The Clearwater Festival is a “party with a purpose,” in the words of Ben Forest, environmental policy/coalitions liaison for the Red Bank-based nonprofit New Jersey Friends of Clearwater. And when the purpose is the care of the coast that’s our home, the mission remains the main attraction of the environmental awareness fair, which returns to Brookdale Community College for its 42nd annual edition this Saturday and Sunday.
But still — what a party!
Inspired by the work of the late folk music icon/ pioneer activist Pete Seeger and his Hudson River excursions with the sloop Clearwater — and founded by singer and songwriter Bob Killian — the outdoor perennial is equally about the music, having drawn the participation of Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Levon Helm, Jersey music legends Glen Burtnik and Pat (Smithereens) Di Nizio, a looking-for-a-gig troubador by the name of Bruce Springsteen, and the only man that the Boss called boss, Mr. Seeger himself.
This year will mark the third consecutive one in which Clearwater pitches its tents in the Larrison Hall Commons area of BCC’s Lincroft campus, following a decade in Asbury Park and Long Branch (and a long history out at the Fort Hancock area of Sandy Hook). As always, the free festival offers three stages’ worth of live music, kids’ activities, arts and crafts vendors, environmentally themed informational displays, and of course plenty of free parking on the sprawling BCC campus (plus plenty of space in which to sprawl out with your beach chairs or blankets).
Following last year’s example, it will once more be a two-day affair that runs from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday.
As the sole surviving Clearwater chapter in the state of New Jersey, the organization founded as the Monmouth County Friends of Clearwater maintains a late-summer tradition that’s been fueled as much by the timeless appeal of our local waterways as by the Shore area’s robust and ever-evolving music scene. It’s a serious public forum for environmental awareness, education and policy that’s spotlighted appearances by the Sierra Club’s Jeff Tittel, Congressman Frank Pallone and former U.S. Department of Environmental Protection director Lisa Jackson — although all concerned can readily vouch that the speeches take a back seat to the sound of music.
For the past few years, the event’s musical menu has been the purview of Middletown-based Brian Ostering, whose band the Wag is a frequently sighted staple of the open-air concert season here on the Greater Red Bank Green. The 2017 schedule boasts dozens of acts on three stages, including Arlan Feiles, Emily Grove, the kids from Rockit!, After the Reign — and the locally legendary dynamo Jody Joseph, whose 4 p.m. Sunday set on the Seeger Stage sends the festival out in style.
Meanwhile, the Killian Stage showcases such favorite singer-songwriters as Kevin John Allen, Mary McCrink, a couple of Monacchios (Keith and Sheli) and George Wirth — even as the intimate Circle of Song stage offers Jim Crawford, Dale Lakata, Sister Isis, and the lovely voice of Ingrid Heldt, coordinator of the Clearwater group’s monthly Circle of Song events at the Eatontown Community Center. Take it here for a detailed schedule of performing acts.
The theme for 2017 is “Fight to Keep Earth Great,” and all donations plus proceeds from vendor sales will benefit the ongoing programs of the all-volunteer New Jersey Clearwater organization — a year-round slate of activity that includes a Traveling Environmental Festival program that’s brought its message to nearly 40,000 New Jersey schoolchildren in recent years.
Sponsorships and donations of time and funds are always welcomed by the Clearwater volunteers, with details on supporting the Red Bank-based nonprofit available here, and a volunteer application downloadable here.