By Erin Dueñas
The sounds of bluegrass, blues, acoustic and folk music are coming to East Setauket as the fourth annual Fiddle & Folk Festival returns to Benner’s Farm on Sept. 13.
According to Amy Tuttle, program director of the Greater Port Jefferson-North Brookhaven Arts Council, a festival sponsor, the festival is a celebration of acoustic music. “The formula we have found to be successful is to bring in a national act, a well-known blues based act and a Long Island band,” Tuttle said.
Headline acts this year include The Kennedy’s, Brooks Williams and Buddy Merriam with his band, Back Roads. During the festival, Merriam will be given the Long Island Sound Award honoring him for bringing bluegrass music to Long Island for 35 years, presented by the Long Island Music Hall of Fame.
The festival will feature a main stage where the headliners will perform, as well as a smaller stage that will include workshops and question-and-answer segments with the musicians. Another stage will host a jam session where not only will headliners play together to conclude the concert, but festivalgoers can play their own instruments. A kid’s corner will be set up offering story time and music, and the night will conclude with a contra dance, complete with a live band and caller. The farm will also be open where guests can check out organic gardens, barns and farm animals.
“This is an all-ages, family friendly event that people can either sit back to watch or participate in,” Tuttle said.
Charlie Backfish, who hosts the acoustic music show Sunday Street on WUSB 90.1, the radio station on the campus of SUNY Stony Brook, another festival sponsor, said Benner’s Farm is a good location for the event.
“This is the kind of music you probably could’ve heard at a farm at some point in history,” he said. “It really makes sense to have it there.” Backfish will host the question-and-answer session of the festival.
Bob Benner, who lives and works on the 15-acre farm, said the festival is a celebration of not only music but farm life. Benner referred to a painting at the Long Island Museum in Stony Brook by famed local artist William Sydney Mount of a fiddler playing at a barn dance on a farm. “What we are trying to do at the festival is to show what people would do way back when,” he said. “Everyone lived on a farm here on Long Island up until the 1900s.”
The festival is also sponsored by Homestead Arts, the nonprofit educational arm of Benner’s Farm that works toward keeping what Benner called “old time arts and processes” from fading into history. “Homestead arts are all the different things that people had to know how to do away from our modern sensibilities — things like meat processing and vegetable canning,” he said. Music is a big part of that.
“Way back when there were no phonographs, no forms of playing music. The festival has the kind of music you would hear when neighbors got together for haying or working in the fields,” Benner said. “This really is the perfect place for the festival.”
The fourth annual Fiddle & Folk Festival will be held on Sept. 13 at Benner’s Farm, 56 Gnarled Hollow Road, Setauket, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tickets are $15 adults, $11 children and seniors. The event will be held rain or shine. Bring a lawn chair or blanket for seating. Food and drink will be available for purchase. For more information, call 631-689-8172 or visit www.fiddleandfolk.com.