SARANAC LAKE – The hobo spirit was on full display Sunday at the Union Depot.
Hobofest, a volunteer-run music festival, jammed out for the sixth year. The day of free music is a project of Adirondack Sustainable Communities, Inc. and the brainchild of co-founders Peter Seward and Todd Smith, who said the event continues to grow, filling Labor Day weekend with something fun for locals.
“Every year we’ve seen a little increase, but it hasn’t run away from us,” Seward said. “One thing I’m very sensitive to is that it’s an equal share of all facets of the community. There’s all ages and social economic strata. We all mix it up here.”
Although, they’d prefer Hobofest keep its small-town vibe and manageable in size.
“This is a great thing that’s happening right now; it’s an ebb and flow of people. They’ll come in and buy a T-shirt, listen to a few songs, go into town, and that’s what we want,” Smith said. “We want to keep it this size, because if you grow it any bigger, it becomes an event that you can’t control.”
Smith said his hope for Hobofest is it becomes self-sustainable.
“My goal is to have this festival support itself,” Smith said. “I would like to see the community support this festival at a level where we don’t have to write a grant. That they want it and understand all these little measures are for them and will ante up.”
The event is partially bankrolled by a New York State Council for the Arts grant. This year, Hobofest was awarded $3,600, which mostly covers the cost of the bands, Smith said. The other costs are paid for out-of-pocket by Seward and Smith. The donations raised at the festival and the merchandise purchased usually repay those personal costs, he said.
What it all comes down to is a fun day of music and hearing new sounds, Seward said.
“I intended it to be servicing the theme of railroad and music that spun out of the Great Depression,” Seward said. “That theme isn’t so strict. I like to stretch it each year. … It’s an opportunity for me to program for a general audience, but also introduce them to something they may not have heard before.”
Ten bands played this year: A Love Supreme of Tupper Lake; Lew Dite of Montreal; the Honey Dewdrops of Baltimore, Maryland; Jeremiah Weed and the Wildeflowers of Upper Jay; the Stone Fleet of Beacon, New York; Crackin’ Foxy of Saranac Lake; the Resonant Rogues of Asheville, North Carolina; Back Porch Society of Keene Valley; Woody Pines of Nashville, Tennessee; and County Line, which performed at 1 p.m. on an Adirondack Scenic Railroad train.
Brain Mann, Jamie Whidden and Patrick McAvoy were the masters of ceremony.