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Clearwater Festival Remembers Seeger

Pete Seeger performing at the Clearwater Festival, the festival he founded.
Pete Seeger performing at the Clearwater Festival, the festival he founded. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Clearwater

CROTON, N.Y. -- Pete Seeger was the driving force behind the popular Clearwater Festival, held every summer at Croton Point Park.

Seeger, who died Monday at the age of 94, helped start the festival to raise funds for the Clearwater sloop. The festival, which attracts 15,000 people annually, benefits Hudson River Sloop Clearwater.

The festival, which features music and environmental advocacy, aims to be sustainable and socially responsible. It was Seeger's mission to ensure the festival was as diverse and accessible as possible, with wheelchairs on-site and American Sign Language interpreters.

Steve Lurie, the festival's executive director, remembered meeting Seeger and his late wife Toshi, at their cabin.

"He would often give me interesting ideas we could utilize, like a choir or something related to Native Americans," Lurie said. "He had a spiritual involvement."

Lurie said it was a great honor to be able to interact with Seeger.

"I learned so much about him and what he stood for and his legacy," Lurie said. We had nice long conversations and I would ask him questions about events long ago. I would soak up bits and pieces like a sponge. It's one of the most joyous experiences I've ever had."

Seeger was passionate about protecting the environment up until the very end, Lurie said.

"We will be preserving Pete Seeger's legacy even though he's gone," Lurie said.

The Clearwater Festival is the oldest music and environmental festival in the country.

"There are lots of music festivals and lots of environmental festivals, but few combine the two," Lurie said. "We welcome people from all walks of life."

Lurie said it was Pete and Toshi who wanted to make the festival as progressive and diverse as possible. The festival also includes environmental initiatives and petitions.

"We hope people come and don't just listen to the music," Lurie said. "We want them to get involved."

The festival also includes a farmers market, crafts area, an activists area and allows people to take rides on the Clearwater sloop.

This year's festival will be June 21-22.

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