3000 attend Saugerties music fest launched to combat suicide and depression

(Photos by Phyllis McCabe)

Despite heavy rains and wind, some 3,000 people attended the second annual Hope Rocks Festival, Aug. 18-19 at the Cantine Veteran’s Memorial Complex, doubling last year’s inaugural 2017 Hope Rocks Festival attendance. Hope Rocks Festival annually offers a weekend of hope to those suffering with addiction, depression and suicide.

“Hope is difficult in the eye of the storm,” said Hope Rocks Founder and Organizer Joe Defino, Saugerties elementary school teacher and lifelong resident. “We experienced that firsthand with Saturday’s heavy rains and winds, but we stayed focused and determined — and thousands of festival goers helped us to illuminate the darkness of despair.”

The aim of the Hope Rocks Festival is to shine a light on the darkness of addiction and suicide with onsite counseling, personal experience presentations and a myriad of activities that included live musical performances across multiple stages and wide spectrum of musical genres, including Grammy Award winner Mike Farris, Wild Adriatric and Saugerties native Ian Flanigan; a motorcycle “rumble”; 20-mile and 5-mile bike-a-thon; walk-a-thon; softball; volleyball; basketball; tennis; pickleball; human foosball; an art exhibition and, crafters; and a children’s area with U Can Be on TV game show contest, face painting and petting zoo.


Hope Rocks began last year after Defino experienced in less than four years 11 of his former students dying from suicide stemming from addiction and despair. That number grew to 13 former students in 2018. 

With festival sponsors including the Sawyer Automotive Foundation, Sunshine Orthodontics, Ulster Savings Bank and Raising Your Awareness about Narcotics (RYAN) among others, Defino and some 70 volunteers — almost each of whose lives has been touched by suicide and addiction — offered an environment of acceptance and community at the festival.

“Hope,” added Defino, “is the most powerful force in the universe. Hope Rocks — the only festival of its kind in the world — illuminates and educates while supporting those in need.”

For more information, see hoperocksny.com, as well as Hope Rocks Facebook and Instagram pages.

Members of New Life Church of Saugerties offered counseling services.

Columbia-Greene Clubhouses booth encouraged visitors to paint positive message stones.