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Clearwater Cancels Great Hudson River Revival

Courtesy of Clearwater

For the first time in its history, there will not be a Clearwater Festival this year. A costly renovation of Clearwater’s flagship is a major reason.

Clearwater’s Great Hudson River Revival, founded by the late Pete and Toshi Seeger, is taking a break to save the sloop. Clearwater Board President Annie Osborn, who also sits on WAMC’s community advisory board, says, instead, Clearwater will hold smaller music events up and down the Hudson River throughout the year. The reason, she says, is to focus on restoring America’s environmental flagship.

“Because we’re in the middle of the unprecedented U.S. Coast Guard mandated hull restoration, we can’t afford to do both. The restoration will cost us $850,000 this winter, and some of this will be reimbursed from the state with a $340,000 left in the state matching great. So all our efforts are going toward the sloop right now.”

The restoration costs $5,000 a day and will run until at least June this year. Osborn Reaction on social media to news of the Festival’s cancellation ranges from disappointment to anger. Osborn says the aim is to bring back the Festival in 2017.

Clearwater’s fundraising efforts include corporate memberships and sponsorships. Katy Coppinger is president of the Westchester chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals and says the corporate sponsor atmosphere is difficult.

“The challenges are enormous. The competition and the challenges for sponsorship, I think, across the board and the entire sector has really been stressed,” says Coppinger. “It’s very difficult to get sponsors and it’s hard to maintain sponsors. Corporations are not in the business of giving money away.”

Coppinger, who also is executive director of development at Mercy College in Dobbs Ferry, says Clearwater’s decision to hold smaller concerts is smart and responsible.

“They have a very loyal and niche audience and certainly keeping that audience alive is really important for them,” says Coppinger. “But then again, their primary focus is the restoration of the Clearwater ship, that’s the primary focus. So the primary focus of the organization is not to run a two-day festival. So unless the festival serves the mission, they’re doing the right thing by modifying what their activities are so that it still supports the mission and doesn’t sort of get out of control and get too big to handle.”

Osborn says financial hardship became apparent following last year’s Festival.

“I think last summer, right after Revival, we knew what the cash flow situation was going to be and it was going to be pretty tight. And we didn’t make as much as we hoped we would last June,” Osborn says. “AIG owes us $75,000 for rain insurance, which they won’t pay. And basically we have to everything we can to ensure that Clearwater keeps sailing. It’s the heart and soul of our organization.”

For more than a decade, the music and environmental festival has been held at Croton Point Park, along the Hudson River, in Westchester County. Pete Seeger, who died in January 2014, performed at many of the festivals. Other musicians who have taken to the stage include Taj Mahal, Dar Williams, Peter Yarrow, Arlo Guthrie and Suzanne Vega.

According to Clearwater, the sloop Clearwater is among the first vessels in the United States to conduct science-based environmental education aboard a sailing ship, creating the template for environmental education programs around the world. In 2004, the sloop Clearwater was named to the National Register of Historic Places for its groundbreaking role in the environmental movement.

Meanwhile, the first of the smaller events is Sunday in Rosendale, in Ulster County, featuring Guy Davis and Decora.

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