The Seal Harbor Boys will be playing a variety of golden oldie dance tunes at the Asticou Inn dinner dance Wednesday, July13. Pictured here (from left) are Bob Hipkin, J.B. Harrison, Asa Phillips and David Putnam who will be joined by Tom Newhall and drummer Beau Lisy. ISLANDER PHOTO BY NAN LINCOLN

Asticou Inn revives old dinner dances with a new twist



MOUNT DESERT — Once upon a time, the highlight of summers on Mount Desert Island for the “summercators” were the dinner dances. Summer folks gathered at their country clubs; opulent “cottages” and resort hotels to waltz the night away to the music of jazz combos, imported from Boston and New York.  

One of the most popular of these social events was held at the Asticou Inn in Northeast Harbor, where generations of young and old gathered on the hotel’s wide apron of porch – the ladies in Lili Pulitzer frocks and gents as colorful as parrots in madras slacks and jackets, sipped Tom Collinses and whiskey sours and danced cheek to cheek to “Satin Doll” and other big band standards of the ‘30s and ‘40s. 

As the era when kids went to dancing school to learn the proper steps to the waltz, foxtrot and bunny hop and actually enjoyed getting dressed up to go dining and dancing with their parents vanished, so too, by the turn of this century, did these weekly dinner dances. 

But the Asticou dances persisted well into the 21st century partially because of the Mike Carney band, which added rock ‘n’ roll and even a few disco numbers to their repertoire of pop and jazz standards. 

But even so, these dances dwindled down to once a month, then to once or twice a summer before the music virtually stopped altogether. 

Now comes the Seal Harbor Boys, who intend to usher in a new era of dinner and dance fun at the Asticou Inn, Wednesday, July 13. 

Before the pandemic hit, this musical quintet of 60-something summer and winter MDI residents who have been jamming together for more than 15 years, had been making the rounds of the island’s clubs, bars, restaurants and anywhere else where they could plug in a few mikes and maybe find a scrap of floor for dancing.  

Last summer, after missing two seasons of performing and missing each other’s musical company, the Seal Harbor Boys cautiously started rehearsing again and playing a few gigs.  

“People really seemed to like our 60-ish vibe,” says lead vocalist J.B. Harrison, making it clear he’s not talking about their ages.  

J.B., along with Bob Hipkens, Tom Newhall, Asa Phillips, David Putnam and drummer Beau Lisy, perform an impressive repertoire of danceable ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s tunes, including The Beatles, Dylan, the Stones, Roy Orbison, the Ronettes –well you name it – they likely have it in their song book, along with some of the old swing tunes their moms and dads used to foxtrot and jitterbug to back in the day. 

“We were playing at the Pot and Kettle in Bar Harbor last summer,” J.B. recalls, “when an old friend, who’s on the board of the Asticou Inn and who, like a lot of folks, have been missing the old dances, asked if we’d consider playing there this summer. 

“Well, yeah. Of course, were thrilled by the idea and even more thrilled now that it’s about to happen.  

“And as much as we have loved Mike Carney,” J.B. adds, “we think maybe now is the time for the Seal Harbor Boys.” 

This coming Wednesday will be their debut at the Asticou and they are hoping for a good turnout of people of all ages, summer, year-round and anyone else who likes to boogie down or just listen to some great pop and rock standards. 

The cost per person for the dance and buffet dinner, which will include a variety of seafood dishes, meats such as prime rib and chicken, pasta, cheeses, fruits, an array of salads and dessert pies and pastries, is $125. It is $50 for just the dance. 

Cocktails will be offered at the cash bar at 6 p.m., dinner will be at 7, with dancing from 7:45 to 11. 

“We are super excited to be offering this kind of fun event again at the Asticou,” says manager Scott Crowley. “I think after a couple of years of isolating ourselves, we are more than ready. 

“We’re really pulling out all the stops,” Crowley adds with considerable enthusiasm. “And I think people will be wowed when they step into the dining room and see what we’ve done with the food, the presentation and the décor.”  

Crowley indicates, depending on the success of this maiden relaunch, that he would like to see a new era for this sort of social event at the elegant old Asticou Inn. 

To reserve a place at the table and or on the dance floor, go to www.asticou.com and follow dinning and restaurant prompts or call (207) 276-3344. 

Nan Lincoln

Nan Lincoln

The former arts editor at the Bar Harbor Times writes reviews and feature stories for The Ellsworth American and Mount Desert Islander.
Nan Lincoln

Latest posts by Nan Lincoln (see all)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.