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The Fourth of July holiday weekend has a long tradition of bringing together families and friends to celebrate American independence and freedom. For thousands of music aficionados in the region, this annual ritual of gathering always leads them back to the same place: The Great Blue Heron Music Festival.
For nearly three decades, this “family reunion of epic proportions” has been a destination for music fans of all ages. While festival co-founders Julie Rockcastle and David Tidquist make minor adjustments to their well-seasoned recipe each year, the feast they create remains consistent: To serve up a weekend of music and dance in a loving environment and to foster an inclusive community where strangers feel like friends, friends feel like family, and everyone feels at home.
Shouts of “Happy Heron” greet all that arrive at the Chautauqua County farm where Julie and her husband Steve raise grass-fed cows and organic shitake mushrooms alongside a growing number of events throughout the year (see www.theheron.org for a complete list). Many have come to the Great Blue Heron Festival since its humble beginnings in 1992 and now return with children and grandchildren. And while not everyone is related, there is a strong sense that everyone can relate.
In between featured musical performances on three stages, there are an endless number of opportunities to experience the vibe that attracts this tribe; Learn the zydeco two-step in the Dance Tent, join in on a fiddle or drumming workshop at the Teen Tent, swap stories at the Café in the Woods, jump in the mystic waters of the spring-fed pond, or create colorful crafts in the vibrant kids’ area.
Returning to the music lineup for their 27th consecutive year is Donna the Buffalo, whose earthy brand of American roots and reggae-tinged rock provides a familiar soundtrack to each year’s festivities. They are slated to release their 10th album later this summer.
New to the lineup this year is Yep Rock recording artists The Felice Brothers, the Hudson Valley quartet whose bohemian blend of folksy roots, rural blues, and American rock have carried them through decade of touring and recording success, including appearances at the Newport Folk Festival and Bonnaroo.
Among the national touring acts making their return this year are the Suitcase Junket, a one-man garage band from Central Massachusetts whose rig is made from junkyard parts; Driftwood, the Binghamton-based Americana rock quintet that is quickly becoming a festival favorite from coast-to-coast; and Vancouver Celt-rockers The Town Pants, whose legendary live show has been burning down stages all the way from Ottawa to Oslo.
Western New York’s music scene is well represented with two jewels from Rochester: Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad and Danielle Ponder & the Tomorrow People; Three road-tested bands from Ithaca: The Gunpoets, The Blind Spots, and Bobby Henrie & the Goners; and Chautaqua County’s own Smackdab, The Probables, and Cold Lazarus.
For tickets and more information, go to http://www.greatblueheron.com