Morse Rocks Festival set for June

Ian Flanigan performs at a previous festival

Ian Flanigan performs at a previous festival

In a sports community like Saugerties, there are plenty of chances for the athletically gifted to shine, but fewer for the artistic. Morse Elementary School teacher Joe Defino established the Morse Rocks festival for the latter.

Now in its third year, the festival brings national and local talent to the stage. At present, there are 23 acts scheduled for the two-day festival, including national recording artists Waylon Speed and Bow Thayer and local artists Carl Mateo and the Paul Green Rock Academy. Defino says it is a unique opportunity for students to showcase their skills alongside well known professional musicians, and learn from them. Between musical sets, there will be poetry readings, dance performances and comedy routines. Local and student artwork will be on display.

This year it will take place at the Smokin’ Pony BBQ on Kings Highway, June 19–20.


In response to the past success of the festival, and in anticipation of even larger crowds in the future, Defino says he dreams of building a three-season outdoor amphitheater on the Morse property. The amphitheater, which he hopes to name after longtime arts and music teacher Dennis Jones, would give students and professionals a permanent place to showcase their talents for the community. “The project is a few years off, but the success of this festival begs for the structure to be built,” says Defino.

Tickets may be purchased online at Donations to the creation of the amphitheater may be made at the website, too.

Defino is also seeking sponsors for the festival. There are four levels of sponsorship available, ranging in cost from $100 to $1,000. Each level includes its own set of perks, including weekend passes and advertisement in the program, merchandise or on stage. Defino estimates the cost for putting the event together at $6,500. Anyone interested in becoming sponsors can email Defino at