Pete Seeger at the Clearwater Festival
Image by sono salvo via Flickr

In 1966, folk legend Pete Seeger had a dream to build a sloop like those that had traveled the Hudson River for over a hundred years. Through grassroots activism the boat was built and launched in 1969. It became the symbol of a much larger mission: cleaning the majestic, but polluted, river. 40 years later, the project has been a total success. Not only is the Hudson pristene, but the clean water act is the law of the land, and our consciousness about the environment has grown exponentially. To support this mission the Clearwater Foundation hosts The Clearwater Festival: The Great Hudson River Revival, at Croton Point Park along the river in Westchester County, New York, near Pete’s home. I have been attending these festivals for 6 years now, since I moved to Westchester and had kids. This year was beset with bad weather. Whenever the weather gets weird, many of us wonder if it isn’t somehow the effects of global warming, reminding us that Pete’s original mission, to expand environmental consciousness, is an ongoing task. But despite the weather, many die-hard fans, including myself and my family, braved the mud and rain to celebrate the river, the work of the foundation, music and play, and the sucessful spirit of the 60’s that lives on at this event. The main draw is the music which plays at four stages and this year featured Arlo Guthrie, Richie Havens, Taj Mahal and The Persuasions. But that’s not why I go. My kids are too little to sit still through the performances, though music fills the air. We go because I want my children to be exposed to the values of the people that organize this event and attend it. These are people who dedicate their lives to the love of others and planet and have worked hard to care for both. They promote justice, fairness, human rights and freedom for all. They have strong political convictions and a legacy, history and tradition of fighting for the little guy. They love music, and their songs have insprired generations to fight for the right. These people are called — liberals. Amazingly, though the crowd did have its share of people with long, gray hair, there were, as always, tons of little kids. My son, Ethan, who is 3 and 3/4 (as he likes to say), got right into that old hippie spirit. He spent most of the day splashing in mud puddles. The only thing that made it different from 1969 was that he was wearing his “Thomas the Tank Engine” rain boots. There are many people who care, that is, who live from the heart, and a whole big bunch of them were at the festival this past weekend, eating veggie wraps, buying green tea, dancing to great music, playing drums, learning about the river and doing something for a good cause. This festival is a good reminder that a great deal of the ethos of the ’60’s is worth keeping: much can be accomplished organizing at the grassroots. I’m proud that my kids got exposed to that. They cried when we left.

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