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Concert Review: Falcon Ridge Folk Festival 


In late July, our editor sent us to experience the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival (FRFF) in Hillsdale, NY. We were lucky enough to see such performers as Pamela Means, Girlyman, and the legendary Janis Ian. It was our first camping festival, and our experience was so awesome that we have both declared to go again!


We embarked on our journey after a long day of work last Friday (July 24). The sky darkened as we drove up the Taconic, and the whole time we were praying that we would arrive before nightfall, rain, or both. It started sprinkling upon our arrival, so we scrambled to find a place to camp. We wanted to be near fun people but ended up on a hill in the "quiet camping" section. (We eventually discovered that everyone was fun and there was no such thing as "quiet camping" anyway!) A huge black cloud loomed over the valley as if to taunt us. As soon as we finished pitching our tent, the skies opened and released a torrent of rain. We dove into our tent to wait out the storm. While eating trail mix, we discussed our gameplan if a tornado hit, as it had the year before.


After the rain calmed down a bit, we ventured out into the darkness. We carefully tread our way through the flooded paths with our single flashlight, crying out every time we stepped shin deep in water. However, we quickly resigned ourselves to a weekend of wet feet and muddy shoes, and forged on. The vendors were closed because of the storm, but we kept exploring and finally discovered the infamous Dance Tent. Inside, hundreds of people were contra dancing, blithely unaware of the crashing thunder, snapping lightning, and pelting rain just outside. Within five minutes of stepping inside and adjusting ourselves to the light and warmth, we had both been asked to dance. Of course we obliged.


Dancing at Falcon Ridge is a serious affair. We met people who came to the festival solely for the Dance Tent. There were workshops all day teaching the basics, but at night the real action happened. The tent was packed with people line dancing, swing dancing, and contra dancing. All around the dance floor others sat and watched. Every few hours the musicans would switch, creating a constant variety of musical styles.


Festival volunteers receive three free meals a day. On our first night we met a volunteer in the dance tent from Germany who was traveling across America. He had heard about FRFF's volunteer-equals-free-meals policy so was stopping for the weekend before continuing westward. He and Rachel danced up a storm, much to the chagrin of the more serious, experienced attendees.

On our way back at the end of the night, we were lured to the meal tent by fiddle music. It turned out that Eileen Ivers and Immigrant Soul were performing here since the Main Stage had been rained out. We were thrilled to find her by accident! Just when things were really picking up—she and the accordian player seemed to be dueling for speed—she broke out her blue electric fiddle and kicked everyone into an even higher gear. I have seen many a fiddle player in my day, but never anything like this!


Saturday was sunny and hot, much to our relief! We wandered through the vendors, marveling at the colorful handmade jewelry and clothing. The hill facing the Main Stage was all muddy, but once we found a dry spot we settled in for an afternoon of great music (as our sunburns can attest!). Even though we were quite a ways up the hill, we had fun watching the people dancing down by the stage: “It's not a mosh pit, it's a hippie circle!”


When local band Gandalf Murphy and the Slambovian Circus of Dreams came on the stage, they asked anyone who hadn't seen them before to raise their hands. As far as we could tell, we were the only ones. The program describes their music as “punk-classical-hillbilly-Floyd,” but wherever they channel it from, they are definitely awesome. Apparently they have this tradition where they always end their shows with the same song, during which everyone dances with their umbrellas.



Trudging through the campsites was always an adventure—there was just so much to see! Every one found ways to personalize their campsites with flags, lights, inflatable animals, and creative signs, such as “drama free zone” and “loser's lounge.” Clotheslines drooped with wet socks and towels, and yards were created with lawn ornaments. Now that I think about it, our little blue tent must have looked pretty boring compared to some of the other sites we saw!


