To my ever-growing list of local treasures that we Hudson Valley residents tend to take for granted, I must add the Hudson River Sloop Clearwater’s Great Hudson River Revival. More colloquially familiar as the “Clearwater Festival,” it has been for decades one of the premier summer gatherings in the country for hearing every imaginable flavor of folk, acoustic, roots and world music – not to mention storytelling, kids’ music, participatory dancing and puppet theatre.
Since its mid-1960s roots as a series of “folk picnics” organized by Pete Seeger to raise money for his dream of building a replica of a historic Hudson River sloop to ply the river raising public consciousness about the state of the environment, the Clearwater Festival has proven irresistible on two levels. You go to Croton Point Park on Fathers’ Day weekend to hear the big-name performers who invariably turn out to pay homage to Pete, and you end up stumbling upon great performances by all sorts of obscure acts who quickly join your roster of personal favorites.
Maybe it’s because we’re all aware that the seemingly indestructible Mr. Seeger, now 93, can’t stick around forever, but this year’s Clearwater Festival lineup is a knockout. I’ll mention some of the headliners and let you discover the amazing second- and third-stringers for yourself:
This Saturday, June 16, the show ends with an extravaganza marking Woody Guthrie’s 100th birthday starring his son Arlo, other members of the Guthrie clan and whoever happens to sit in (there’s always a lot of unannounced-musical-guests at the Clearwater fest). Leading up to that finale you can hear Tom Paxton, Tom Chapin, Guy Davis, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Tinariwen, Arm-of-the-Sea Theater, the Punch Brothers featuring Chris Thile, Jay Ungar and Molly Mason, Josh Ritter, Tim O’Brien, David Amram with Raffi, Joan Osborne and the Holmes Brothers, Jesse Lége and Bayou Brew, Béla Fleck and Donna the Buffalo. That’s just one day’s worth, folks, and if you keep rotating among the many stages you can catch a lot more, such as a jug band jam or a workshop of songs arising out of the Occupy Movement.
Moving on to Sunday, June 17, Ani Di Franco wraps up the weekend, but ahead of her evening set will come performances by Sara Watkins, Holly Near, the Klezmatics, Amy Helm’s band Ollabelle, Balkan Beat Box, Peter Yarrow, Toshi Reagon, more David Amram, Brave Combo, Loudon Wainwright III, Jill Sobule, Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys, Martin Sexton and scads of others. Surely Dad can find someone on that list to justify a grand outing for Fathers’ Day.
The music begins at 11 a.m. each day at the Clearwater Festival and officially runs until about 9 p.m. on Saturday and 8 p.m. on Sunday. But I can certainly remember years when it went on much later – like the time when the Paul Winter Consort finished its set on the Summer Solstice with “Wolf Eyes,” and the audience went on howling at the Full Moon for a good long while after the performers left the stage. Summer magic and the smell of honeysuckle lingered in the air, and nobody really wanted to go home.
This Friday, June 15, is your last chance to purchase tickets in advance at discounted prices. Clearwater members get a special price break, but general admission in advance costs $75 per day, $120 for the full weekend. At the gate, tickets cost $85 per day and $150 for both days. A weekend pass that includes camping goes for $200. Seniors age 65 and over, students and the disabled get a 15 percent discount, and kids age 12 and under get in free. To purchase, visit
www.clearwater.org/festival/tickets.html, and to peruse the full schedule, visit www.clearwater.org/festival/schedules.html#Sunday.
Check with Metro-North for special package prices, as the festival site is within walking distance of the Croton-Harmon station. Also, bear in mind that Croton Point Park doesn’t offer a lot in the way of shade, so wear a hat and stay well-hydrated. There’s plenty of food and drink for sale at the site, and most folks bring a blanket or lawn chair for seating. Pets, except for working service dogs, are not admitted.