As New York opens back up, the Village of Hastings is working to entice locals to spend their weekends downtown this summer, dining, shopping, and enjoying free concerts.
There will be nine outdoor dining nights, alternating between Fridays and Saturdays, through mid-October, and three sidewalk sale days.
The Village began organizing outdoor dining and shopping events last year as a response to the Covid situation. “This summer, since we’re not totally past Covid, we thought we’d continue that,” Hastings downtown advocate Barb Prisament explained. “The reason we’re planning so many of these events is that the businesses still really need our help to get through this.”
The village-sponsored events begin on Saturday, June 5, with sidewalk sales during the day and outdoor dining from 6 to 10 p.m. There will be live music at the VFW Plaza, featuring the RiverArts Music Tour Open Mic.
Down at the Hastings Public Library, the Friends of the Library’s annual spring book sale will also be held on June 5, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., in the library parking lot. Masks will be required and gloves will be distributed to shoppers. And on Sunday, June 6, “Hastings on Jazz” makes its weekly debut at the VFW Plaza from 3 to 5:30 p.m., featuring the Hastings Jazz Collective.
The Village also plans two “South by Southside” events on Southside Avenue, with food and drink by The Good Witch, Maud’s Tavern ,and Saint George Bistro, live music, and family activities. Dates will be announced.
The Hastings Farmers’ Market and the Hastings Flea — both of which are operated independently of the Village of Hastings — also beckon to downtown visitors. The market operates every Saturday, 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., in the Metro-North commuter lot on Southside Avenue. The Hastings Flea will have two events at the commuter lot this summer, one on June 27, and the other on Sept. 12, from 10 a.m. to 4 pm.
The “Hastings on Jazz” concerts began as impromptu events in 2020, when the members of the Hastings Jazz Collective began playing outdoors. Word spread. “I was aware last summer that some of our top area jazz musicians were gathering in Fulton Park by the side of the library on Sunday afternoons,” Prisament said. She began thinking that it could be an asset to the village to have live, outdoor music every Sunday in 2021.
“I approached them and asked them if they might want to perform weekly at the VFW Plaza,” she said. “The community could enjoy it throughout the summer, while activating the downtown at the same time.”
The Hastings Jazz Collective’s Sunday gigs will be underwritten by the Village. The band consists of pianist David Janeway and saxophonist Tim Armacost, both of Hastings; drummer Ron Vincent of Dobbs Ferry; and bass player Harvie S., a former Hastings resident who now lives in Riverdale. A fifth member, guitarist and longtime Hastings resident Jay Azzolina, recently moved to Rhode Island.
“We started playing together as a collective in 2008, but we had played gigs with each other before that, since at least the ‘80s, in various clubs in the city,” Janeway said.
For him and his bandmates, being hired by the Village to do what they love is the best possible scenario. “It’s been a desert, so this is a little oasis, a light at the end of the tunnel where you begin to see a ray of light, some hope, cautious optimism,” Janeway said.
“For me it’s just incredibly exciting to be able to be out playing live in front of people after a year of not being able to do that,” Armacost said. He is the husband of Hastings Mayor Niki Armacost. “The joy of playing together is really, really strong and I can’t wait to be out doing it.”
“It’s also the sense of community, playing for the people,” Vincent added. “Everybody’s starved for music.”
The Collective released an album called “Shadow Dances” in 2019 (it’s available on iTunes). Harvie S. said the village gigs could spur the group to create more new arrangements.
“It’s a thrill to play live music, but a thrill to play with this band, because they’re great musicians,” he said. “The idea to play every week will give us a chance to develop in a much more positive way than when we just play sporadically. This is going to turn into something great and get us to the point where we’ll be able to record.”
The musicians, who may be joined by surprise guests, will perform two sets from 3 to 5:30 p.m. on Sunday afternoons, weather permitting. Warburton Avenue will remain open to traffic. Attendees can enjoy the music from the sidewalk or spread out on the sloping lawn behind VFW Plaza.
Who's playing at VFW Plaza
Saturday 6/5: The RiverArts Music Tour Open Mic
Friday 6/18: Maurice Sedacca Trio
Saturday 7/10: Matt Turk
Friday 7/23: John Lang Trio
Saturday 8/7: Eric Puente Jazz Quartet
Friday 8/20: Swing d’Jour
Saturday 9/18: Danny Weiss
Friday 10/1: Jake Schulman Ment
Saturday 10/16: Joel Arnow Trio
The music takes place between 6 and 10 p.m. (2 sets)