The Rosendale Street Festival returned to downtown Rosendale last weekend, July 15-16, drawing thousands of people who came to enjoy the food and vendors and listen to more than 80 local bands performing nonstop on six outdoor stages throughout the event. Music is definitely the focus of the festival, and all proceeds over and above the $55,000 cost of putting on the event benefits the music departments of the Kingston, New Paltz and Rondout Valley school districts. Proceeds help fund scholarships for area youth to attend music summer camps or music schools and provide instruments for qualified area students. Admission to the festival was free, but goodwill donations gratefully accepted.
The family-friendly festival run by volunteers takes place up and down Rosendale’s Main Street, closed to traffic and lined with vendors, who set up shop in the front yards of the buildings on the street to sell handmade soaps, clothing, jewelry and the like. The ubiquitous festival offering of henna tattoos were in evidence as was the opportunity to step inside the Carl Cox photo studio and take a free photo with a cement miner (mannequin). The weather cooperated, if a bit hot and humid, but at least the rain downpours of recent weeks stayed away.
Food trucks and stands sold every variation of festival fare, from Italian ices to pickles to fried ravioli, and there were several beer gardens. There was a kids’ drumming area and crafts for them to do along with a bouncy water slide and a street chalking section.
The original idea for the Rosendale Street Festival, back in 1978, was to showcase local musical talent and celebrate the birthday of Rosendale icon, Uncle Willy. There have been years the festival didn’t go on — last year was one of them, when water main work prevented the festivities — but that hasn’t stopped the event from becoming a tradition to residents of the town. Recent years have seen the festival draw as many as 30,000 attendees.
Music happens on the stages simultaneously, with acts playing about 50 minutes each before clearing the stage for the next. The stages are set apart enough so as to not interfere with each other too much.
The deck of the 1850 House hosted “unplugged” acts. Bands played the Midtown Stage set up by the post office and fire station and the Mountain Stage in Willow Kiln Park behind the Rosendale Theatre. There was the Creekside Stage toward the banks of the Rondout with the Café Stage on the grounds of the Rosendale Café. The section of Route 213 that was closed to traffic hosted the Canal Lock Stage with mostly family-friendly music. Two of the acts that performed on that stage, the Rosendale Improvement Association Brass Band and Social Club and the Percussion Orchestra of Kingston (POOK) led the Sunday closing parade at 5:30 p.m. back toward the Mountain Stage.
The Rosendale Theatre hosted free shows indoors, with the community choir Bloom performing on Saturday followed by the Woodstock Day School Filmfest and a screening from the Homeschool Film Club. On Sunday, the Rosendale Theatre presented a preview of Debbie Lan’s new pop opera, On a Midsummer’s Night, followed by the Youth Ensemble Theater’s performance.
The popularity of the event makes parking a real challenge, but UCAT’s free shuttle buses saved the day, making a 14-minute continuous loop between several parking locations to take festival-goers to and from the festivities all day and night. The festival opened at noon both days and went until 9 p.m. on Saturday and 7 p.m. on Sunday.
Organizers say the event helps boost the local economy in the process of bringing together the community. Local musicians, who all play for free, get exposure.