Brooklyn arts

BayFest lands Merchant Marine band, Nets

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The Merchant Marines are sailing back to Sheepshead Bay.

The U.S. Merchant Marine Academy’s band will headline this year’s BayFest on May 20 — and will be performing just a stone’s throw away from its former Manhattan Beach training center, where Kingsborough Community College now stands.

BayFest founder Steve Barrison said the world-famous band that performs at presidential inauguration parades, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, and the Cotton Bowl halftime show will be the 21-year-old Sheepshead Bay festival’s biggest act yet.

“It’s a perfect match, given the historical link between Sheepshead Bay and the Merchant Marines,” said Barrison, who is also the president of Bay Improvement Group. “This is huge — we’ve never had anything like this before.”

Southern Brooklyn’s biggest waterfront party will also feature appearances by members of the Brooklyn-bound Nets — who are moving from New Jersey to the Barclays Center in Prospect Heights this fall — performances by 21 other bands, including Jay and the Americans, dance shows, and art exhibits. The festival stretches along Emmons Avenue between E. 27th Street and Ocean Avenue.

BayFest started as a two-hour guitar concert on Driscoll Tucker Place in 1992 and attracted just 50 people. Since then, the free event has grown into a day-long entertainment extravaganza featuring music stars such as Richie Ramone, the former drummer for the iconic punk band, Ticket2Ride, a popular Beatles tribute band, and the Brighton Ballet Theater Company.

Robert Santa, a guitarist who has played with the Doobie Brothers and Roy Orbison, and who wrote the song “Brooklyn Bad Boys” for local comedian Andrew Dice Clay’s 1991 concert movie “Dice Rules,” headlined last year’s event, which drew approximately 45,000 people, Barrison said.

Sheepshead Bay residents said the academy band would be a welcome addition to the BayFest.

“I’m excited, I’ve never heard them play before,” said Joe Knauer, co-owner of the Stella Maris Fishing Station on Emmons Avenue.

Barrison said the band’s play list is still being worked out, but will undoubtedly include a toe-tapping rendition of the Star Spangled Banner.

The U.S. Merchant Marines, which transports cargo in government and privately-owned merchant vessels, operated a training station on the eastern tip of Manhattan Beach from 1942 until its closure in 1954. Kingsborough Community College moved onto the site in 1964.

Reach reporter Daniel Bush at or by calling (718) 260-8310. Follow him at
Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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