Nields headline inaugural Ridgefest in New Paltz

Nerissa and Katryna Nields

While the two organizations have shared facilities and co-promoted events for a number of years, the Ridgefest three-day arts and music festival represents the most ambitious collaboration to date between the School of Fine & Performing Arts at SUNY-New Paltz and the Unison Arts Center and Sculpture Garden. The Ridgefest lineup features music, dance and theater, including evening performances and family-oriented shows, all taking place at three venues on the New Paltz campus: Studley Theatre, Parker Theatre and McKenna Theatre.

A kickoff celebration takes place on Friday, September 6 at 6 p.m. in the Student Union Multipurpose Room. Honoring SUNY-New Paltz president Donald P. Christian and Unison founders Stuart and Helene Bigley for their support of the local arts scene, the party features music provided by student group Absolut A Cappella. Hors d’oeuvres and desserts are included with the ticket price, and there will be a cash bar.

Then the festival hits its stride, featuring performances by the contemporary folk act the Nields, indie rock from the Bonsai Trees, jazz and soul singer Raina Sokolov-Gonzalez, storyteller and musician David Gonzalez, the Afrocentric OKRA Dance Company and the flamenco trio Mario, Reynaldo and Niko Rincon. The weekend will also offer family-geared performances for kids and adults alike, including Firebird by the Puppet People, the one-man bubble comedy show Bubble Trouble with Jeff Boyer and celebrated contortionist Jeff Burns, who has appeared on America’s Got Talent, Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood and more.


Alexandra Baer, executive director of Unison, says that she is “very excited to bring world-class performances in a myriad of disciplines to a large audience outside of Unison’s famously intimate setting. Add to this our collaboration with the SUNY campus and you have a win/win for New Paltz and the entire Hudson Valley.” Jeni Mokren, dean of the School of Fine & Performing Arts, stressed the value of the synergy with Unison. “The School of Fine & Performing Arts is excited to expand our partnership with Unison Arts on Ridgefest,” she said. “The collaboration allows us to reach a broader audience and leverage our strengths to create a weekend’s worth of engaging events for audiences of all ages.”

Ridgefest comprises separately ticketed shows. For the full schedule of events and pricing information, visit

Ridgefest, Friday-Monday, Sept. 6-9, SUNY-New Paltz,