The works of legendary folk musician and activist Pete Seeger (left) and Clearwater Festival founder Bob Killian (right) are celebrated during the 40th anniversary edition of the annual free music and environmental education event, coming to Brookdale Community College for the first time on Saturday, September 12. Killian returns to Monmouth County for the occasion, as well as a September 13 event honoring Seeger’s legacy, at the Unitarian Meetinghouse in Lincroft. (Photo by Mike Berry)
From press materials furnished by New Jersey Friends of Clearwater
It began back in the mid-1970s, as a free festival of music, food and environmental awareness; hosted at the Fort Hancock area of Sandy Hook and sponsored by the organization then called Monmouth County Friends of Clearwater. Inspired by the work of the iconic folk singer and pioneer activist Pete Seeger and his Hudson River excursions with the sloop Clearwater — and founded by Bob Killian, a Shore-based singer and songwriter best known for his hyperlocal anthem “I Like The Jersey Shore” — the all-volunteer Clearwater Festival has soldiered on through the years in several locations, most recently at Long Branch’s Pier Village.
On Saturday, September 14, the re-branded New Jersey Friends of Clearwater presents the milestone 40th annual edition of the summertime event; a one-day happening that unfolds at a brand new host venue: the Larrison Hall Commons area at Lincroft’s Brookdale Community College. Dedicated to the pioneering efforts of Seeger (who passed away last year at age 94) and Killian (whose return to Monmouth County for the occasion is a highlight of this year’s festival), Clearwater 2015 is an eight-hour burst of activity (11 am – 7 pm) that promises three stages’ worth of live music, kids’ activities, arts and crafts vendors, environmentally themed informational displays, and plenty of free parking on the sprawling BCC campus.
More than 3,000 attendees are expected to enjoy the sounds and sights at this year’s free-admission Festival, with donations and proceeds from vendor sales benefitting the ongoing programs of the nonprofit NJ Clearwater organization — a year-round slate of activity that includes a Traveling Environmental Festival program that’s brought its message to an estimated 35,000 New Jersey schoolchildren in recent years. Other regular public offerings of the Clearwater group include a monthly Circle of Song event at the Eatontown Community Center, and all-welcome committee meetings at which input is welcome toward the Friends’ ongoing efforts to preserve and maintain the region’s coastal ecosystems.
Then there’s “Pete’s Banjo” — a reproduction 19th-century era “garvey” boat that will play a role in the Clearwater organization’s educational and awareness endeavors as it travels the area’s waterways. The newly constructed craft is scheduled to be given an official launch ceremony on September 9, with details to be announced shortly on the org’s website.
Of course, the local-organic music has always been the Clearwater Festival component that’s made the most wonderful noise, with past editions boasting performances by Seeger himself, as well as NJ musical mainstays like Glen Burtnik and Pat DiNizio, and a certain unscheduled guy named Bruce who showed up looking for a gig one fine day. For the BCC event, guest of honor Killian headlines an eclectic roster that features the original pop of Middletown-based The Wag, the funk-jam sounds of veteran Poppa John Bug, globetrotting minstrel James Durst, plus local lights Ingrid Heidt, Dale Lakata, Jim Crawford and many others. A detailed breakdown of featured acts and stage schedules is expected to post soon on the Clearwater site.
Bob Killian sticks around Lincroft following the Festival for another event of interest on the afternoon of Sunday, September 13, when he headlines a “Pete’s Gang” celebration that salutes the life and music of Pete Seeger in story and song. Hosted at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Monmouth County on West Front Street, the 3 pm event promises the participation of members of Seeger’s Hudson River Sloop Singers, who worked with the master songsmith over the course of more than 40 years. Attendees are welcome to “bring a Seeger song” and take part in an open mic session at the conclusion of the event, for which admission ($10 adults; $5 kids 12 and under) is available at the door. Call (732)747-0707 for more info.
Sponsorships and donations of time and funds are always welcomed by the Clearwater volunteers, with details on supporting the Red Bank-based nonprofit available by calling (732)784-8547, or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.