The Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, the environmental organization anchored by the sailing vessel launched five decades ago by folk icon Pete Seeger, has announced plans for a weekend of hands-on activism in June in place of its long-running annual music festival.
A Clearwater Community Celebration, described as two days of “unity, action, education, food, music, crafts and merrymaking,” will take place June 20-21 — the traditional Father’s Day Weekend reserved for the Clearwater music festival — in a smaller area of Croton Point Park, overlooking the Hudson, 30-plus miles north of New York City.
For more than four decades, the Clearwater organization has staged the two-day Great Hudson River Revival, which has been billed as the country’s oldest and largest music and environmental festival. The event has served as a fundraiser for the Clearwater itself — a 106-foot-long wooden replica of a Dutch sailing vessel, which Seeger launched 50 years ago on May 17, 1969.
The most-enduring activist organization with its roots in music, the Clearwater 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 education programs to train a new generation of environmental activists.
However, amid an increasingly competitive live music market — and with poor weather on its second day last June — the 2019 Clearwater festival lost money.
“Following 2019’s Great Hudson River Revival, an exploratory committee comprised of board members, staff members and longtime Revival volunteers analyzed the feasibility of another [festival] in 2020,” the Clearwater announced. Subsequently, the nonprofit group’s board of directors decided “the wisest course is to produce a smaller but still significant event in 2020.”
“The Great Hudson River Revival was a major success last year, in that thousands of people joined us to celebrate the Hudson River through music, dance, volunteerism, education and activism,” said Clearwater executive director Greg Williams. “Due to many factors, including a wet weather forecast and rain on Sunday causing low attendance, the festival suffered a financial loss of approximately $190,000.
“Since June, we have been working to keep the organization stable, while paying down our debt to festival vendors, and we are grateful for their patience. It would be irresponsible of Clearwater to move forward with replicating another million-dollar Clearwater Festival in 2020 without having addressed the financial loss we incurred in 2019. We expect these steps, with the public's ongoing support, will put us in the best position to return with the Revival in 2021."
Details of the Clearwater Community Celebration have not yet been confirmed, but attendance will be limited to just over 500 due to the capacity limits of the park location set aside for the event. The organization has been given the site free of charge in exchange for some hands-on cleanup activities by the Clearwater’s environmental activists.
At a time when many musicians seek to link their art to activism and climate change is the most urgent issue of our time, Seeger’s legacy is more relevant than ever.
The Clearwater organization says its celebration this June will reflect that legacy “and the organization’s roots, within budget, supportive of the dedicated volunteers and audience who look forward to The Great Hudson River Revival each year.”