AUSABLE CHASM — Today’s Freedom Festival of Music celebrates the Aug. 1, 1834, abolishment of slavery in the British Empire and the first anniversary of the North Star Underground Railroad Museum.
The festival lineup includes Roy Hurd, Lita Kelley, Joan Crane, Towne Meeting, the Champlain Gospel Choir and Charlie Stone & Split Rock.
Stone will be the master of ceremonies at the outdoor concert, a museum fundraiser at the Ausable Chasm Pavilion.
“Basically, people are coming together to help celebrate freedom but also to celebrate the beginning of a new museum that we really respect and have come to love,” said Kelley, a past board member of the North Country Underground Railroad Historical Association, which operates the museum.
“It was many years in the making. It took a lot of people to come together. There were many paths that seemed to go in the wrong direction, but we seem to find our way back. It took special people to solve special problems. They always seemed to be there when we needed them.”
Kelley likens the museum’s birth to the abolishment of slavery.
“The abolitionists here, the whole philosophy and actuality, there were a lot of false paths. There always seemed to be someone to turn into the right direction. It did not happen as soon as some wanted it. The museum has followed a similar path. But, thank God, in a shorter time frame,” she said.
Last year, more than 1,000 people from the local area, region, country and around the world crossed the museum’s threshold.
“Now, it’s a presence,” Kelley said. “It’s a teaching tool, but it’s camaraderie. We’re celebrating a year of being in existence by putting together a Festival of Music founded on freedom. We’re hoping to make it an annual event. We’re raising money for the museum. That will always be a need, but ... bringing people together for the foundation of what the museum is about is just as important.
The festival was planned by Kelley, Stone, Museum Manager Helen Nerska and Association President Don Papson.
“All the musicians came on board,” Kelley said. “We can’t wait to get the people together.”
Kelley and Crane resurrect their ‘70s duo, Kelley ‘n’ Crane.
“We came back together and did a concert for the Battle of Plattsburgh last year,” Kelley said. “We loved it. This came about. I thought about Joan and said, ‘Let’s do it again.’ We’re going to do old blues, spiritual and gospel stuff we enjoy doing together.”
Their set will include an Underground Railroad selection.
“I will do a song, ‘Shores of the Border Land,’ I wrote for Stephen Keese Smith,” Kelley said. “It’s only been performed once. He was the Quaker abolitionist from Peru whose barn we can still visit. He helped slaves get up to Rouses Point and was highly effective.”
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IF YOU GO
WHAT: The Freedom Festival of Music.
WHEN: 5 p.m. today.
WHERE: Ausable Chasm Pavilion.
ADMISSION: $7 adults, $2 for children under 12. Tickets can be purchased at Bob’s Music, 32 Plattsburgh Plaza, Plattsburgh; Cornerstone Bookstore, 110 Margaret St., Plattsburgh; North Country Underground Railroad Museum, 1131 Mace Chasm Road, Ausable Chasm; or at the door.
CONTACT: For questions, call 834-5180.
NOTE: Fans are invited to bring their own picnic baskets and lawn chairs. Some refreshments will be sold. No alcoholic beverages.