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Music Meets Environment At Clearwater Revival Festival

Pete Seeger's Hudson River cleanup project turns 30

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Thirty years ago, a small group of clean-water enthusiasts, including American balladeer Pete Seeger, put together a Sunday picnic to start work on cleaning up the Hudson River. This year, the Clearwater Great Hudson River Revival Festival attracted more than 12,000 participants last weekend.

"If I see that people are participating, then I consider it a success," Mr. Seeger says, seated in the performers' area, bouncing granddaughter Penny on his knee.

Spread out on the wooded Hudson Valley campus of Westchester Community College in Valhalla, N.Y., the festival's atmosphere combines a music revival mixed with a block party. "We've always gotten a good family crowd," Seeger adds, handing Penny to Toshi, his wife of 52 years.

For 12 years, the Hudson Valley Folk Picnic raised money to restore and operate the Sloop Clearwater, a full-size replica of the early wooden ships that traveled the Hudson. The boat now stops along the riverbank at towns where more than 15,000 schoolchildren, as well as adults, learn about environmental issues each year. That one-day, noon-to-dusk event in 1965 has expanded.

"It was music-centered, but gradually we've broadened it to include more dancing, more arts and crafts, some wonderful exotic foods, as well as exhibits. And, of course, ice cream," Seeger says.

At this year's festival, children held a cardboard "cloud" over a solar panel to control the flow of a water fountain, sat enthralled as they listened to Japanese folk tales, or threw water balloons during a riotous children's show.

All the while, from 11 a.m. until just before sunset, all kinds of music rolls out from under seven striped-tent stages, filling the air with the rousing sounds of rural bluegrass, the sway of Zydeco, old-fashioned tunes from the 1940s, old and new folk songs, hot Latino rhythms, and cool jazz. Past events have featured a range of artists, from Suzanne Vega and Livingston Taylor to Marilyn Horne. The first-night audience this year clapped their hands to the magnetic performance of Richie Havens.


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