As the weekend progressed, so did the mud. The roads developed deep ruts, so the tow truck became a familiar sight throughout the weekend. Since my car had gotten stuck in the mud on a hill (and this was before it poured), we had parked on the side of the road because we couldn't drive any farther. In the back on my mind all weekend was how I was going to get out. But despite this minor inconvenience and traffic hazard, everyone we met was exceptionally happy.


The view from our tent overlooked the lower camping field which was mostly RVs and trailers. Across the road were mowed fields and a mountain. The valley contained the sounds of the festival, whether it was coming from the Main Stage, or from one of the many music circles that sprouted up at sites throughout the camp. There was always at least one instrument playing, such as a penny whistle or guitar. One evening we heard a bunch of people jamming to "A Hard Day's Night."


Definitely one of the best parts about the whole experience was the camping. We met interesting people, such as these two families who had been coming to Falcon Ridge together for 11 years. They had this awesome tent with cloth sides that they had tie-dyed purple and green. They invited us inside after they overheard us exclaiming how cool it looked, and it was the most homey thing we had seen all weekend. There were chairs, a table full of candles, and a cookstove with huge pots full of kale on it. We were kind of hoping they would invite us to dinner, but since they didn't, we went and ate some more trail mix.


Just down the road was the barn and silos of Dodd's Farm, a gentle reminder that after the weekend was over, the grounds would return to a working farm. Since this was the cleanest festival I had ever seen—despite the wind and rain there was not a scrap of litter—it felt good knowing that we could leave it in a positive way. Although we did get stuck in the mud again on our way out—Rachel bravely pushed along with the help of two gentleman and plenty of suggestions from the numerous bystanders—we left the festival in good spirits, albeit extremely muddy and definitely tired.

For more information on the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival, check out www.falconridgefolk.com.

click to enlarge KellyAnne and Rachel enjoying the first sunny day in weeks at the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival. - RACHEL CAREY
  • Rachel Carey
  • KellyAnne and Rachel enjoying the first sunny day in weeks at the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival.
click to enlarge The huge black cloud on our first night at the festival. - RACHEL CAREY
  • Rachel Carey
  • The huge black cloud on our first night at the festival.
click to enlarge The dance tent on Saturday afternoon. - RACHEL CAREY
  • Rachel Carey
  • The dance tent on Saturday afternoon.
click to enlarge The Dance Tent was one of the most popular events at the festival. - RACHEL CAREY
  • Rachel Carey
  • The Dance Tent was one of the most popular events at the festival.
click to enlarge The sign at the volunteers' food tent. - RACHEL CAREY
  • Rachel Carey
  • The sign at the volunteers' food tent.
click to enlarge Our view of the main stage. - RACHEL CAREY
  • Rachel Carey
  • Our view of the main stage.
click to enlarge Dancing to Gandalf Murphy and the Slambovian Circus of Dreams. - RACHEL CAREY
  • Rachel Carey
  • Dancing to Gandalf Murphy and the Slambovian Circus of Dreams.
click to enlarge One of the many VW camper buses we saw. - RACHEL CAREY
  • Rachel Carey
  • One of the many VW camper buses we saw.
click to enlarge The view from our tent over the lower camping field. - RACHEL CAREY
  • Rachel Carey
  • The view from our tent over the lower camping field.
click to enlarge RACHEL CAREY
  • Rachel Carey
click to enlarge RACHEL CAREY
  • Rachel Carey
click to enlarge People put flags (such as this pirate one) on their tents so that they could find them. - RACHEL CAREY
  • Rachel Carey
  • People put flags (such as this pirate one) on their tents so that they could find them.
click to enlarge Silos at Dodd's Farm. - RACHEL CAREY
  • Rachel Carey
  • Silos at Dodd's Farm.
click to enlarge A muddy intersection... we must have crossed this dozens of times. - RACHEL CAREY
  • Rachel Carey
  • A muddy intersection... we must have crossed this dozens of times.

Speaking of...

  • Chronogram interns Rachel and KellyAnne attend the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival in Hillsdale, NY.

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