June 19, 2008
All aboard the annual Clearwater Festival
By John W. Barry
Sweeping views of the Hudson River, warm breezes, environmental awareness and the opportunity to see a folk music legend will all be on tap this weekend at the Clearwater Festival.
The annual two-day event, also known as the Great Hudson River Revival, is set for Croton Point Park in Westchester County.
Croton Point Park juts into the Hudson River, the environmental well-being of which inspired Fishkill resident and folk singing legend Pete Seeger to launch Clearwater, the Poughkeepsie-based environmental organization, decades ago.
Live music is an anchor of the festival. But so is environmental awareness and community spirit.
The festival will feature hands-on workshops and exhibits. The Green Living Expo will be composed of companies, firms and organizations showcasing “green” products and services. The activist area will offer visitors information about Hudson Valley environmental groups.
A press release from Clearwater pointed out this festival was “one of the country’s first ‘green festivals.’ ” Clearwater espoused environmental sensitivity and awareness decades before both became trendy or a pitch to attract customers.
Building on its legacy, Clearwater is aiming to generate “zero waste” by collecting all food waste for composting, using recyclable products and asking attendees to bring their own water. Also, the festival’s five performance stages will be powered entirely by sustainable energy that includes solar and biodiesel.
“You are coming to experience a virtual ‘world’s fair’ of environmental issues from global warming to Indian Point to zero-waste management,” festival Director Ron Aja said. “And you are supporting a cause that will continue to work for the environment.”
Musicians scheduled to perform are David Amram, a flute player who has performed with Willie Nelson and Jack Kerouac; The Felice Brothers; Gandalf Murphy & The Slambovian Circus of Dreams; Skatalites; The Sleepy Hollow String Band; Kevin So & Midnight Snack; family performers Hayes Greenfield and Uncle Rock, who will play separately; Cheryl Wheeler and others.
New to the festival is the “Circle of Gospel,” conceived by Seeger. Three gospel groups will take center stage simultaneously under a large tent, with three audience groups facing them. Each choir will take a turn singing, with the other choirs and audience members responding to their refrains.
This portion of the Clearwater Festival will have a decidedly Dutchess County flavor.
Among the groups performing will be The Six of Us, an a cappella group of six women from Poughkeepsie; Just Voices, an a cappella group of four men from Wappingers Falls; and The Higher Ground Band, a seven-member group from Wappingers Falls that performs gospel with a Caribbean flavor.
In 1966, Seeger “had the vision that the public would come to care for all of our threatened waterways by learning to care for one boat and one river,” according to http://www.clearwater.org.
The Sloop Clearwater was launched in 1969, and today serves as a movable classroom, laboratory, stage and forum.
Each year, nearly 13,000 children and adults board it for education sails that teach history, biology, environmental science and navigation along the Hudson River, New York Harbor and Long Island Sound.
For those interested in connecting with Seeger, this year he is scheduled to take part in a river blessing; an interview with Alan Chartock, president and CEO of Albany-based Northeast Public Radio/WAMC; and performance with Magpie and Pamela Means.