Longtime volunteer now in charge of Harborfest, one of CNY’s largest festivals, which takes place July 27-30
By Stefan Yablonski
Dan Harrington has seen Harborfest grow from a small local event in 1988 to a major admission-free regional festival attracting an average audience estimated at 75,000 annually. In 2023 the festiva will continue the tradition of showcasing more than 30 music performances and attractions, a wide variety of vendors, a midway — and a spectacular fireworks display — with Harrington as the new executive director.
“I was born and raised in Oswego, attended Riley School, Fitzhugh Park School, Oswego High School and SUNY Morrisville,” he said. “I lived on East Second Street in Oswego with my mom [who died in August 2021] and my step-father, Murphy Brancato.”
Going through grade schools, he played in the school bands — playing clarinet and alto saxophone.
“I also played a little ice hockey,” he added.
Almost every weekend through his younger years were spent at his grandparents’ house on Mitchell Street in Oswego.
“My grandfather loved all the grandchildren and we made many trips to county fairs, riding the horses he owned, riding go-karts on a small track in his back yard, and etc.,” he said.
Harrington met the love of his life, Patty Kubis, in Oswego High School in 1970. They both attended SUNY Morrisville after graduating from Oswego High School in 1972.
He graduated from SUNY Morrisville in 1974 with an Associate of Applied Science degree in electrical technology and AC/DC motors.
After college, he worked briefly for IBM in Endicott.
“I really didn’t like a shirt-and-tie job,” he explained.
So, he returned to Oswego.
“I was lucky enough to get hired by Alcan [now Novelis] and retired from there in August 2021 after 47 years of service as lead electrical engineer and RSO [radiation safety officer],” he said.
He still works there on a part-time basis, he added.
“I’ve been doing it for 47 years — it’s part of my life. I’d feel lost if I don’t go there,” he said with a smile.
“Patty and I got married in August of 1974 and lived on West Third Street in Oswego. Later on, we built a house on South West Eighth Street in Oswego, not too far from our home on West Third Street,” he continued. “Presently, we’re still living there.”
Growing up, he always wanted to work with electricity — “especially after working many jobs with Patty’s father, Stan Kubis,” he said. “I took electrical technology and AC/DC motor theory at Morrisville and went on to be an electrical engineer at Alcan-Novelis.”
His wife got started in Harborfest back in 1990 by volunteering on the trolleys.
Harborfest was always the same weekend as a race in Sandusky, Ohio. So he would be there crewing with Joe Gosek on the 00 supermodified and missed Harborfest “except for some of the Sunday activities.”
“One year, I decided to stay home and attend Harborfest. I helped on the trolleys with my wife. I really liked it and continued to volunteer. I started around 2001,” he said. “Over the years, I could see help was needed in the setup of Harborfest, which starts two weeks prior to the actual festival.”
So he joined the logistics team helping with setup under the direction of Bruce Turner. After a few years working logistics, he was asked to be on the board of directors for Harborfest and he did so.
“At the December board of directors meeting, I was asked by the president of the board, Chuck Handley, if I would like to be the director as [former director] Pete Myles had left. I said I would try as I was showing interest in doing more for Harborfest prior to being asked to be the director,” he said.
He was appointed by the board in January 2023.
“We’ve always liked Harborfest. My wife actually started before I did,” he said.
“She wanted to know if I was crazy,” he said of her initial reaction to his new position. “I said, ‘no, I’ll give it a try.’ It’s quite involved, setting up a couple weeks ahead of time. It’s a lot of work.”
He cited the cadre of volunteers for ensuring things run smoothly.
He has been finding out quickly, the duties of the director and time involved, he said, adding “Luckily Harborfest has a good business manager, Barb Manwaring, who has been helping me out tremendously.”
It’s been a pleasure working with Harrington, Manwaring said.
Handley said Harrington was on the board for the last three years and works on the logistics committee as well.
“Peter Myles was our executive director for the last four or five years. He did a tremendous job,” he said.
However, Myles got hired in another job and the Harborfest position was too much; so he resigned.
“We were sitting at a board meeting and I said, ‘OK, we are going to start a search for a new executive director.’ Dan said he’d throw his name in the hat. And we were like, OK, we’re not doing a search anymore. He knows the festival, knows what has to be done. And obviously we have Barb Manwaring there for the last 20 years. She said, ‘Perfect — Dan and I will run the show.’ He’s done a great job! He loves Oswego. It’s a perfect fit,” Handley said.
Besides being the director of Harborfest, Harrington is still working a couple days a week at Novelis, “which is a great place to work,” he added.
He is an avid racing fan, is heavily involved with the Oswego Speedway.
“I am helping out at Oswego Speedway with miscellaneous upkeep and improvement projects. Also, a few nights a week, I spend working on the 00 supermodified of Joe Gosek,” he said.
He works at Harborfest during the day and on the race car after that.
“We do it for a couple hours at night. As long as he doesn’t wreck it, we’re good,” he quipped.
Outside of Harborfest, he and his wife enjoy camping with their travel trailer during the warm months, he said.
“Me and Patty, we like to travel. We try to visit my son’s family in Pennsylvania whenever we can. During the winter months, we enjoy attending the SUNY Oswego men’s ice hockey games. We also enjoy kayaking in the good weather when we can,” he added.
“I’m a big rock and roll fan,” he said. “Some of the acts that I would like to have at Harborfest include: Herman’s Hermits, a good Beatles tribute group and, I would still like to get Frankie Valli.”
There are plenty of other groups that he would like to have — “but costs are a concern,” he said. “Some of my past favorites that I can remember off the top of my head are: Santana, Danny and the Juniors and the Turtles.”
In addition to his volunteering with Harborfest, Harrington has also dedicated many hours volunteering for a number of other charitable organizations within the community including United Way of Oswego County, Habitat for Humanity, Arise, St. Stephen’s church and many others.
Name: Dan Harrington
Position: Executive director of Oswego Harborfest
Birth date: June 20, 1954
Residence: South West Eighth Street, Oswego
Education: AAS Degree from SUNY Morrisville
Affiliations: Oswego Speedway, Gosek Racing and Novelis
Personal: Wife of 49 years, Patty; son, Dan Jr. and his wife, Amy; two grandchildren, Colin 19 and Maxim 16; and daughter, Kathy, who lives in Oswego and her boyfriend, Eddie Witkum.
Hobbies: Racing, kayaking, and supporting the Oswego Lakers Men’s Ice Hockey and camping with our travel trailer.