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Tourism Industry Preps for Jazz on the Vine as Roots Continue to Grow

Grant funding on the decline in fifth year of vineyard concert series, though 77 artists in 2012 is an all-time high as businesses capitalize on winter crowds.

Long Island Winterfest's Jazz on the Vine heads into its fifth season of a six-week calendar of concerts on Saturday, and as the music festival celebrates its fifth birthday, local businesses in the tourism industry are looking forward to the shows just as much as jazz fans.

"A lot of people are finding that success is in the surrounding business communities," said Pat Snyder, the executive director of , one of the music festival's main organizers. "Businesses are learning how to attach to us and benefit from it."

A quick scan of the Winterfest's website shows that's evident - over 50 restaurants, hotels, beds and breakfasts, and other businesses are offering deals related to the event, and have routinely each year.

And for Snyder and others organizing the event, it's a partnership they see as key to Jazz on the Vine's future. The festival was launched with grant funding from multiple sources: one of which no longer in existance, New York State no longer provides funding, and grant money from Suffolk County is not what it once was, dropping from $40,000 last year to only $10,000 guaranteed so far in 2012 - though Snyder is hoping for more to come through.

The result for attendees will be a $5 boost in ticket prices to $15, one year after the festival started charging for ticket prices at all.

But in return, many of the businesses are offering discounts of their own to run hand-in-hand with a ticket stub.

Cooperage Inn is offering a deal this year for the first time - customers get 10 percent off a meal if they show their ticket.

"It just made sense for us to do it, as far as promoting our business and offering an incentive to dine here instead of going somewhere" said Scott Hopkins, manager at Cooperage. "Hopefully it's beneficial to us, increasing traffic out here at a time when it's normally dead."

Rob Salvatico owns , and he said his train of thought isn't so much selling rooms or meals, but the entire area as a whole.

"People can stay at a Hotel Indigo in 50 places all over the world," he said. "In truth, I'm marketing the East End. And the more people find out about the East End, that it's a pretty nice place to be for nine, 10 months a year, the more they come back."

As for working with other businesses, Hotel Indigo is cross-marketing with Bedell Cellars, Long Island Vodka and Castello di Borghese - and to a larger audience this year, as well. Salvatico decided to move the weekly jam fest - where Jazz on the Vine performers drop in and out each Saturday night into an improv session - from upstairs at Bistro 72 into the downstairs ball room, allowing for up to 190 attendees compared to a max of 110 last year.

"We're all pitching in. Nobody's knocking anybody over," Salvaticao added. "For once, an originally publicly-funded venture is being privatized by interested parties. Collectively, it's really starting to happen."

Businesses hopping into the ring to cater to jazz fans isn't necessarily anything new, said Steve Bate, executive director of the Long Island Wine Council. But with more performers this year than ever before (77), and more renowned performers - over a half dozen Grammy-nominated jazz artists - opportunities continue to increase. 

Mike Weiss said his limo company, L.I. Vineyard Tours, started in 2004 - the same year Winterfest started - with one car. Since then, he's grown along with the concert series, now boasting a fleet of 30. And every winter he looks forward to the boost in winter business.

"Winterfest is a wonderful thing," he said. "This gets our fleet out and allows us to offer better pricing. I'm not saying the dip in the economy is over, but people are definitely looking to enjoy themselves."

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