Bellport Day Festival returns after two years

Fun for the whole family

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A picture is worth a thousand words, and Lynda Wagner’s winning photograph, selected in the 2022 Bellport Day Festival poster contest, says it all. It encapsulates the exultation of this year’s triumphant return of the Bellport Day Festival, Saturday, July 30, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on South Country Road. Everything will be in full swing again, after a two-year hiatus due to pandemic restrictions.

“It was just a very vibrant day,” said Wagner of her vivid rendering of the Bellport Marina. “I just loved all the colors together. It was nice and bright, and the sky was beautiful,” she explained of her striking image depicting a row of red, white, and blue sailboats, and one which stood out to her as the focal point of her artistic vision. “They are all little starfish [a type of small boat], but this is a wooden rowboat, and it’s different, but they are all connected,” she said.

The runner-up, in a tight race, was Michelle Hartman, who entered a standout photograph capturing the serene beauty of the Bellport Yacht Club dock.

It’s no wonder that Wagner’s concept resonated with so many of the 75 residents who came to the display, outside the Bellport Arts & Framing Studio on the Fourth of July, to vote on who, out of the 15 local painters and photographers that entered, would win the poster contest in its 40th year. Wagner’s subtle theme of an eclectic patchwork, all coming together to create one beautiful tapestry, is evocative of all that Bellport Day represents to the community.

The Bellport Day Festival is typically held every summer to promote a tight-knit sense of community in the Village of Bellport. Local merchants hold sidewalk sales, and some set up booths within the festival grounds. In addition, area restaurants offer a variety of outdoor dining options. While partaking in the sumptuous fare, patrons get to enjoy an eclectic mix of live music performed by various artists onstage, adding to the festive ambiance throughout the day. There will also be pony rides, a petting zoo, and much more. As an integral part of the festival, the Bellport Fire Department will host their annual craft fair at the firehouse.

“There’s a lot of free family fun,” said LuAnn Thompson, owner of Bellport Arts & Framing Studio and co-president of the Bellport Chamber of Commerce. “Bring the family for a much-deserved day of fun,” adding, “you can tell I live and breathe this.” She noted that the Bellport Day poster contest serves as a fundraiser for the Bellport Chamber.

Thompson echoed the sentiments of many village denizens when she expressed how thrilled she is that Bellport Day is back to its full form this year, in contrast to the subdued activities of the past two years.

“We’re not doing just extended shopping now. We’re back to inviting all our chamber members to participate in this. That’s what makes it exciting.” Thompson, a photographer and watercolor artist, explained why Wagner’s hopeful depiction of Bellport is a fitting tribute to epitomize the day: “Our poster actually reflects how we’re excited about this year. It’s Bellport Day, and it’s colorful, fun; it’s going to be a good day.”

The sense of morning light enveloping the landscape after a long ,dark night, which Wagner portrayed with understated charm, is a testament to the healing power photography imparted to her when she found the cathartic and creative outlet with which to channel difficult emotions, after a period of intense grief and sorrow. “It was 2010; my mother died, and my husband came home with my first real camera. I was so upset, and he said, ‘Do something with this.’ So that got my mind a little happier, and I started thinking of other things.”

Thompson is also looking forward to the South Bay Arts Association’s annual plein air event. The contest celebrates artistic expression, which is spontaneously painted or sketched outside in harmony with nature, and has grown from its inception at Bellport Day last year.

“The plein air event is going to be a bigger exhibit,” said Thompson, “and it’s going to be set up right outside my store here in the street. I’m really excited to see that the plein air event is going to be another feature.”

Claudia Mirzaali, chair of the South Bay Arts Association, said of the French Impressionist-inspired event, “We are just always looking for new ways to bring arts to the community.”

The posters created in Bellport are purchased and appreciated all over the world.

“People collect them, and people put them in all the summer homes and the Airbnbs. They want just festival posters. I get a lot of people that say they get one every year as a collectible,” Thompson said proudly.

If you’re in the Bellport area, come visit the festival, and be part of the scene drawn to a picture-perfect day.

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