Good news: The Rosendale Street Festival will be back this month! And this time around, it only missed one year. That hasn’t always been the case. Although the fest is nearly four decades old, having first appeared in 1978, no one seems to be quite sure what to call this year’s version, in terms of being the how-many-th. The 39th anniversary certainly doesn’t make for the 39th annual edition. There was quite a long hiatus in the waning years of the 20th century, but the flame never entirely went out in the hearts of the event’s originators. Festival co-chair and bass-player extraordinaire Charlie Kniceley, for instance, has been involved pretty much from the beginning. So has Billy Liggan, and Liggan Insurance continues to be a major business sponsor of the Festival. Even Jeanne Walsh, now Rosendale’s town supervisor, was a regular volunteer back in the early days, when Tiny Tim was a featured performer and everyone went around bedecked in tee-shirts resembling burlap sacks for Rosendale Cement.
There was a long time when the Festival sought to attract national acts to perform, but those days are gone. The mid-Hudson Valley is simply too rich in local talent for it to be worth spending the money on bringing in big-ticket names. In fact, all the bands — more than 80 of them this year — play for free, and are happy to be asked. It’s that kind of a feel-good community event.
It wasn’t lack of enthusiasm that prevented the Rosendale Street Festival from manifesting in 2016; it was aging infrastructure. Main Street’s water main, more than a century old, needed replacement badly, and funding was available from New York State to make it happen. Construction season coincides with street festival season, so the latter didn’t happen. But now the work is complete, Main Street has been beautifully repaved and downtown Rosendale is ready to party hardy.
The sort-of-annual event spans two days, this year July 15 and 16. Music happens on multiple stages simultaneously, strung along Main Street at intervals wide enough not to interfere too much with one another. A new one has been added for 2017: the deck of the 1850 House, which will be dedicated to “unplugged” acts. Beginning at 1 p.m. on Saturday, the new venue will host Greg Gondek, the Too Lazy Boys, Mr. E, Brittani O’Hearn, Stephanie St. John and Bruce Sconzo. On Sunday from 1 p.m. on, the 1850 Deck Stage will feature Melinda DiMaio, Ciarra Fragale, Ian Flanigan, Ami Madeleine and Seth Davis.
The Midtown Stage, near the post office and fire station, gets going at noon on Saturday with New Paltz Rock presenting Ashes of the Phoenix, followed by iS, the Kurt Henry Band, the Victoria Levy Band, Clouds, J. K. Vanderbilt, Kyle & the Pity Party and Brothers’ Choice. On Sunday, there’s a noon gospel kickoff with the God’s Word Worship Band, then Wally Nichols, the Street Fest All-Stars, Les Vegas and the Big Heavy, Dylan Doyle and Joey Eppard.
The Mountain Stage is located in Willow Kiln Park, behind the municipal parking lot behind the Rosendale Theatre. The Saturday lineup, beginning at noon, includes Pete Santora & the Repetes, Songs of Solomon, the Other Brothers, Protius, Pour la Terre, Tulula, the Salted Brothers, Lara Hope & the Ark-Tones and Hobo Jungle. Sunday will feature Los Thujones, Red Neckromancer, Mr. Kick, Susan Said, Cold Flavor Repair, Pitchfork Militia and Shadow Witch.
Follow Snyder Avenue down toward the banks of the Rondout and you’ll find the Creekside Stage. There, on Saturday, the bands will include Paid Vacation, Romona Lane, Purple K’nif, David Kraai & the Saddle Tramps, the Red Goat Vandals, Billy Manas and Friends, the Robert Cahill Band and the Templars of Doom. Sunday’s Creekside offerings include Magick Mooka, Christine and Elliot Spero, the Nathans, County Hell, the Horned Angels and Mama’s Little Helper.
Heading westward, one comes across the Café Stage — on the grounds of the Rosendale Café, naturally. Saturday’s lineup includes Dylan Emmet, Datura, BobKat, Hudson’s Crew, Jim Barbaro, 5j Barrow, Soulia and the Sultans, Journeyblueheaven and the Rock City Riders. On Sunday, you can hear H, James Hearne, Marji Zintz with the Acquaintances, Mars America, Fat Mink and the D Squared Band.
At the farthest-west section of Route 213 that’s closed to traffic lies the Canal Lock Stage, where music for kids and families prevails for much of the day. Saturday’s performances include the Young Artists’ Showcase, Dog on Fleas, For No One, Max’s New Hat, the Wild Irish Roses, the B’2s, Sheila Dee & the Dazzlers and the Dust Bowl Fairies. The Sunday lineup begins once again with a Young Artists’ Showcase, followed by Carole White and Fre Atlast, Breakneck Annie, M’Bollo, Gus Mancini’s Soul Soul Band and the Trancini Tribal Drummers and the Rosendale Improvement Association Brass Band and Social Club and POOK (the Percussion Orchestra of Kingston). The latter two ensembles will lead the Sunday closing parade at 5:30 p.m. back toward the Mountain Stage.
Besides all six of these outdoor venues, the Rosendale Theatre will also host free shows indoors on both afternoons. The community choir Bloom will perform at 3 p.m. on Saturday, followed at 5 p.m. by the Woodstock Day School Film Fest and a screening from the Homeschool Film Club. On Sunday at 1 p.m., the Theatre will present a preview of Debbie Lan’s new original pop opera, On a Midsummer’s Night, and the Youth Ensemble Theater will perform at 4 p.m.
The Rosendale Street Festival will also include lots of food and craft vendors, multiple beer gardens and, it is rumored, a flash mob or two. Admission is free, but do come prepared to throw some money in a bucket to help keep this great community tradition going strong. “The Festival is a donation-driven event that needs the support of everyone,” explains co-chair Carrie Wykoff. “It costs a lot of money to produce something this size, even though the committee members and musicians all donate their time and talent. To keep the Festival alive, we ask everyone to be generous when you enter the Festival and give what you can.”
The biggest challenge for attendees is where to park, if you must arrive by car. On both July 15 and 16, Main Street will be closed to traffic for setup beginning at 10:30 a.m., with music beginning on most stages at noon. The Festival will end at 9 p.m. on Saturday and 7 p.m. on Sunday. Surrounding neighborhoods can’t accommodate much in the way of on-street parking, so UCAT will be providing shuttles from the following parking areas: the Bloomington Firehouse, the old Tillson School, the Brookside School, the Rondout Municipal Center on Lucas Avenue and the Iron Mountain Kiln lot, to the left of the Iron Mountain main entrance on Binnewater Road. If you live within bicycling distance (such as New Paltz – it’s about a 13-mile round trip), consider taking the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail!
Most of all, come prepared to hear some great sounds in every conceivable musical genre and to have a lot of fun. To learn more about the event or to volunteer, visit www.rosendalestreetfestival.org.