By Heidi Sutton
Showcasing the best in traditional and contemporary folk music, the annual Fiddle & Folk Festival returns to Benner’s Farm in East Setauket this Sunday, September 11 from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. The musical event will feature local fan favorites from previous years as well as new New Faces.
Ten years ago, the event was formed as a reincarnation of a previous festival in the region. “It was a revitalization of the Fiddle and Folk Fest that had been hosted for years by the Long Island Museum and the Long Island Traditional Music Association,” said Bob Benner, co-owner of Benner’s Farm.
Returning artists include Fiddle & Folk Fest veterans Buddy Merriam and Taylor Ackley who teamed up to perform their mandolin duo pieces, featuring their museum-quality Monteleone mandolins; and Brooklyn-based The New Students will bring their three-part vocal harmonies and skilled acoustic instrumentation.
New this year include The Serpent and The Fiddle with Dee Harris on mandola and Lora Kendall on fiddle who will kick off the festivities on the main stage with their intriguing renditions of historical and traditional instruments; the String Sisters – Annie Mark on guitar and Maria Fairchild on banjo, playing a mix of classic country blues, old times and original song; CJ and the Say Hey Bluez Crew, a new feel-good band of musicians who share a love of upbeat jazzy blues, led by Claudia Jacobs, whose brassy, edgy presence gets audiences up; and headliners The Haymakers, an energetic trio of veterans of the Long Island roots music scene who bring new punch to retro favorites with the classic rockabilly instrumentation of twangy guitar, straight slap bass and drums. .
Also new to the festival this year is the Pick of the Crop artist competition. According to Amy Tuttle, program director for the Greater Port Jefferson-North Brookhaven Arts Council, who is also on the festival committee, four singer-songwriters from Long Island – Josie Bello, Steve Robinson, Hank Stone and Linda Sussman – will strut in hopes of being selected for a spot on the main stage at next year’s F&FF. All four are talented in their own right and have their own signature styles,” she said. A panel of music professionals will judge the competition and the public will receive ballots to vote for their choice. The lucky winner will be announced at the end of the festival.
Other activities include a violin workshop, an open mic in the back of a 1924 Ford Model TT, vendors and a Kids Korner with crafts, stories and music. Visitors are also encouraged to walk around the 15-acre working organic farm, meet the farm animals and feel like a kid again on the big swing.
For Bob Benner, it’s an event he looks forward to every fall.
“Every year I look out onto the Great Lawn and see hundreds of people set up and mesmerized by the musicians, the farmhouse vibe and the slower pace that seems to envelop the crowd. I’m glad our groups can bring that experience to our Long Island community,” he said.
Presented by Homestead Arts, the Greater Port Jefferson-Northern Brookhaven Arts Council, Benner’s Farm, TBR News Media and WUSB Radio, the music festival will take place rain or shine.
Benner’s Farm is located at 56 Gnarled Hollow Road in East Setauket. Advance tickets are $18 for adults, $15 for seniors, and $10 for children at www.fiddleandfolk.com; $20 adults, $18 seniors and $10 children at the door. Please bring seats. For more information, call 631-689-8172.