Greenwich Town Party, Featuring Steely Dan, Draws Nearly 5,000
By Mike Verrico
On an overcast but comfortable day, the annual Greenwich Town Party proved once again why it’s the hottest ticket in town.
Headlining this year’s GTP was Rock and Roll Hall of Fame band Steely Dan, with its timeless combination of immaculately played rock-jazz fusion. For nearly 100 minutes and without an interruption, the band played through their classics, culminating with their song “Pretzel Logic” which they dedicated to the memory of Gregg Allman, the Allman Brothers’ singer and keyboardist, who died of complications of liver cancer the same day.
Carolyn Wonderland, the Alabama Shakes, and the world-renowned Preservation Hall Jazz Band rounded out this year’s main-stage acts.
GTP founder Ray Dalio, who heads the investment firm Bridgewater Associates, personally introduced the jazz band to an audience of nearly 5,000 as a devoted and thrilled fan.
“I’m not supposed to say this, but this band is my favorite band here,” Dalio said. “Having been to Jazzfest in New Orleans and then seeing them in Cuba (the Preservation Hall Jazz Band went on tour in Cuba, which was the inspiration for their newest album), I can tell you that you are in for a treat and great time.”
On the town stage, Shane Kirsch & Rang-a-Boom, Charlie Scopoletti and the Truth, The Tides, the Clams, The Bramblemen, Ray and Jay Jams for Kid, Emma Friedman, and the Mongolian Monkfish all performed music ranging from jazz, funk and rock to children’s music.
Over a dozen local food vendors kept the party going, and the line for Longford’s Ice Cream seemed to be growing by the hour. Food vendors also included Aux Delices, Fjord Fish Market, Bobby Q’s, Asiana Cafe, Meli-Melo, Garden Catering, Mill Street Bar & Grill, among others.
Before the smell of fresh food surrounded partygoers, veterans from the Veterans of Foreign Wars passed out poppy flowers in honor of the Memorial Day weekend.
The party also included a silent auction, which was held all weekend long.
Items up for bid included a cocktail cruise from the Delamar Hotel and a dinner at L’Escale, four VIP tickets to Justin Bieber at MetLife Stadium, and four Coach’s Club Section tickets with field level access to the 50-yardline at a Giants game.
The 12-hour day officially kicked off with children’s activities at 10 a.m., followed by a performance of the Star Spangled Banner; but for Ray Rivers, co-president and director of development for the GTP, the day was years in the making.
The GTP team has since been bringing the community together with great music each Memorial Day weekend, though there have been minor road bumps along the way.
“In the first years, Ray Dalio made sure we could even have a party,” Rivers said. “The idea was that we wanted everyone to be able to come. We wanted to be a party for the community.”
Held at Roger Sherman Baldwin Park, the town party in its first year only had a few dozen sponsors. This year, Rivers said, was the first in which the party actually sold out of the sponsor tickets, reaching over 1,000 sponsors.
“I’m so happy to say we sold out of every sponsor ticket this year,” Rivers added. “We’ve really come a long way as a community, and they’ve embraced the message.”
The idea for the town party began when Dalio took a trip to his wife’s home country of Spain, where saw townsfolk come together an annual party with food and music that strengthened the bonds of friendship and community.
“Ray noticed that all the great towns in Europe had their own town party,” said Rivers. “They would see everyone in the town participate in these parties. It was like the town shut down. Greenwich is a great town, so why not start a local town party movement in Greenwich?”
In 2010, the Greenwich Town Party held its inaugural event, with blues guitarist Buddy Guy headlining. GTP has since become a local institution—looked forward to as early as March, when tickets for general admission go on offer and quickly sell out.
For the Greenwich Town Party organizers, the main ingredient for the party was undoubtedly the people who made up the event, whether volunteers, musicians, local vendors or just residents of Greenwich.
“One of our favorite stories is when we were told by a partygoer that they ended up dancing with the checkout girl from the grocery store,” Rivers said. “These are the people in our community and who make Greenwich great.”