Riverhead’s First SantaCon Born at Suffolk Theater

The Suffolk Theater marquee
The Suffolk Theater marquee. Photo credit: Daniel Gonzalez

Suffolk Theater will lead the Riverhead community in a special event on Saturday, the East End’s inaugural SantaCon, organized by the theater’s marketing coordinator Bunnii Buglione.

SantaCon is a holiday-themed pub crawl in which participants don Santa Claus costumes and head to nine bars and restaurants around downtown Riverhead.

“We’re raising money for The Brendan House Project, a long-term care residence for veterans and civilians with physical and cognitive disabilities,” Buglione explains. The Brendan House Project is an initiative by the New Beginnings Community Center and all proceeds from bracelet sales will go to the project.

“So far, all the businesses are really into it,”Buglione says. “We want to see the survival of downtown Main Street. This is a safe, fun place to visit.” Participating businesses include Suffolk Theater, Vines and Hops, Joe’s Garage & Grill, Tweed’s, Jerry and the Mermaid, Crooked Ladder Brewing Company, Digger O’Dell’s, Cliff’s Rendezvous and Hotel Indigo. “We’re trying our very best not to make it a [typical] pub crawl,” Buglione says.

Suffolk Theater artistic and general director Daniel Binderman notes that it’s going to be a friendly, fun-filled event.

Running a full-time performing arts organization like the Suffolk Theater may seem like a gargantuan task, but the theater’s buoyant and savvy Binderman has proven in his first year that he’s more than up to the task and isn’t planning on slowing down anytime soon. “For the theater, [this year] has been incredible,” he says.

A devout lover of music, Binderman looks back fondly on the many performances throughout the past year. “And musically, it’s been one of the most exciting years of my life. Truly. We started my tenure with Johnny Winter. Muddy Waters adopted him as his son—although I’m not sure if that’s literal or figurative.” Other highlights from throughout the year include Sandra Bernhard (who Binderman played guitar for when he was in college), Ben E. King, Booker T. Jones and a variety local musicians. Various comedians graced the Suffolk Theater stage this year, as well, with Gilbert Gottfried and Nick DiPaolo being highlights for Binderman. “I was in pain throughout that show!” he says. “Nick DiPaolo roasting me for my birthday was also hilarious.”

Suffolk Theater’s holiday season is bursting with events and isn’t slowing down in the new year. WLNG’s Rockabilly Christmas show on December 19 is one Binderman hopes will be unique and fun. “The idea was to build a whole show. We have this beautiful old theater, and I wanted to see and experience a full rock and roll revue. And the dance floor will be open—people are not bashful about dancing.” On December 20, families can look forward to a puppet rendition of Frosty the Snowman, with an appearance by Frosty’s original illustrator, Riverhead local Don Duga. Ani DiFranco returns to Riverhead on January 24, and in February, the theater will stage a production of Ring of Fire: The Johnny Cash Musical.

Binderman is a big proponent of Riverhead’s growth as an East End hot spot. “I feel like it’s becoming a downtown destination with a cultural edge. It’s charming and artistic,” Binderman says, noting that preconceived notions about the town are obsolete and inaccurate. “Before I came here, I heard stories about Riverhead and that there [wasn’t much activity], and now I see art galleries, restaurants, new stores. It’s a very charming town at this point.“ Binderman is grateful to have Suffolk Theater as a part of Riverhead’s evolving community. “The Riverhead community—I couldn’t ask for anything more from them. It’s really nice out here. And artistically, I’m finding that we’ve been able to do a lot of shows and people have been really supportive.”

Binderman’s infectious enthusiasm and programming know-how has produced strong results for Suffolk Theater so far. “In the beginning, a lot of agents were sort of like, ‘We don’t really know you guys,’ and now we have a foundation that people know about and want to come here.” As for what the future brings, Binderman says with a coy smirk, “Stay tuned for more!”

For more information on Suffolk Theater and SantaCon, go to suffolktheater.com.

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