Passion and community fuel Cornstock Folk Festival’s return to Tunkhannock
What is the world’s greenest form of music?
If you ask Jillian and Anthony Hannigan, it’s acoustic and folk music. Jillian said it’s because the genres do not require any electricity or devices — only passion and community.
“You can sit on your front porch and bring people together just by plucking a few strings,” she said. She and Anthony, her husband, musicians themselves, organized the Cornstock Festival to do just that.
The couple and their constituents will be dedicating three days to music, art and nature for Cornstock’s fifth year on Sept. 1, 2 and 3. It will take place at Lazy Brook Park, at the intersection of Route 6 and Route 92, three miles east of Tunkhannock.
The festival will feature all the essentials — an extensive and eclectic lineup of musicians, artists, craft vendors and food vendors — with a few special additions.
“A big part of our existence is encouraging people to not just be attendees, but to participate in the event,” Jillian explained. With that mission in mind, the festival will host jam sessions, workshops and more.
Jillian has even set up a special space for visual artists. She calls it the “Artists’ Village,” a free, juried space where artists can display their work — practical wares excluded.
“People that sell photography, pen and ink, sculpture, acrylics whatever … anything that’s created for the pure purpose of being enjoyed. It can’t be a practical item like a T-shirt or piece of jewelry to be in our Artists’ Village,” she explained.
Yoga from Steamtown Yoga; vegan food in honor of the festival’s sponsor, Indraloka Farm Sanctuary; and limited electric camping are only a few other features that aim to set Cornstock apart.
The festival is also unique in its inclusivity, the Hannigans said. It is meant not only to be kid friendly, but also a place where children actually want to be — bouncy houses, obstacle courses and a safe environment make it so.
“Part of enjoying yourselves as adults is that your kids are enjoying themselves,” Jillian said. “Anthony and I have three children, so it’s really important to us to have an event where we feel comfortable having our kids there … there are some (festivals) where you have to think, ‘maybe I should keep a close eye on my kids,’” she explained.
Anthony added that it is also important to them that the kind of music they hold dear is passed down to the next generation, which is why children under 16 are admitted for free.
For folk musician Roy Williams, the festival is more than just a gig — and he’s played it every year since its inception.
The Clarks Summit native and Cornstock headliner has lived in New York City for about 6 years, he said, and said he looks forward to his yearly performance.
“It’s a great little reunion. A hang. It always ends up being a bunch of people I don’t get to see all that often,” he said. “Before I moved to New York I spent a lot of time playing with those people.
“It’s always been nice to go back and play with Anthony. I’ve played there with some musicians from that area, and I’ve brought the crew from New York too, which has been nice. This time I’m going to be doing a little bit of both.”
Williams will be performing with his band Human Hands, a revolving door of musicians with him at the center, and as Brother Roy, his solo project.
He said Brother Roy is his main focus right now, and that he has a record coming out in the fall called “Last Man Standing.” The project has been described as “revival rock.” Williams will have copies of the new record for sale at Cornstock, prior to its official release.
Williams isn’t the only musician close to the organizers. Anthony explained many of the festivals’ acts are those he knows or has met on the road or through other artists, but that doesn’t mean it’s an exclusive club. Anthony attributes it to a tight knit, niche community.
“I know a lot of musicians. We reached out to the talent that we know. A lot of these configurations don’t get a lot of opportunities to play in this part of the country,” he said. “We meet people throughout our travels, and to bring those acts to Northeastern Pennsylvania is a very special thing for us to do.”
Take New York based roots music band Professor Louie and the Crowmatix, for instance. The Grammy nominees are also Cornstock veterans, with impressive resumes.
The act’s namesake, Professor Louie, spent 16 years collaborating with Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees The Band, and produced three of their records in the ’90s. Louie said he and his band mates always enjoy coming back to Cornstock.
“It’s a very mellow festival,” he said. Besides the fact that he enjoys the general atmosphere, he said that the musicians and organization are top notch.
“The music is very strong,” he said. “And they have a nice, big stage, the presentation is really nice … every year the sound gets better and better. (Anthony and Jillian) are musicians themselves, so they know how to accommodate the musicians really well.”
Reach Toni Pennello on Twitter @TLArts.
Cornstock Ticket Packages
Weekend Pass: $60
Electric Camping Site Add-On: $30
Friday Only with Camping: $30
Friday Only, No Camping: $25
Saturday Only with Camping: $35
Saturday Only, No Camping: $30
Sunday Only: $20
Children 16 and under admitted free. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit cornstockfestival.com.