Whenever there is an outdoor event, you are at the mercy of the weather. I’ve attended the Clearwater Festival, aka Clearwaters’ Great Hudson River Revival, when it was scorching hot and when it’s been a near washout, but 2013’s edition of the Clearwater Festival could not have been blessed with better weather. While rain threatened on Sunday, it never materialized and the event went off without a hitch.
Never before has the mixture of dirt, sweat and sunscreen smelled so sweet. There was an impressive turnout to witness two full days of music, arts and crafts from the local community and beyond. Walking from stage to stage, it’s easy to imagine that this was one of the most popular Clearwater Festivals in recent history. Against the backdrop of the mighty Hudson River, this gathering of cultures transformed Croton Point Park into a multifaceted celebration of artistic diversity. Children, teenagers, adults and the elderly all came together to witness the impressive performances over Father’s Day Weekend. I can’t think of many festivals with such a lively group of attendees. Not only that, but everyone got along, making friends with strangers throughout the weekend.
With so many talented performers, it’s hard to single any out, but Antibalas and Red Baraat shook the Rainbow Stage uncontrollably. You know the music is intense when people cannot fight the urge to dance. You always have the folks who will dance all the time, but when the people who are reluctant to dance get out of their chairs, you know you’ve got something. The Dance Tent was always stomping, whether it was the eclectic contra dance outfit Giant Robot Dance, the Cajun stylings of Jesse Lége & Bayou Brew, or the hot salsa of La Excelencia. Dancers switched gears from Zydeco to Western African pop to Klezmer one band at a time.
Activism prevails at Clearwater and this year’s festival was no different. Tents voicing concerns over hydraulic fracking, human rights violations, Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant, and more all presented their arguments with pamphlets and engaging discussion. The vendors, local and regional, offered a variety of crafts including handmade African clothing, musical instruments, and herbal soaps and salves. Artwork ranged from jewelry to paintings, each piece unique and original. Green energy and environmental sustainability are always big concerns at the festival and attendees learned about the benefits of solar power, composting and other environmentally beneficial practices.
The food was as varied as the lineup, with great offerings from every tent including plenty of vegetarian and vegan options. The free sails proved popular as ever on the Hudson and Sunday had some great wind for the boats. All in all, the festival was one of the best I’ve attended. The atmosphere was tremendous, the attitude of the people was friendly and warm, and the performers didn’t disappoint. If you’ve ever thought about going to the Clearwater Festival, quit thinking and go. Get ready for next year’s festival, because I’m sure it will be just as fun, exciting and full of spirit.