Dan Harrington, 68

New director at Harborfest busy juggling multiple responsibilites

By Mary Beth Roach


Q: When were you named executive director of Harborfest?

A: I took over as executive director in January of this year, after the previous director had to step down due to work.

Q: What was your previous involvement with the organization?

A: I had been helping for several years, assisting Bruce Turner with festival logistics and setup of the festival. Working with Bruce, who has been with the festival since its origin 34 years ago, I got to see how much was involved with getting the festival running. After the previous director stepped down in November of 2022, the board of directors started looking for a replacement. I was part of the board of directors at the time, so I said I was interested and would give it a try; so here I am. For myself, it is a big learning curve, and I am finding it really interesting.

Q: What are some of your responsibilities overseeing this huge event?

A: I oversee our board of directors and our small part-time staff — business manager, membership and sponsor coordinator; vendor coordinator; volunteer coordinator — assist with obtaining sponsors and public affairs.

Q: What do you see as the most challenging part of this job?

A: I think that the biggest challenge is trying to get our sponsors to stay on board so that we can afford to have the festival.

Q: What’s the best part of the job so far?

A: When the festival comes together, and the people show up. You see families and friends get together in the park listening to the music. It’s a pretty good time.

Q: What’s new for 2023?

A: This year we are bringing back national touring bands for our Friday night show on the Novelis [Breitbeck] Park Lakeview Stage, which should draw more people from outside the county. We are also going to try and have a water show on the river as done in the past, which always seemed to draw people to West Linear Walk. Also, this year we have a lot more entertainment and activities for the children, after the children’s parade on Friday morning.

Q: Is this a volunteer job or is it a paid position?

A: It’s a paid position, but I’m actually just doing it as a volunteer right now, just until I get my feet wet.

Q: Can you share with us the budget; how big your committee is?

A: We carry probably about a half-million-dollar budget. We have a board of directors, all volunteers. We also have an executive staff, which is myself, a business manager, a marketing person and a vendor coordinator and a volunteer coordinator.

Q: Are you still working? If so, where, and how do you balance all of your responsibilities?

A: I am still working part time at Novelis. After 47 years working for Alcan/Novelis, it is really hard to break away. Novelis is a great place to work, and I have had many opportunities there to be involved with many upgrades and continue to do so today. Right now, I spend a couple of days at Novelis and the rest at Harborfest. I have also been involved for several years at Oswego Speedway with miscellaneous upgrades and maintenance. Involvement with Harborfest, Novelis, Speedway, and home projects takes a lot of time. My wife, Patty, of 49 years, is a very understanding person and helps me wherever possible.

Q: As a lifelong Oswegonian, what does the event means to you personally?

A: We have been attending Harborfest since its beginning and wouldn’t miss it. The best part of the festival is when you see families and friends getting together for the events in the parks. It’s just an enjoyable time.