By Martin Wilbur and Lindsay Emery
There was plenty of sunshine and cold drinks, the grounds at Parkway Field were packed and the music flowed all day.
Those ingredients made Saturday’s 15th annual Pleasantville Music Festival one of the most memorable in the event’s history.
“This is awesome,” said Gary Cramer of Santa Rosa, Calif. who attended the festival for the first time with his girlfriend, Samara Geller, a White Plains native. “It’s been a lot of fun. I mean, I’m trying to stay cool, trying to stay out of the heat a little bit. It’s been awesome and everything it’s been billed to be.”
Nine hours of nearly non-stop music covering an assortment of genres, capped by headliner alternative rock band Everclear and preceded by Grammy winners Soul Asylum, and a warm but bearable day made it the place to be. Advance ticket sales were strong, according to organizers, and by mid-afternoon the field in front of the Main Stage was a sea of music lovers.
Not only were the roughly 5,000 spectators excited but the performers fed off their energy. Folk rock/pop guitarist and violinist E’lissa Jones thought when she had been assigned to play in the Chill Tent that it would be a laid-back experience.
“It was so much fun!” Jones said after she completed her 35-minute set. “It was amazing. This was not what I expected when they said a chill tent. I was thinking there was a small little intimate (setting), where there’s a couple of chairs and I was like this is lit. The audience was receptive. They were great.”
Two acts that rocked the Party Stage were Mickey James with his contemporary rock ‘n’ roll and The New Respects, a Nashville-based family pop, soul and rock quartet comprised of twins Zandy and Lexi Fitzgerald, playing guitar and bass, respectively, their brother Darius on drums and cousin Jasmine Mullen, the lead vocalist.
A huge throng gathered in front of the stage when both groups were performing. Zandy Fitzgerald said that inspiration and helping people feel hope, joy and love are their biggest motivators.
“So when we see it happen during a set, it kind of inspires us and it’s a cyclical thing so we want to see it again,” she said. From an instrument-wise, Alabama Shakes was a huge inspiration, Michael Jackson’s a huge inspiration. Emily King. People that were good at making music that was specific to them but also digestible to the masses.”
“The heat was real,” added Lexi Fitzgerald. “But just seeing any time we have people stand in like super uncomfortable situations and sing with us and dance with us, it’s unreal. It’s a good time.”
The festival’s executive director, Bruce Figler, said during the afternoon that he was pleased with how this year’s festival was unfolding. The crowd was large and enthusiastic and they were enjoying the music, the weather and the camaraderie.
“The only judge I can see is attendance and how many people are here and they’re happy,” Figler said. “Every year we have a somewhat different lineup and every year I’m going to roll the dice and see if I got it right. It’s not always what I want, it’s what’s available. It’s based upon reality and not imagination.”
Pleasantville Mayor Peter Scherer was ecstatic at the turnout and the reaction. He said a good weather forecast in the days leading up to the festival help boost ticket sales, but it was the mood within Parkway Field that made it special.
“So it’s really just a wonderful scene,” Scherer said. “As you can see, you have a crowd of people around the stage feeling the vibe of the music and enjoying it in a gentle and peaceful way. I’ve had people say to me ‘You know there’s something different about what goes on here,’ and I think they’re right. So that’s what keeps us coming back.”
The day wasn’t only about music but about families. Parents with young children were able to enjoy various kids’ activities toward the back of the field, there were arts and crafts vendors and more than 15 different food vendors with varied cuisine and treats.
Pleasantville resident Tony Delmastro said he has come every year the festival has been held and enjoys the scene regardless of who is performing.
“It’s great people, great fun, great food,” he said. “It’s just a good day to be out, enjoy the weather, enjoy the music. It’s fantastic.”
Tony Miniaci and Julie Asher of Lyndhurst, N.J. look forward to the festival each year and it no longer matters who is playing. In fact, Miniaci said that he likes sampling the new, young bands because they have their “wide-eyed dreams.”
“I buy tickets before they even announce a lineup,” Miniaci said. “I like live music and we see over 25 concerts a year. We love live music. Like I said before, I’m in my happy place.”