WOODSTOCK – It’s harvest time. Fall is a season for gathering so why not do so on the historic Woodstock Square? The 24th annual Harvest Fest kicks off Friday at 7:30 p.m. at Stage Left Cafe with a performance by Devil in the Woodpile.
Co-organized by Off Square Music, The Woodstock Farmers Market, The Woodstock Area Chamber of Commerce & Industry, and Real Woodstock Inc., this year’s Harvest Fest offers such goodies as locally made crafts, author readings, cooking demonstrations, and Americana music indoors and out. President of the Woodstock Area Chamber of Commerce and Real Woodstock Inc., Danielle Gulli, said there’s something for everyone at this year’s event.
“The music is certainly a highlight of the event and the Farm to Table food and drink pairings from local farmers and restaurants are a new feature,” said Gulli. “There will be a petting zoo, pony rides, and face painting for kids sponsored by Elite Remodeling Group. A local tractor club will have a tractor display, there will be blacksmith demonstrations sponsored by Home State Bank, a wool spinning demonstration as well as handmade crafters and local organizations with booths. And of course, orchard fresh pies from our local baker The Sugar Circle and a corn on the cob vendor!”
On Saturday, attendees can start their day perusing the goods at Woodstock Farmer’s Market then enjoy the live music of Miles Over Mountains starting at 1:30 p.m. in the bandstand at the Park in the Square. Laura Cortese and the Dance Cards take to the bandstand at 3 p.m.
Cortese, a San Francisco native, recently moved to Belgium, but will head back to the states to perform with the 4-piece female quartet. Cortese is the lead singer and plays fiddle with the other three ladies harmonizing and playing an additional fiddle, a cello, and an upright bass.
“I would call us a collective,” said Cortese. “We write, arrange together and draw from a larger pool than just this quartet. It can be really fun to make creative music with a larger group of people. We’re able to connect, be vulnerable, and bring a nice stringy dance party to our audience with percussive and lush strings playing hooks as well as textural roles. It sounds like folky pop songs.”
The 39-year-old picked up the violin at 9 years old, practically a tradition in her family — her grandmother played violin and her grandfather the fiddle. When it came time for her choose an instrument in middle school that she would play through high school band, it was a no-brainer for Cortese. She elevated her playing not by sitting behind a music stand of sheet music, whittling away at the strings for hours, but rather by sound and experience.
“When I was 12, I went to the Valley of the Moon Scottish Fiddle School in the Santa Cruz mountains. I learned by listening and through other people, playing together by day and dancing at night, not sitting in an orchestra chair. I learned from the community of people,” Cortese said.
Cortese now teaches singing and fiddle at the same camp in Redwood, California. Cortese said she looks forward to playing their inaugural Harvest Fest show, loving the vibe that the Midwest brings as an audience.
“We come through this region of the U.S. and it’s a great route for musicians to connect with music lovers, “Cortese said. “We try to get everyone to take the walls down and we try to connect. We might have people singing along, some audiences have been known to get up and dance.
"I know that requires a big buy in but I have hope and faith in the Harvest Fest audience. We create a space and time where people can set aside whatever else is going on and just enjoy themselves and feel free. Every show is unique. It hinges on how the connection is made and where the audience wants to go with it. It can be a party atmosphere or a place that’s more contemplative. It’s always an adventure.”
The live music portion of the afternoon goes out with a bang as featured group Henhouse Prowlers take the stage at 4:30 p.m. At 8 p.m., John McEuen and the String Wizards will perform at the Woodstock Opera House. McEuen is a Grammy winner and founding member of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.
“It’s a great weekend to come to Woodstock,” Gulli said. Folk music is something Off Square Music has been passionate about doing for 24 years. Roots Music and a celebration of American Farmers, Makers and Fall Harvest, it doesn’t get more American than that!”
For information on participating restaurants, performance schedule and ticket information, visit www.realwoodstock.com/harvest-fest.