebrate Local Music and Art at PortFest Saturday

Founder Damon Gersh reveals what went into planning the big day, which also supports arts education.

Saturday marks the first-ever PortFest, a community-wide event celebrating local artists and supporting creative arts education in .

The event, which runs 11 a.m. – 5 p.m., takes place at the field behind the track, and also inside .

PortFest Founder and Executive Director Damon Gersh is ready for the big day.

“I’m very excited,” said Gersh, whose organization HEARTS (Helping Enrich The Arts) has worked on the event since October.  “Our plans are all coming together. And we’re going to have gorgeous weather.”

Gersh managed to rally wide-ranging support and cooperation from town officials, police, school administrators, teachers, students, business owners and artists.

For Gersh, PortFest is not just about music, dance or painting. It’s about taking risks, and beating odds, especially after naysayers said there were already too many local arts organizations.

“It’s about listening to your inner voice, following it, trusting your intuition, and realizing that vision,” said Gersh, noting that these are the same ingredients for creating successful art.

There will be plenty of art and music at PortFest.

The event kicks off with a funk set by the Schreiber Jazz Ensemble on one of the two stages on the field. In total, seven local bands will perform outdoors, including student bands from Weber (So Impossible) and Schreiber (Decadence). The stages – show-mobiles from the Town of North Hempstead – were secured with support from , Gersh said.

Guest MC’s include School Administrator Dr. Nicholas Stirling and Schreiber Principal Ira Pernick.

While many of the activities are free, others will require tickets, much the way a carnival charges admission. Proceeds will help fund the district’s creative arts education. Purchase tickets at PortFest headquarters, where you can also see architect drawings and renderings for a proposed renovation of the Schreiber auditorium.

Outdoor tents will be run by the different schools and sponsors, offering music and art experiences. and will offer a drum circle, for example, while and offer clay-works.

Other tents will provide free experiences, such as improv at the and brain teasers at the Weber Technology tent. And there will be tents featuring other local nonprofits and arts groups.

Inside Schreiber's auditorium, school groups will perform. And in the Slade Center for the Performing Arts, there will be variety performances, including scenes from past Port Summer Shows, a chamber music ensemble and the Port Washington Klezmer Ensemble.

In the lobby you’ll find the PortFest gallery, featuring works of 25 student and local artists, including and Rachelle Kreiger. There is also a silent auction.

Logistics played a big role in organizing the event, including navigating parking restrictions. Thanks to and Councilwoman Dina DiGeorgio, parking meters will be suspended in the area around Schreiber from 8 a.m.-5 pm. Gersh said that includes Port Blvd., both sides of street east and west from Main St. to Willowdale Ave.; on South Bayles from Main St. to Willowdale, and Davis Ave., South St., Bernard St., Maple St., Bogart Ave., Bar Beach Rd., Park ave., Highland, Orchard and Elm PW Blvd. 

Beyond these kinds of logistics though, Gersh looks at the big picture, hoping that PortFest serves “as a model” for residents who want to make a difference.

“I want to show kids you can be creative and add positive value,” he said. “My wife and I have incredible richness in our lives from music and art – it’s a lifelong passion.”

Learn more about PortFest.

Olga Berest May 18, 2012 at 10:48 AM
I support Damon's passion for the Arts with all my heart! Berest Dance Center will always do everything possible to continue to support and inspire the Arts in our community. The Arts make us who we are. In this world filled with structure, children need the creativity and expression of art, music and dance


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