When James Skidmore took over as chairman of the Alive After Five series last year, he sought to use the popular Patchogue Village street festival to effect social change.
He introduced two themes, one celebrating women in the arts and the other celebrating cultural diversity.
So what are his plans for this year’s events?
Celebrate even harder.
“We’re emphasizing the themes more,” said Skidmore, a business owner and longtime Brickhouse Brewery manager. “I believe that if we are to evolve as a people, there are a couple of issues on the planet right now we can come together on. One of those is helping to bring women up to equality everywhere. Then, there’d be an equal voice in how the earth is run. That’s important for change.
“I also think the magic of the arts is important to implement change as well.”
The Greater Patchogue Chamber of Commerce’s first Alive After Five for 2015 is set for this Thursday, July 9, and runs from 5 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
The other three will be on July 23, Aug. 6 and Aug. 20, all Thursdays.
“A Celebration of Women in the Arts” is July 23. Attendees on that date will notice the street party might sound a bit different than the other Alive After Fives, because most of the bands will be fronted by women, said Skidmore.
That’s just one example of what’s to come.
The July 23 event will also feature women artists, poets, musicians, dancers, healers and entrepreneurs who “will come together to share their talents,” said Alive After Five committee person Dorene Romero, a holistic wellness coach and artist.
“It is valuable for women to celebrate their creativity and their value,” she said. “Some of the first artists were women and it was a very long time before women became recognized in the art world.
“That’s where the women in the arts idea stems from.”
The “Celebration of Cultural Diversity” will be on Aug. 20, the last of the four Alive After Five festivals this summer.
“As Suffolk County becomes a more diverse place, it’s very important for me to bring this out onto Main Street to embrace the community and embrace diversity,” Skidmore said of the second theme. “Instead of toleration, we should be striving toward acceptance and community and love, to really embrace people — not just tolerate them.”
There’s also a practical aspect to the two themes, Skidmore said, believing the celebrations will help attract bigger sponsors to help keep the event thriving well into the future.
“What corporate sponsor doesn’t want to promote women in the arts?” he said. “It’s good for their business. If I can make this appealing to bigger sponsors, then we would have more money to pay the artists and this can continue to evolve.”
He also said there’s an army of volunteers behind Alive After Five, which was recently recognized through the Long Island Press as the best street festival on Long Island.
Skidmore credits the volunteer hours for that.
“All these people who step up and volunteer, that’s the essence of community,” he said.
To be sure, he said he’s never gotten any push-back on the themes.
“That’s the beauty of it,” he said. “When you have solid themes, no one’s going to say, ‘Oh, no, cultural diversity! Oh my God.’ I didn’t pick any explosive topics here. These things make good sense and are happening at a fast pace these days.”
Photo caption: James Skidmore in front of the Brickhouse Brewery on Sunday. (Credit: Michael White)