By Alex Rush
This just may be the best BayFest yet.
Southern Brooklyn’s biggest waterfront party is back for its 20th straight year, as Sheepshead Bay’s free outdoor extravaganza returns on Sunday with 20 bands, a performance by the Brighton Ballet Theater Company, arts exhibits, carnival rides, sailing demos and more along Emmons Avenue.
“We’ve been working ’round the clock to make this year bigger and better,” said BayFest founder Steve Barrison, who’s also president of the Bay Improvement Group.
To that end, the festival will have double the musical acts compared to last year’s, with a variety of acts — from folk to ragtime — playing the Emmons Avenue stage. Highlights include Beatles tribute band Ticket2Ride, rock ’n’ roll bagpipe band The Shots, and Sheepshead Bay’s own Robert Santa, a guitarist who has played with Roy Orbison and the Doobie Brothers. Santa is perhaps best known for touring with fellow local Andrew Dice Clay, and he also wrote the song “Brooklyn Bad Boys” for the comedian’s 1991 movie, “Dice Rules.”
Beyond the stage, each of the Bay’s 10 piers will feature some sort of spectacle, be it martial arts demonstrations or roaming cartoon characters for photo-ops with the kids.
“It’s a really fun to just walk up Emmons Avenue and check everything out,” said longtime Sheepshead Bay resident and Cupcake Kings co-owner Dennis Roitman. “I’ll be bringing my 1-year-old daughter this year.”
BayFest began in 1992 as an homage to the century-old tradition of blessing the fleet of party boats that docked in Sheepshead Bay. The number of party boats may have dwindled since, but the number of people attending BayFest has grown by the thousands.
“We started BayFest as a two-hour event with a couple of guitarists, a couple of clowns and about 50 people in attendance,” said Barrison. “By our 10th year, we had all-day entertainment and 110,000 people attending. It’s a great way to celebrate the waterfront and the community in the spring.”
BayFest [Emmons Avenue between Ocean Avenue and E. 27th Street in Sheepshead Bay, (718) 646-9206], May 15, noon–6 pm. Free. For info, visit bigbayfest.org.