West Haven's Savin Rock Fest may be gone, but new Shoreline Fest to take place over two weekends in July

WEST HAVEN — The Savin Rock Festival may be dead for this year, but come July, the summer party on the shoreline where the old Savin Rock amusement park once stood will continue — complete with amusement rides, food tents, nonprofit booths and crafts.

The owners of the company that provided the rides and midway for the Savin Rock Festival for 23 years, Orange-based Marenna Amusements, will bring a new “Shoreline Fest” to the West Haven shoreline for two weekends in July, Mayor Nancy Rossi said Wednesday.

Marenna Amusements owners George Marenna Jr. and George Marenna III will cover all of the festival’s costs and pay West Haven $5,000 under a contract they recently signed with the city, Rossi said.

The festival will take place July 19-22 and July 26-28 in Old Grove Park — the former Grove area of Savin Rock — off Palace Street, as well as on the nearby lawn at Captain Thomas Boulevard and Oak Street.

“I am thankful to George Marenna and his son for rising to the occasion and bringing this festival to our shoreline for all ages to enjoy,” Rossi, who made the decision to cancel the Savin Rock Festival as a cost-cutting move in early May, said in a news release.

“While it will not replace the Savin Rock Festival, Shoreline Fest will preserve the legacy and spirit of old Savin Rock as a destination for family friendly fun,” Rossi said. “I look forward to seeing my fellow Westies at the festival in July.”

The privately operated festival will take place at no cost to the city, Rossi said.

What the new festival won’t have is big-name entertainment and city employees cleaning up who need to be paid overtime, said George Marenna Jr.

“It’s all in-house. There’s no public works involved,” Marenna said. Marenna Amusements even provides its own dumpster, he said.

Also, because there will be “no big-name concerts, we will need fewer police,” Marenna said. “It’s really just downsizing” the festival’s expenses, he said. “We’re cutting expenses to make it affordable.”

“The Savin Rock Festival has been canceled”but “it would be a shame not to have some kind of entertainment down there,” he said. “I think when it’s all said and done, everybody should be happy.”

The midway and array of carnival rides “will be a little bigger” than for the Savin Rock Festival, “with more vendors,” he said. “The old-time vendors will be back, a lot of them.”

Marenna, who was in the process of setting up for this week’s St. Louis Church Fair off Sawmill Road and Bull Hill Lane, said he sets up in 18 different locations each season and “there are spots that are a much higher gross than Savin Rock.

“I just have a love for Savin Rock,” he said.

The festival’s hours will be 6 p.m.-midnight July 19-20, noon-10 p.m. July 21, noon-7 p.m. July 22, 6 p.m.-midnight July 26-27 and noon-10 p.m. July 28.

Rossi said in an interview that the festival is not a recreation of the Savin Rock Festival and the city is “not running it. The only thing I’m doing is saying thank you to Marenna for running it,” she said.

“The way I understand it, it’s going to be scaled down” from what the Savin Rock Festival has been and Marenna will pay its own expenses “like any private organization that does an event,” she said.

“They’re bringing their own porta-potties. They’re paying the police ... It is not the Savin Rock Festival repackaged as something else,” Rossi said. “We cannot afford the Savin Rock Festival. That’s the only reason why we canceled it.”

But “I’m very glad to see something happening,” Rossi said. “I know the residents enjoy having festivals.”

Shoreline Fest will mark a return to “more of a fair atmosphere,” said mayoral staffer Tom McCarthy, who was the most recent chairman of the Savin Rock Festival. McCarthy recently was contacted by the Marennas about the festival.

According to Marenna Amusements’ contract with West Haven, the company will assume all festival-related responsibilities and fees. Those include paying for non-city maintenance workers and extra-duty police, obtaining all permits and licenses and paying for electricity, portable toilets and trash removal.

The plan calls for Marenna to use the proceeds from food concession rental fees to offset the cost of police services and city expenses. Under the contract, the company also will pay the city a one-time fee of $5,000 for up to 21 amusement rides, Rossi said.

The Orange-based amusement company also will partner with the West Haven High School Band Parents Association, which previously depended on the the Savin Rock Festival to raise funds by holding its annual craft fair fundraiser there.

Rossi said the new festival will allow the band parents to continue to hold the fair and raise much-needed money for their association.

Marenna Amusements will offer bracelets for unlimited rides, a family pack of 24 tickets and single tickets. The festival also will include a Grand Carousel on the grounds of the 148-year-old Grove. George Marenna Jr. said the carousel was filmed in New York’s Central Park in 2016 and appeared in the Kevin Spacey movie “Rebel in the Rye” last year.

Rossi said that as of right now, the city still is planning to go forward with its annual July 3 fireworks display, which draws an estimated 100,000 people and is one of the largest in the area. But “we’re going to be collecting to park,” she said.

The cost will be $10 per car if you don’t have a beach sticker and $5 if you do, Rossi said. The city also is trying to arrange corporate sponsorships and “we’re also going to be looking to do some sort of ad book or advertisements,” Rossi said.

As for the annual summer concert series, “the line item has been cut but not eliminated” and the city expects to have some concerts later this summer, although perhaps not as many as in past years, she said.