Lazy Brook Park, which lies along picturesque Tunkhannock Creek, will become as melodic as it is beautiful on Sept. 4, 5 and 6 as musicians of folk, bluegrass, blues, Americana, reggae and swing gather for the third Annual Cornstock Folk Festival to play acoustic roots music for weekend campers and day guests.
The three-day event promises acts of all levels of notoriety and guarantees a consistent level of high quality according to organizer and member of Hickory Project, Jillian Hannigan. Among the headliners will be Red Wine Bluegrass, an Italian quartet that has toured Europe since 1978 and the U.S. since 1995.
Aaron Hurwitz of Professor Louie & The Crowmatrix, collaborated with rock and roll hall-of-famers The Band for more than 15 years, and will bring his Grammy-nominated Americana group to Lazy Brook, too.
Other accomplished acts on the schedule have local roots. Roy Williams, who is a Clarks Summit native, will perform folky originals with his band The Human Hands, and Scranton-based bluegrass quartet, Coal Town Rounders, will bring their old timey, single microphone act to the main stage. Local legend, George Wesley, will be on site, playing his homegrown brand of reggae.
Hannigan is a flute player and vocalist, whose husband, Anthony Hannigan, is a well-respected mandolin player and founding member of Hickory Project. The Wellsboro couple performed together for 10 years. Jillian Hannigan said the motivation for the festival came from the couple playing many events and meeting many amazing musicians.
“We wanted to give the best bands that no one ever heard of a stage,” Hannigan said.
The couple plans the yearly festival under their company name, Mindworks Music Productions, and this year’s event will include food vendors, a kids’ zone and work displayed by artists and craftspeople.
“It’s not only a venue for musicians, but also regional artists,” Hannigan said. Among the painters and other artisans, is a blacksmith and a potter putting on demonstrations.
The kids’ zone has a bouncy slide and obstacle course to accompany child-geared arts and crafts activities. Lazy Brook offers access to the clear, wide creek, which can provide a refreshing change of pace for campers of all ages. Saturday and Sunday morning yoga sessions, led by Steamtown Yoga, will be accompanied by organic juice drinks and live music by Friends Of The Family.
The festival grew gradually since its inaugural year in 2013, and the Hannigans embrace that, but Jillian Hannigan is weary of it becoming too large.
“We want to keep it small and rootsy, where people don’t have to deal with big crowds,” she said.
Williams has played at both previous Cornstock gatherings.
“The nice thing about the Cornstock Festival is that it focuses on all different kinds of acoustic music,” Williams said. He explained other festivals can be specific in the musical genre they attract.
“What my band is going to bring is acoustic but is definitely not in the bluegrass tradition, but fits right in there, which is nice. I wouldn’t be able to have my band come in and do some of the other festivals that happen out that way that are more bluegrass, because it’d be too different,” Williams said.
Beyond the 18 different acts scheduled to play on the Cornstock Stage, the Creekside Stage and the Jam Pavilion will present musical workshops and jams for all skill levels and be led by some of the performers. Campfire jams tend to pop up as well.
Ian O’Hara plays banjo in Coal Town Rounders and double bass in the Bog Swing Group. Members of CTR, the Hannigans and Williams have personal and musical connections that have lasted more than 10 years. O’Hara said Williams played guitar on a number of BSG gigs and Anthony Hannigan played mandolin with CTR.
“Playing a festival close to home is nice, because it is sort of like a family reunion atmosphere,” O’Hara said. “There are combinations of musicians that may only happen once or twice a year at this point, so that makes it a pretty unique listening experience.”
Another unique aspect of the festival is the Northeast String Worshop, held at the Dietrich Theater in downtown Tunkhannock, which differs from the outdoor workshops in the level of intimacy. Classes are limited to 10 players per workshop, and instructors, like Alex Hargreaves, who has played with Grammy nominee Mike Marshall and winner Béla Fleck, are among the best players at the gathering.
Workshops on mandolin, fiddle, guitar and bass are from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sept. 4.
Williams said, “It’s super rare to have this combination of people coming out there and doing classes, so anyone that is interested in any of those instruments should definitely come out.”
The Hannigans will take the stage several times throughout the weekend with Hickory Project and other assemblies but, Jillian Hannigan said they are most excited to expose people to a wealth of music and a welcoming atmosphere.
“We want to introduce people to music, because it’s been so important in our lives,” she said. “Don’t just come and be a spectator. Be a part of it.”