Thursday, June 25, 2015

Clearwater Festival 2015

I had a wonderful weekend attending my first-ever Clearwater Festival at Croton Point Park. The Clearwater Festival, more formally known as the Great Hudson River Revival Festival, was founded by Pete Seeger in the 1960's to raise funds to build a dream of his - a replica of one of the sloops that hauled cargo on the Hudson River before the advent of steam, to serve as a platform for educating people about the life and lore of the abused river (or estuary really). His dream came true and although Seeger left us a couple of years ago after a very good life, his handsome sloop Clearwater still sails the river today, educating kids and grown-ups alike. The photo in the last post was actually of the Clearwater and the Mystic Whaler, a CT-based schooner they bring in to help out with the education in the spring, settled in for Friday evening at the barge they bring in as a temporary dock for the event.

I tend to think of the festival today as a music festival, but it's always had a strong environmental focus, and still looks to the river and the sloop, so this was the perfect place to go talk to people about the Hōkūleʻa's current voyage. Unfortunately there was a direct conflict on Saturday - remember the big Hawaiian music and dance festival I enjoyed so much during the Liberty Challenge outrigger races last year? Well, Hālāwai (organization that's coordinating the 
Hōkūle'a's NYC welcome) actually PRODUCES that, and it's not just Hawaiian, it's actually considered to be one of the biggest Pacific Islander festivals on the East Coast. I think we sort of knew that would be an issue back when we signed up, to the point that I actually said I would go on my own on Saturday if necessary - well, in the end that's what I did, took on Clearwater as my "kuleana" (personal responsibility), creating a portable table display and being up there talking story on Saturday, with 3 Hālāwai board members then joining me on Sunday (which was beautiful and I'm still kicking myself for totally forgetting about my camera - that doesn't happen often but somehow it did).

Now, back when I originally said I would do that, I wasn't too confident about my ability to actually tell people about 
Hōkūle'a properly -- at that point my wa'a talking points were pretty much:

1. She began her voyaging when I was a kid growing up in Hawaii

2. She and the Polynesian Voyaging Society revived Polynesian navigation
3. We were all really proud of her
4. Now she's sailing around the world
5. Isn't that cool?

Better than nothing but I was still worried that I was just going to "make a" (Hawaiian pidgin for "make an idiot of yourself", generally couched as a warning to someone who's about to do that - "Eh, brah, no make a!"). Fortunately I've attended several really amazing events with Hālāwai and the Polynesian Voyaging Society since then, listening to stories told by Nainoa Thompson (one of Mau's original apprentice navigators and probably the most apt and driven one, now chief navigator of the 
Hōkūle'a and president of the Polynesian Voyaging Society), Sam Lowe (Nainoa's cousin and author of Hawaiki Rising, the story of the Hōkūle'a and the people who made her happen), members of the Polynesian Voyaging Society, and the folks at Hālāwai. My recollections from "small kid time" were full of admiration but  otherwise shallow, I've had a wonderful time learning more, and I had a wonderful time sharing what I've been learning on Saturday.

I was still very happy to see the others arrive on Sunday (of course I ran off twice to play with boats, I got into a Harbor School rowing gig in the morning, extra cool since the Harbor School will be the primary host for 
Hōkūle'a while she's in NYC, and then David from Balogh Sail Designs took me for a sail in the afternoon, both lots of fun) but I felt pretty good about Saturday. 

Attendance was a bit light because of the weather, but instead of dozens of people paying brief visits, I would have a person or two or three stop by, and we'd talk story for ten or twenty minutes before they moved on - real quality discussions, I thought, and hopefully effective in helping build awareness, I'm hoping the people we talked to will read more, start following the journey, and tell others about it. Great weekend.

 Click here for flickr album

And as always, for more about the Hōkūle'a, visit   

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