Community celebrates RCS talent in inaugural festival

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By Melanie Lekocevic

Capital Region Independent Media

Young musicians performed onstage at the first We Love aRtCS Music and Art Festival on Saturday. Contributed photo

RAVENA — The inaugural We Love aRtCS Music and Art Festival drew hundreds Saturday to celebrate local artistic talent in the community.

The festival, the first of its kind in Ravena, was organized by local residents Ted Smith, Caitlin Appleby and Bridget Engelhardt, and featured artwork and musical and dramatic performances from area students and professional artists.

“We wanted to celebrate community after a period where people were stuck inside, staying away from crowds because of COVID, and all the politics in the middle of it — everybody at each other’s throats and feeling grumpy,” Smith said. “We just wanted people to come out and have fun and celebrate togetherness. Our kids and their creativity are a great way to do that.”

About 40 vendors lined Railroad Avenue and the parking lot at Trackside Pizza, selling crafts and artwork. One exhibit featured visual arts created by local students from Pieter B. Coeymans and A.W. Becker elementary schools.

Vendors sold their crafts in the parking lot at Trackside Pizza and along Railroad Avenue. Melanie Lekocevic/Capital Region Independent Media

Numerous bands performed, including RCS ensembles — the middle school Jazz Band and Modern Band, the high school Jazz Band, middle school Select Chorus, and Harmonics, the high school’s select vocal ensemble.

The drama clubs from both the high school and middle school also took to the stage.

The Coxsackie Community Band and the choir from St. Patrick’s Church, among others, also performed.

Closing out the festival’s day were three rock bands — Dusk Till Dawn, Sugar Skull, and Dr. Jah & The Love Prophets.

“All three of the bands are professionals that perform live, but they are all RCS connected, especially Sugar Skull — all four of them went through RCS schools, but the other two have RCS connections, too,” Smith said.

Dusk Till Dawn was one of three professional RCS-connected bands to close out the festival this weekend. Melanie Lekocevic/Capital Region Independent Media

The festival drew big crowds all day long.

“It was a wonderful turnout, especially for the kids — lots of parents and grandparents came out,” Smith said. “It was best for the kids — to have a venue to perform out of the four walls of their school building, where it just feels like part of the school and not part of the community. Being able to come out in the open air and feel like part of the community, not just the school community, was special for them, I think. They don’t have those opportunities too often.”

Appleby, who was recently elected to the Ravena Village Board, has been a longtime organizer for the annual Friendship Festival held at Mosher Park, and lent her expertise to help establish the music and art festival.

She worked on fundraising and signing up vendors — and said this festival drew a different group of vendors than the Friendship Festival.

“We have a lot of artists who are exhibiting their art — it drew a different crowd,” Appleby said. “I never really reached out to artists for the Friendship Festival, so this is a whole new demographic that we tapped into.”

Appleby said she appreciated the strong show of community support for the new festival.

“Hopefully, this festival will be an annual thing,” Appleby said. “I want to thank the community for coming out today — it makes all the hard work worth it, seeing everyone having fun.”

Artwork created by students at Pieter B. Coeymans and A.W. Becker elementary schools was exhibited during the festival. Melanie Lekocevic/Capital Region Independent Media

Donna Hommel, president of RCS Friends of the Arts, hosted a table selling T-shirts, jewelry and artistic items, raising funds for the group.

“Proceeds go to the art and music students at RCS,” Hommel said. “We gave out our first scholarships this year and we are very excited about that. Our goal next year is to focus more on the middle school and the younger kids, because that is really where the kids start to figure out what they like. As you get older and start taking private lessons, you realize how expensive that is and I started thinking, there is no support for those students.”

So she started the RCS Friends of the Arts — to support the efforts of the area’s artistic students and their special talents.

“The kids who are artists — whether singing, painting, drama — they are unique to themselves,” Hommel said. “They are a particular type of personality and I don’t think it’s a personality type that people can really see how talented they are. They have so much to offer.”

Local businesswoman Joy Iafallo from Gabler Realty said she and Judi Gabler sponsored the festival because the arts were an important part of their lives, and she wanted to share it with others.

“Art was huge in my life at RCS and art was huge in Judi’s life in RCS,” Iafallo said. “Art was my outlet — I started in real estate with photography. I want to foster the arts here in the community.”

Town Councilwoman Linda Bruno said the festival brings a new perspective to the area.

“It’s a wonderful event for the community and to see all the artistic people and crafts people we have here,” Bruno said. “It’s a great adventure for the community.”

One exhibit at the festival was in support of students with a slightly different interest — a team of six youngsters in the First LEGO League, which promotes young learners interested in engineering, computers and robotics.

The team was trying to raise funds to send their six team members, and one parent each, to an international competition in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

“They went through two other competitions — the first two were remote and they advanced through both of those, but they came in second place in their second competition and were invited to this international competition,” organizer Kate Robertson said. “There will be 80 teams from around the U.S. and another 20 from out of the country. They will compete with their robot and present the project that they researched.”

Young students from the area’s First LEGO League team are headed to Arkansas this week and were raising funds for their trip during the festival Saturday. Melanie Lekocevic/Capital Region Independent Media

The team is headed to Arkansas this week, with the weekend-long competition beginning Thursday. Three of the team members attend RCS Middle School, one is homeschooled and two attend A.W. Becker Elementary School. The team has been supported through the years by a local Selkirk business, Robertson said.

“SABIC has sponsored us every year since we started this club nine years ago,” she said. “They have just been so reliable — we really appreciate their funding.”

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