Woodstock honors its volunteers and lights up the sky

We’re counting down to what’s been a highlight of the Woodstock summer for almost a decade now: a magic stretch of hours, beginning around noon Saturday, August 18, when the community celebrates those who give their time to make this burg buzz via the Volunteers Day town picnic, complete with music, kids activities (including bouncy houses) and plenty of formal kudos from town and other officials; the start of Rennie Cantine’s annual Guitar Festival, complete with  a late afternoon concert featuring some of Woodstock’s best; the handing out of the annual Alf Evers Award to a noted Woodstock volunteer of many years’ activity at 8 p.m.; and finally the Woodstock Fire Department’s annual $10,000 fireworks bash.

That’s quite a handful (and mouthful) of activities…but it’s all made doable by the fact that it all takes place in one spot, on the town’s Andy Lee Field, next to the Woodstock Community Center on Rock City Road.

“Have you seen the Emergency Rescue Squad or the fire companies in action? Have you needed them? Have you been on the Village Green and enjoyed the gardens? Isn’t it heartening that we have Family of Woodstock, Daily Bread Soup Kitchen, Hospice, Woodstock Area Meals on Wheels, and the Food Pantry? Have you seen a performance at PAW, or Shakespeare in the park? Have you been to Christmas Eve on the Green? Have you admired the view at the Zena Cornfield? Woodstock Artists Association & Museum, Little League, Soccer League, Angel Food East, Habitat for Humanity, Woodstock Loan Closet and many more. As a community, we are very fortunate,” is what Volunteers Day, which is the bottom line for this Saturday’s big hoopla, is all about. “Volunteer’s Day is a day in which the members of our community come together to celebrate the fact that we have such wonderful neighbors. This is an opportunity to help us all remember what is good about our community. We are reminded everyday of the considerable acts of kindness and personal generosity that our volunteers offer us on a daily basis, never asking to be thanked. On Volunteers’ Day, the volunteers are the ‘Guests of Honor.’ This is our community’s expression of gratitude. A community should never take its volunteers for granted.”


Things will kick off (after a lot of volunteer scurrying around in the early morning hours, setting up the field for the day — hopefully without any rain) around noon, when the vols get served a donated meal catered by Woodstock’s many open-hearted eateries.

Of course, people can show up earlier to help out with set up…and to cash in on the good vibes the big picnic’s become known for.

Music for the afternoon starts with Pfleging & Wemp, showing their guitar prowess, at 1 p.m.; a Zumba in Woodstock dance demonstration at 1:30 p.m.; the Boyerstock Band All Stars at 2 p.m., the Lindsey Webster Band, an r&b favorite of the community, at 2:15 p.m.; Blue Food (jazz that you can’t stay still to) at 3 p.m., Zumbi Zumbi (Latin, rhythm & blues music) at 4 p.m.; and the JV Squad Band, doing dance and rock harmonies, at 5 p.m.

The Art Bus will be there along with jumpie houses and kids from the Mid Hudson Juggling Club…as well as three big tents just in case it does drizzle a little…and literally hundreds of balloons.

Following the 8th Annual Volunteers’ Day’s official end around 6 p.m., hometown hero and jack-of-almost-every-trade Rennie Cantine will bring forth the third part of this year’s 12th Annual Woodstock Guitar Festival with his always growing, clamorous, high-octave fun and simply damned good Guitar All-Stars, along with a host of special guests (including the band Stonedeaf) being wrangled from everyone in town as we went to press this week.

The Guitar Fest started up in May this year with a special Concert on the Green and after-party concert at Harmony Café, and then continued with the putting up of this year’s eye-turning batch of guitar sculptures around town and a June 30 celebration of the 40 artists and their creations at Sweetheart Gallery. The whole kit and caboodle rumbles to a raucous chapter next weekend, on Saturday, August 25, when an auction of the guitar sculptures takes place at the Bearsville Theater hosted by Cherwin Auctioneers.

This week’s concert at Andy Lee after the Volunteer’s picnic, runs from 6 p.m. to dusk, Saturday.

At 8:00 p.m. on Saturday evening, just prior to the fireworks at Andy Lee Field, the recipient of the annual Alf Evers Award for Volunteer of the Year will be announced. The award, which honors the memory of Alf Evers and all he gave to Woodstock, goes each year to that person, who, over the course of their life time, has dedicated themselves to giving back to their fellow Woodstockers. This year’s recipient will be the eighth such Woodstocker to receive the award. Recipients have included Andre Neher, Duncan Wilson, Mescal Hornbeck, the Maclary family, Kathy Longyear, and Ralph Goneau over the years…and is picked by a committee of local residents with a keen eye for local life, and what really makes the community click.

And then, around 9 p.m., when the skies darken enough, Woodstock is treated to its annual amazing fireworks show. The ground shakes, as you sit on the field, looking up at the blazing sky. It runs until the last hosannah’s blasted skywards. The town is treated to this by the Woodstock Fire Department, and has become one of the local traditions, running for, oh, a couple of decades now. Fireworks on the fourth of July? Not in Woodstock. Here it comes at the end of grand day of celebration.