In 2017, I revealed the Montauk Music Festival as the best kept secret on Long Island. What began as a way to entice visitors with dinner vouchers, hotel specials and live music before the traditional start of summer, has turned into a money grab.
When our kids were little, we spent many midweek summer vacations with friends (and their kids) in Montauk. But in 2010, we decided to head out there ourselves to take advantage of those specials and celebrate our anniversary.
Don’t get me wrong, we had great times with the kids, but our activities were limited to, well, those that involve children. You weren’t sitting on the beach at night, stoking a fire and drinking adult beverages until the wee hours of the morning.
With kids, you spent time at the video arcade and played way too much miniature golf. If it rained, there were movies and bowling. On the nice days, we took advantage of the beach and the pool, ending almost every evening with ice cream. Daytime in Montauk was family friendly, but when the sun went down, the night people took over.
Oh, how we envied the freedom of the night people. They were bar hopping and listening to live music. Vacationing in Montauk with children meant your night was over by 10 p.m.
That solo anniversary trip in 2010 found us in the middle of the inaugural Montauk Music Festival weekend. For $99 a night at the Atlantic Terrace, we were provided with prepaid breakfast and dinner coupons that could be redeemed at every operating restaurant in Montauk. It was an offer we couldn’t refuse.
Although the music schedule of bands and venues was sketchy at best, we practically had the place to ourselves. There are plenty of bars on Main Street in Montauk, and we stopped in almost every one of them to have a drink and listen to music. We enjoyed it so much, we came back again next year. Soon, we were able to entice our friends and family to join us. Although the breakfast and dinner coupons were no longer part of the deal, the room rates were certainly still reasonable. The same room we got at a discount was three times the price just a few days later.
Our posse has grown to over a dozen people and we really look forward to it. Unfortunately, so has everyone else. Lured by a weekend of music, the crowds recently have been overwhelming.
This weekend marks the 10th Anniversary of the music festival, and reasonable room rates have been few and far between. Some places are charging full summer pricing. Worse, our beloved Atlantic Terrace, which always offered a special festival rate, is no longer an option. It’s been sold (it’s now the “Marram”) and the new owners have turned it into an uber-luxury property with basic rooms starting at almost $700 per night.
I hate to say it, but this could be our last Montauk Music Festival. It used to be an intimate gathering in a quaint seaside town, one weekend before the crowds and chaos of the summer. Now, the success of the Music Festival and the “Hamptonization” of Montauk, while a boon to local businesses, has changed all that. It’s evolved from a really cool thing to experience into just another overcrowded weekend.
There doesn’t seem to be any real outcry over the lack of discounts or the overcrowding of venues during what was once a dead weekend. Quite frankly, it seems to be just the opposite. More and more people are being drawn to Montauk to participate in the festival. Maybe they just don’t know what they’re missing?
Unfortunately for people like us, we can only lament what used to be and bid our farewells this weekend. Maybe I should have held my tongue and kept this thing a secret after all.
Paul DiSclafani, a Massapequa resident, is a 2018 Press Club of Long Island award winning columnist and an Anton Media Group contributor since 2016. The views expressed are not necessarily those of the publisher or Anton Media Group.