Photography by Geoff Welch
“The rain is a mixed blessing, much needed but not today!” commented a patron at our 12th Annual Highlands Bluegrass Festival, as she took cover on the veranda of the Harmony Hall-Jacob Sloat House. Still, the on and off showers didn’t prevent 300+ ardent bluegrass fans from coming out to enjoy another year of fantastic music. Festival goers came prepared with rain garb, beach umbrellas, and pop-up tents. Under one tent, a jovial group huddled around low feasting tables culminating in a birthday celebration. Others danced joyously in the warm September showers. Alicia Speno from West Nyack was thrilled to have her two and four-year-old children intently engaged at the free kid’s craft tent provided by Flowers by Nan.
Friends of Harmony Hall president Andrea LaMantia welcomed the intrepid festival goers and called for a moment of silence in commemoration of 9/11.
Town of Ramapo Supervisor Michael Specht also addressed the crowd expressing how proud he is of the volunteer work of the Friends of Harmony Hall. His poignant yet uplifting 9/11 remarks set the tone for the festival.
“You know today is 9/11 and it’s appropriate that we remember the lives lost that day. But it’s more than appropriate and a great way to celebrate the spirit of America and to show that the terrorists of 9/11 did not win that day. They didn’t crush America’s spirit; they didn’t stop us from being who we are. As we sit here, we are about to listen to a festival of American music, a music that’s called great Americana music, music that has its roots in the United States. So, I want to ask everyone to have a great time and just really enjoy yourselves today.”
On that note, festival emcee and Sloatsburg Chamber of Commerce president Aidan Hand kept the crowd hyped up. Between sets he entertained with Harmony Hall trivia. There were 18 artisans and a kid’s craft tent on the Great Lawn. Up on the hill surrounding the mansion were 10 food and beverage vendors, community groups, and the Friends of Harmony Hall welcome tent.
Tours of the Harmony Hall mansion were given by board member Ken Linsner. He noted participants were happy to be let into the ‘secrets of Harmony Hall’. The unique architectural elements, original interior decoration, and pattern of life within the walls attracted many who expressed their interest to volunteer in some manner.
The highlight of the day of course was the Bluegrass music. All the bands performed admirably in the relatively dry conditions of the covered “Showmobile” stage and kept the music flowing for the indomitable audience undeterred by the gentle rain. The sound was heard perfectly thanks to Dynamic Sound’s expert engineering. Thanks to Andrea Asprelli and Jason Borisoff, The Eugene Tyler Band, and Cole Quest and the City Pickers for rising with the power of music to the occasion.
Thanks to the generous Rockland County Tourism Grant awarded to the Friends of Harmony Hall for the Highland Bluegrass Festival, extensive advertising attracted visitors from as far as Port Washington, New York. Whether guests saw a billboard, a newspaper ad, heard it on the radio, or have been coming to The Highlands Bluegrass Festival for years, the Friends of Harmony Hall are grateful to everyone who supports their historic preservation efforts.
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