Great Blue Heron a Festival for the Generations
It's the music that keeps the Heron soaring
Friday, Jul. 5 - 7
For a long time now (since I was, or just barely wasn't, a flanneled long-hair of the 90s, really) I've had a little multiplicity of friends drop a line — usually sometime around the Summer Solstice and year after year — to ask if they'll be seeing me at the Heron.
"Hope to!," they always say, and they mean it, too, because they know pretty much anyone who's ever been there and is going again can't wait to get back — and anyone who's not, well, they wish they were.
A good couple of handfuls of years have passed between those first and last lines dropped from long-ago college friends, and even longer-ago high school friends. We're all older, and some of us are now grayish flanneled long-hairs, and a lot of us have at least a rugrat or two in tow most of the time.
So all those people who went to the Heron as kids — who grew up going to the Heron — are, in a lot of cases, now taking their kids, who'll grow up going to the Heron. And in a lot of cases the family connections stretch back to the grandparents too, even, and even where there aren't kids, there are tribes of friends that have grown together everywhere there.
That takes me back to a sweet little moment years ago: "I've been right here for the last 20 years," an all-smiles guy named Bob Johnson told me, showing off his wife, his daughter, and his grandchild as they relaxed and jammed out in the same spot on the hill he told me he'd always (really — at that point, for the last 20 years) set his tribe up at.
"Just look out there. It's beautiful," he said, and he was right.
The family vibe is strong at the Heron. Really strong, and really real. And that's the way it's always been, and — at 28 years in and still going and growing beautifully on a big farm in the rolling foothills of New York's lush Southern Tier — it seems that's the way it'll be for some time.
That literally roots-deep connection to the festival grounds is a strong draw there and back, no doubt, but make no mistake: It's the music that keeps the Heron soaring.
And this year, I must say, the lineup of this always-awesome big little festival is stacked up to be about as great as it gets: Donna the Buffalo, The Wailers, 10,000 Maniacs, The Gunpoets, Sarah Shook & The Disarmers, The Town Pants, The Probables, Danielle Ponder & The Tomorrow People, John & Mary, Alison Pipitone, Richie Stearns, The Sun King Warriors, Cats on Holiday, The Slacktones, Mosaic Foundation, Urban Pioneers, Folkfaces, Janet Batch, Blind Owl Band, Little Mountain Band, Max Garcia Conover, Black Rock Zydeco, Old Dawg Bluegrass, Slyboots Circus, Feverhawk, Bill Ward, Charity & The Drive, Jeb & Tara, Derek Davis, Alex Kates Band, Tiger Maple String Band, Stewed Mulligan, Ken Hardley, Buffalo Zydeco, Steel Rails, Rebecca McIlvain, and Ezekiel's Wheel.
"It really is my favorite festival — and [I've] been all over the place," singer and multi-instrumentalist Charity Nuse, a longtime Heron player, told me while we sat for a chat some years back. As performers, she said, "we have some of our best shows here," and it's because everyone is drawing from and giving to the shared energy unique to that space.
"It's an amazing experience," she said, and she was right, too. — Ryan Smith
Friday through Sunday // 2361 Wait Corners Rd, Sherman, NY 14781 // For tickets, directions, daily lineups, and more information, visit greatblueheron.com.