Newburgh Illuminated Festival fêtes city’s sesquicentennial

newburgh bayQuestion: Where can you go to hear 12 hours of live music, delve into foods ethnic and sublime, visit bona fide American historical sites, shop arts and crafts ‘til you drop and bask in the company of thousands of your friends and neighbors? Hint: that spot on the Hudson where George Washington hung out, where commerce once reigned and where the cultural scene is now poised for a major revival – one that will bring on a vibrant street scene surrounded by inspired and safe neighborhoods.
The third annual Newburgh Illuminated Festival marks the city’s 150th anniversary. It’s an all-day, free-to-the-public event set to shine a spotlight on one of the most diverse communities in the Hudson Valley by showcasing its food, music, art and history. From 11 a.m. until midnight, the City of Newburgh will celebrate itself and welcome visitors from all over the State of New York and beyond to partake of its special vibe. With thousands of attendees expected to fill the historic downtown area overlooking the Hudson River, streets and sidewalks will be crowded with vendors, kids’ activities, pop-up artworks and lots of colorful music. Meanwhile, a trolley tour will familiarize folks with the area’s significant historical locations: the properties, parks and homes that originally put the town on the map.
Some say that Newburgh lies in the very heart of the Hudson Valley, midway between New York City and Albany. Incorporated in 1865, it boasts a rich history of architecture – we’re talking about Downing, Olmsted, Vaux and other notable American architects – and one of notable residents as well. George Washington did indeed sleep here at his Revolutionary War Headquarters, our nation’s first designated historic site. It was here that the general refused the efforts of some to have him declared king. Peace and independence were declared here in 1783 on the lawn of the Hasbrouck House, and the Federalist Papers that prompted the US Constitution were written by Alexander Hamilton here.
On Saturday, Interpretive Programs assistant Aaron Robinson will talk to visitors about that era in the program “Capturing Our Past: Visiting Washington’s Headquarters in the Mid/Late 19th Century.” Open to the public since 1850, the site is a visual clue to our nation’s very beginnings. Robinson’s talk will be held at Washington’s Headquarters State Historic Site twice on Saturday, at 11a.m. and 2 p.m., and again on Sunday at 2 p.m. Robinson will describe how the purchase of the property by New York State initiated the saving of other historical landmarks.
The Newburgh Historical Society will open the historic Captain David Crawford House between 1 and 4 p.m. on Saturday to welcome the public for guided tours through the 1830 structure and to see the recently opened exhibit “Growing up in Newburgh,” which includes photographs of families out and about in the various neighborhoods of the city in the19th and 20th centuries. Other collected artifacts maintained in the Crawford House represent smatterings of history from before Henry Hudson’s voyage up the river through Newburgh’s phases of growth from village to city as a prospering shipping, transportation and industrial hub. Purchased in 1954 to save it from being demolished, the Neoclassical home at 189 Montgomery Street, now the Society’s headquarters, was indicative of Crawford’s stature as a civic leader and successful maritime entrepreneur. The Crawford House is typically open for tours on Sunday afternoons. During the Newburgh Illuminated festival, admission is free.
Other sites on the trolley tour include the North Plank Tavern and the Ritz Theater, where I Love Lucy debuted and where stars such as Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, Xavier Cugat, the Ink Spots and Bill “Bojangles” Robinson performed. One of the first stops will be at the Newburgh Free Library, where horticulturalists can ooohh and aahh at “Spotlight”: a Standard Flower Show presented by the Marlborough-on-Hudson Garden Club.
