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The Serpent and the Fiddle

The New Students return to the festival this year.

By Heidi Sutton

Featuring the best in traditional and contemporary folk music, the annual Fiddle & Folk Festival returns to Benner’s Farm in East Setauket this Sunday, Sept. 11 from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. The musical event will feature local fan favorites from previous years along with some fresh new faces.

Ten years ago, the event was formed as a reincarnation of a previous festival in the area. “It was a revitalization of The Fiddle and Folk Fest that had been run for years through the Long Island Museum and the Long Island Traditional Music Association,” said Benner’s Farm’s co-owner Bob Benner. 

Returning acts include Buddy Merriam and Taylor Ackley, Fiddle & Folk Fest veterans who have teamed up to perform their signature mandolin duo pieces, featuring their museum-quality Monteleone mandolins; and Brooklyn-based The New Students will be bringing their three-part vocal harmonies and skilled acoustic instrumentation.

New acts this year include The Serpent and The Fiddle featuring Dee Harris on mandola and Lora Kendall on fiddle who will be kicking off the festivities on the Main Stage with their intriguing interpretations of historic and traditional instrumentals; the String Sisters — Annie Mark on guitar and Maria Fairchild on banjo, playing a mix of classic country blues, old time, and original song; CJ and the Say Hey Bluez Crew, a new feel-good group comprised of musicians who share a love of upbeat jazzy blues, fronted by Claudia Jacobs, whose brassy and bold presence gets the audience on their feet; and headliners The Haymakers, a high-energy trio of veterans of the Long Island roots music scene who bring a new punch to retro favorites with the classic rockabilly instrumentation of twangy guitar, upright slap bass, and drums.

Also new to the festival this year is the Pick of the Crop performer contest. According to Amy Tuttle, program director at the Greater Port Jefferson-North Brookhaven Arts Council who’s also on the festival committee, four Long Island singer-songwriters — Josie Bello, Steve Robinson, Hank Stone and Linda Sussman — “will be strutting their stuff 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. There will be a panel of music professionals judging the contest, and the audience will be given ballots to vote for their choice. The lucky winner will be announced at the end of the festival.

Other activities include a fiddle workshop, an open mic on the back of a 1924 Model TT Ford, vendors and a Kids Korner with crafts, stories and music. Visitors are also encouraged to stroll around the 15-acre working organic farm, meet the resident farm animals, and feel like a kid again on the Big Swing. 

For Bob Benner, it is an event he looks forward to every fall.

“Every year I look out on the great lawn and see hundreds of people settled in and entranced with the musicians, the ambiance of the farm and the slower pace that seems to envelope 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 be held rain or shine.

Benner’s Farm is located at 56 Gnarled Hollow Road in East Setauket. Advance tickets are $18 for adults, $15 seniors, and $10 for children at www.fiddleandfolk.com; $20 adults, $18 seniors and $10 for children at the door. Please bring seating. For more information, call 631-689-8172.