Rosendale likes to tout itself as the Festival Town, committed to a packed agenda of public events celebrating everything from Beltane to pickles. But the granddaddy of them all – the one that put Rosendale on the map, festwise – is celebrating its 35th anniversary this year: the two-day, six-stage Rosendale Street Festival, which returns this Saturday and Sunday, July 20 and 21 with 73 bands participating at last count. Although in its earliest incarnation in the late ‘70s and ‘80s, the Festival strove to bring in national “name” acts, with mixed results (Tiny Tim turned out not to be a huge draw, if memory serves), the new, improved version – reinstated after a multi-year hiatus in the ‘90s – has an avowed mission “to help support and expose people to the local music of our region.”
The Festival takes that focus seriously. Even though up-and-coming bands from farther afield clamor to participate, in spite of it being an unpaid gig, hardly any get onto the roster anymore. There just seems to be too much wealth of talent in Ulster County, playing music in practically every genre imaginable. You’ll likely recognize some of the names on deck for this weekend: Cleoma’s Ghost, Joey Eppard, The Big Takeover, Fuzzy Lollipop, Grenadilla, David Kraai, the Paul Luke Band, Myles Mancuso, Jonny Monster, Pitchfork Militia, the Sweet Clementines, Voodelic.
But take a peek at the band bios on the Rosendale Street Festival website at https://rosendalestreetfestival.ning.com/page/bands-1 and you’ll quickly discover that even groups that you think you’ve never heard of yet have members who are veteran stars of the mid-Hudson music scene: Dan Uttendorfer in Biggy and Itchy, Jason Sarubbi in the Spiral Up Kids and Lyn Hardy in the Cupcakes are just a few names that jump out right away. Other performers are true talented unknowns, the stars of tomorrow just waiting to be discovered.
Rosendale is a pretty small community, with a “downtown” only a few blocks long, winding along between the foot of Joppenbergh Mountain and the Rondout Creek. The stages are set far enough apart for the sound not to bleed over noticeably, but close enough together that you can wander from end to end to catch whatever act tickles your fancy without getting footsore. In between you’ll find lots else to do, checking out street vendors, joining a drum circle, quaffing a pint at a beer garden or munching a tasty walkable snack. There will be craft tables to keep the kids happily occupied making flags, musical instruments and jewelry, and free repeat screenings of the Reel Expressions Youth Film Festival at the Rosendale Theatre – a cool retreat right in the midst of the action.
Main Street Rosendale (Route 213) closes to automobile traffic from 10:30 a.m. both days until 9 p.m. on Saturday and 7 p.m. on Sunday. The music starts at 12 noon, kicking off on Saturday with a parade led by Arts of Brazil’s Berimbau & Pandeiro Orchestra, setting out from the Rosendale Library. The Rosendale Improvement Association Brass Band and Social Club will lead the end-of-street-fest celebration parade from the Canal Lock Stage to Willow Kiln Park at 5:45 p.m. on Sunday, and everyone is invited to bring an instrument and join in. Voodelic will close out the Festival with a performance at the Mountain Stage.
Admission to the Rosendale Street Festival is free, but donations are encouraged ($5 per person suggested) to keep the event going from year to year. Any extra money raised will be donated to charities providing music camp scholarships for needy local kids and adapted musical instruments for kids with disabilities.
Shuttle buses run continuously to the site from parking lots at the Bloomington Firehouse, the Tillson School, the Brookside School, the Rosendale Elementary School and the Iron Mountain Kiln lot. Bicycle racks will be provided at either end of Main Street, and this will be the first year that cyclists from both north and south can cross the newly renovated trestle over the Rondout on the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail. For driving directions, a full schedule of performers and other details, please visit https://www.rosendalestreetfestival.org.
Rosendale Street Festival, Saturday, July 20, 12 noon-9 p.m., Sunday, July 21, 12 noon-7 p.m., free/donation, Main Street, Rosendale; https://www.rosendalestreetfestival.org.