The Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, the sailing vessel and environmental organization launched 50 years ago by the late folk icon and activist Pete Seeger, announced on Monday (April 22) — Earth Day — that Mavis Staples and Ani DiFranco will headline its annual festival on June 15, followed by the Wailers and Railroad Earth on June 16. (The lineup previously had been revealed without performance dates).
Clearwater’s Great Hudson River Revival, which takes place at Croton Point Park on the banks of the Hudson River, 30-plus miles north of New York City, is billed as the country’s oldest and largest music and environmental festival.
The Clearwater Festival, as it’s commonly known, this year recognizes the centennial of Seeger’s birth, on May 3, 1919, and the 50th anniversary of the launch of the sloop Clearwater on May 17, 1969.
Seeger, who passed away in 2014 at age 94, conceived of the Clearwater in the early 1960s with a simple goal. “We’re going to build a boat to save the river,” he said of the vessel, a 106-foot-long replica of the wooden Dutch sloops that sailed the Hudson in the 19th century. With Seeger’s inspiration, and the commitment of multiple generations of leaders, crew and volunteers, the sloop has achieved much more.
Five decades on, the Hudson River Sloop Clearwater organization, founded in 1966, is one of the nation’s oldest activist organizations with roots in music. It is widely recognized for its role in the decades-long cleanup of the Hudson, for its advocacy of environmental and social justice campaigns and for its environmental education, which has inspired other sailing-based programs nationwide.
The Clearwater Festival, the organization’s largest annual fundraising event, draws “so many potent and beautiful and diverse people,” says DiFranco, the singer/songwriter and activist who first performed at the event in the early ’90s, played last year and returns this year. “It’s one of the shining examples of what a folk festival, quote unquote, can be. It’s community. It’s politics. It’s the intersection of art and society.”
Other co-headliners on June 15 includes the Lone Bellow, Chapin McCombs Chapin and the Mammals, followed on June 16 by Immortal Technique and the Del McCoury Band.
Longtime festival favorites — including Tom Paxton & the DonJuans, Tom Chapin, Joanne Shenandoah, David Amram, Josh White Jr., Jay Ungar and Molly Mason, and the Vanaver Caravan, a dance troupe — are among the more than 90 performers booked across the two days.
“Nothing beats putting the pieces together for your favorite festival in the world, especially when you are celebrating its biggest year yet,” says festival director Jason Samel, referring to the centennial of Seeger’s birth and the 50th anniversary of the Clearwater. “I hope to make Pete proud for his 100th birthday. We are super lucky to have Mavis as a headliner,” he said of Staples who, like Seeger, has sung for social justice throughout her career. “Her message is one which we all need to listen to,” he says.
The Clearwater Festival is a family-friendly event. Between sets, festival-goers can take short river trips in small boats or aboard the sloop Clearwater. The festival grounds feature a crafts area, a dance tent, a “green living expo,” environmental education activities, exhibits about social justice initiatives and more. An artisanal food and farm market will offer food sourced from the Hudson Valley.
In celebration of Earth Day, festival organizers are offering a 10% discount on tickets purchased through April 26 for fans who enter the code earth2019 at clearwaterfestival.org.
As a fundraising event, the Clearwater Festival is dependent on the contributions of almost 1,000 volunteers. Volunteer registration is open and a list of committee descriptions also is available on clearwaterfestival.org.