- Here in the Hamptons, the summer season marks a plethora of galas, benefits, fundraisers and the occasional event that combines those three slightly stiff-lipped fetes with an honest to goodness, no holds barred Bacchanalian-esque party. This past weekend the Rock the Farm
benefit for the Wounded Warrior Project
was one such event that split the difference between supporting a great cause and having an unbelievable time.
Ken Kraus, Hillary Johnson, And Nick Kraus enjoy the evening.
Rock the Farm, which was held this year on July 25, first began three years ago as a collaboration between Nick Kraus
, who started Soldier Ride
with friend and former Stephen Talkhouse
employee Chris Carney
, and Rob Kaimowitz
, founder of the Giving Tree Foundation and member of the Giving Tree Band.
In years past Rock The Farm raised monies for The Giving Tree Foundation, switching over this year to raise money for The Wounded Warrior Project, the charity that Soldier Ride helps raise funds and awareness for.
"This is the first year we've ever done this event to benefit The Wounded Warrior Project, so all the servicemen and women who turned out have been just wonderful," said Kaimowitz. "We purposefully did this event on the night of the Soldier Ride to get them all here and tie it all in. It's just a great event and I can't wait to do it again next year."
One of the silent auction items: a guitar donated by former "Saturday Night Live" band leader G.E. Smith
Kaimowitz has reason to be excited; while most fundraisers this summer have been having trouble - a fact many are quick to blame on the current economic situation facing the country - whether it was due to the cause they were supporting or the fact that people were looking forward to the entertainment, Rock the Farm handily accomplished their goals their goals this year.
"We sold the event out at 12 noon today and we couldn't be happier with the turnout," said Kraus the night of the event. "Good people, good friends and my whole family is here on top of that. Also the soldiers are here for the first time at this event so that's great. We really beat our expectations."
Dan Aykroyd hits the stage and rocks the house.Photo by Joe Strand
As did the entertainment featured that evening beat the expectations of those in attendance. Kicking off the night was breakout singer/songwriter Hillary Johnson
, whose unique and original compositions warmed up the crowd as they enjoyed cocktails from the open bar and food provided by Fairway Markets and 668 The Gig Shack
in Montauk. We had great music," Kraus noted. "Fairway Market
came through and donated the food, I actually personally drove the van full of food out yesterday," he chuckled. "I missed the bus so that was my ride out. I couldn't be happier."
While the theme of the food for Rock the Farm was billed as "all American BBQ," everybody at the event agreed that they couldn't remember ever eating so well, despite the food being uncomplicated and typically down home style.
Following Johnson was Nancy Atlas
, who tore up the stage as always before Booga Sugar
took the stage along with Atlas and the special guest for the evening Dan Aykroyd
, who had ridden along with the wounded veterans and fellow platoon members of Lance Corporal Jordan Haerter
, who was killed in action, awarded the Navy Cross and to whom this year's Soldier Ride was dedicated, from the 1st Battalion, 9th Company Marines stationed at Camp Lejeune.
As the sun set and the evening got cooler, Aykroyd and crew heated up the event under the tent with some signature "Blues Brother" style classics, as he demonstrated his chops both vocally and on the harmonica to all those in attendance.
Members of the Israeli Armed Services who participated in this year's Soldier Ride: Amid Barel, Carmon Meir, Noam Gersltony, Efrad Molad with Peter HonerKamp of Stephen Talkhouse.
Aside from the top notch musical talent on stage, the excellent food and open bar, Kaimowitz related that the reasons for the success of the event might have had more to do with the total package rather than the individual offerings. "I'd say as a whole this is about the same as in years past, but tonight has been just great especially considering this is a recession," he explained. "Think about it - you come to this thing and for $100 you get great food, open bar all night, great bands and a great party all for the price of going out to dinner at some trendy restaurant. It's fantastic and
we're giving a ton of money to the Wounded Warrior Project."
While guests at the event got an extra chance to donate money to The Wounded Warrior Project and to the Soldier Ride that happened earlier that day, there were other means for fun-loving philanthropists to show their support in the form of a silent auction with excellent offerings. "G.E. Smith
donated a guitar that has already gotten offers that far beat our expectations," noted a satisfied Kraus, despite the fact that he still had his hands full making sure everything went off without a hitch
. "This whole weekend across the board has raised a lot of awareness," he said. "The town of East Hampton pretty much all turned out; all the road signs that people put in front of their businesses and their homes just goes to show that everybody came together as a community and that's just really great to see. It's just been one of those goosebump moments."