There's an imbalance when it comes to the people who live in the City of Newburgh and those that hear about it from afar. From the outside, the city seems to be crawling with crime and economically slumping. Yet step inside the city limits and there's a quiet—but exciting—hustle, one where abandoned warehouses are turned into art galleries and empty houses are restored to life. The spirit of Newburgh is quickly transforming, especially with the influx of Brooklyn-based artists traveling up the Hudson to stay. While this shift has been happening for years, it just hasn't been loud enough. "We need something to change the energy of the city," says Newburgh Mayor Judy Kennedy.
Enter Newburgh Illuminated Festival—a coming-out party, if you will. Though in its third year, this summer's bash will trump the rest as Newburgh celebrates its 150th year as a city. From 11am to midnight Saturday, June 20, the family-friendly, free fest will show off the city's resurgence and one of its most prized assets: diversity. Blocking off historic downtown's Broadway and Liberty Street, the mayor says she expects thousands to attend to sample the city's eclectic offerings.
Quite the mix of activities and vendors will showcase the best of Newburgh as well as surrounding Hudson Valley communities. First, there's the World of Food, with ethnic treats ranging from Jamaican and Spanish to Greek and Ecuadorian, not to mention the farm-to-table tastes from Hudson Valley purveyors. There's something for everyone with the countless local vendors and small businesses, like Middletown's Beyond the Picket Fence (all-natural bath and body works), Newburgh's La Maison du Bien-Etre (yoga/dance/massage therapy wellness house), and Cornwall's Stylo Furniture & Design (handmade, contemporary furniture). In conjunction with Newburgh's birthday celebration, Mid Valley Medallions, a commemorative coins company, will display a Newburgh 150th anniversary coin.
A Newburgh trolley tour will visit historic sites around the city, stopping at Washington's Headquarters, the Historical Society of Newburgh Bay and Highlands, and the Ritz Theater, which has featured notable stars like Lucille Ball, Frank Sinatra, and Ella Fitzgerald. The festival will also host its first Chalk Artist Expo, vintage car show, book readings by local authors, and an Indian Holi Celebration of Color. The streets will be flooded with art, including pop-up art shows with light installations, and open-studio visits. Carnival games, bouncy houses, horseshoe competitions, and beanbag tosses will be ready for the kids.
And don't forget about the music, which ranges everywhere from rap to classical to acoustic to punk. Hip hop artist and poet Saul Williams, a Newburgh native, will headline along with Living Colour frontman Corey Glover. Rapper and artist Decora, owner of Space Create, a 24-hour collaborative creative space at 115 Broadway, takes the stage midway through the festival. Decora, who's lived in Newburgh the past nine years, has noticed a significant increase in the number of artists working in the city. "We want to showcase that change, showing people this is not staged," says Decora.
There's so much to do and almost too much to see at Newburgh Illuminated, but that's the point the city and the festival's committee are trying to get across. Newburgh is a city that needs to be revisited again and again. "This is just our first go-around at highlighting not only the fact that there's a lot going on here in Newburgh, but that it's the center of the Hudson Valley," says Eric Jarmann, chair of the Newburgh Illuminated Vendor Committee and owner of the Newburgh Gift Shop at 75 Broadway. "It's time that we get comfortable with that and start being in the spotlight for the right reasons."
The Newburgh Illuminated Festival takes place on Saturday, June 20, from 11am to midnight on Liberty Street and Broadway in Newburgh. Newburghilluminatedfestival.com.