Newburgh is nothing if not an eclectic population of residents, internationally recognized artists and musicians and innovative small businesses and makers. The Festival will feature a marketplace of Hudson Valley artisans, small businesses and community partners offering distinctive handicrafts and unique gift items including jewelry, home décor, vintage items, sweets and treats, designer items, health and beauty products and much more. The World of Food will feature authentic Peruvian, Ecuadorian, Dominican and Mexican staples, along with Indian delicacies, Jamaican specialties and more. Expect plenty of Hudson Valley farm-to-table samplings, Newburgh originals, vegetarian options and hot dogs, too, along with fresh baked goods and iced treats.
On the art scene, downtown storefronts will showcase light installations and the works of local artisans in windows and pop-up galleries. And visitors will meet contemporary local artists in open studio visits, too. Trestle, Inc. will present the Chalk Artist Expo, an opportunity for artists to create chalk art paintings on Broadway for thousands of people to see and photograph. And a special place at the festival will be set up for young visitors. At the Children’s Corner, expect carnival games, bouncy houses, outdoor craft- and jewelrymaking, ring and beanbag toss and horseshoe competition. For the older set, rowing demonstrations and instruction by the Newburgh Rowing Club, rock sculptures, giant Jenga® and more. Finally, “Lots of Color, Everywhere” will celebrate – some say rather wildly – the colorful diversity of Newburgh, so be ready to experience the practice of Indian Holi. And participate in the Yoga Mela, a collaborative yoga retreat featuring Hudson Valley instructors who will teach classes of their specialty throughout the day.
Now let’s talk about the music. Over two dozen genres and musical interests will be featured throughout the day on four separate stages within the five-block consolidated Festival. Visitors can hear reggae, rock, soul, funk, metal, gospel, jazz, punk, ska, electronic, hip hop, Indian and folk, performed by local and internationally renowned artists. Headlining the musical agenda are Newburgh native Saul Williams and Grammy-winner Corey Glover of Living Colour fame. Williams, a rap artist pioneer, is fresh from a stint on the Tupac Shakur Broadway inspired Holler If Ya Hear Me. He brought Newburgh to the national stage when he appeared on the Colbert Report in 2014 to talk about his portrayal of Tupac Shakur’s music as a window into life in the inner city.
The Main Stage will be hosted by performance artist/poet/songwriter/producer/entrepreneur Poet Gold, a/k/a Bettina “Gold” Wilkerson. In approximate order of performance beginning at 11:30 and ending at 12:45 a.m.: Breakneck Annie (old-timey traditional folk), Doctor Magkneetow Medicine Show (classic rock), Kid Audra (electronic), Conjunto Intenso (Latin), Martyr Art (alternative metal), a welcome-to-Newburgh/thanks-to-sponsors-and-volunteers talk by mayor Judy Kennedy from 4 to 4:30 p.m., Decora (hip hop), the Slim Kings (blues/rock), the Funk Junkies (funk), Corey Glover (soul/rock), Saul Williams (deaf poet jam fusion rock) and Attn: Dfct (electronic dance).
On the Second Stage, see Color Fest featuring live musical performances from Gaura Vani and the Juggernauts (kirtan/mantra music/Indian dance), Freaky Baby Daddies (surfer rock), Five of the Eyes (fusion/rock) and Perfect Thyroid (funk/ska/punk).
On Stage Three will be the Black Dirt Bandits (country), Nate Sanders (pop/rock), Les Bicyclettes Blanches (French garage/psychedelic rock), the Dylan Doyle Band (blues/rock), Nick Sumner (acoustic singer/songwriter), Billy Badd and Base Camp (R & B), Corey Dandridge and SALT (gospel/soul), Entropy (hardcore), Gyre (metal) and Dead Empires (instrumental loud metal).
On Stage Four, hear Max Scialdone (acoustic alternative rock), the Big Takeover (reggae/ska/rocksteady), Dan Stokes (acoustic), 100andZero (punk), Michelle Sangalli (pop), Talking Machine (acoustic rock), Chuck Davis (classical hard rock guitar), Gregory Charlemagne (jazz singer/songwriter) and the Hunting Party (moderate rock). Performances will run continuously from noon to midnight at no charge to Festival attendees. Please note that stage times and performers are subject to change; check the website to confirm.

Newburgh Illuminated Festival, Saturday, June 20, 11 a.m.-midnight, free, Liberty Street/Broadway, Newburgh; www.newburghilluminatedfestival.com, www.facebook.com/newburghilluminated/info?tab=overview.

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