The idea for PortFest came to HEARTS of Port Washington chairman and founder Damon Gersh while meditating on the beach in Montauk and now the springtime festival is in its sixth year. The outdoor celebration of arts and music lauded the community spirit through student and local band performances and professional and fine artists showing off their work.
“It’s just a wholesome family fun day where families can be outside and run around, do creative things and experience great musical acts,” said Gersh. “I think families look for things to do on weekends and this is real and interactive rather than passive. It’s a way to expose children to creative ideas when standardization seems to be the direction of education.”
This year’s PortFest set for May 19 features Sousa Elementary School jazz, the Weber Middle School pop choir and woodwind/brass ensemble, Schreiber High School a capella choir, string ensemble, jazz band and selections of the spring production of The Little Mermaid performed by the Schreiber Theater Company. Other groups performing include Bach to Rock, Berest Dance Studio, Curtains Up and local band Rock Steady. The Port Summer Show will also reprise selections from last summer’s production of All Shook Up.
“I play in a local band and my wife is a local artist,” said Gersh, explaining why he decided to start PortFest. “We met a lot of local, talented people and felt there wasn’t really a platform for them. We thought the festival would be great way to celebrate them.”
This year, PortFest will host four Port artists who will perform demonstrations throughout the day and display a selection of their artwork. Lawrence Chapliwy will do plein air oil painting demonstrations and Lynne Chapliwy will do pastel drawing demonstrations. Adam Jonah will perform demonstrations with his “United Imagination interactive art piece,” where observers can draw and erase their own imaginary ideas into the art. Mike Selbach will do woodblock carving demonstrations and is bringing a small arbor press, small woodcut blocks, ink and paper so participants can make their own prints. All works of art on display are for sale and 50 percent of the proceeds will benefit HEARTS, the nonprofit organization that enriches the arts in the Port Washington community.
“This is our main fundraiser of the year that allows HEARTS to fund grants each year,” said Gersh. “I think it works on a whole bunch of levels. The tip of the iceberg is that it raises money to fund arts and music programs in the schools. We’re raising money to teach kids to follow an individual journey and strengthen their creative muscles, whether it be entrepreneurship or musical. It’s also just fun engagement with the community.”
Throughout the day at PortFest, residents can also drop off their used bikes from 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. to Bikes for the World, an organization that distributes used bicycles to Africa, Asia and Central America to provide sustainable and affordable transportation to schools, jobs, the marketplace and healthcare facilities.
PortFest runs from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on the grounds of the Schreiber High School campus. For more information, visit www.pwportfest.org.
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