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GottaGetGon Festival features fine folk

When Greg and Rosalie Clarke moved to the Capital District from Maine, they were eager to find some cheap ways to entertain their two young daughters.

They heard about the GottaGetGon Folk Festival and decided to check it out, even though they weren't really into folk music.

Suffice to say, that quickly changed. Forty years later, the Clarkes are still attending the festival, which will be held Friday to Sunday, May 22 to 24, at the Saratoga County Fairgrounds in Ballston Spa. What's more, their daughters, who are grown now and live in Ohio and Arizona, often come back home to attend GottaGetGon.

It's an incredible sense of community, Rosalie Clarke said.

That's a sentiment repeated often by the people who attend GottaGetGon. Yes, the music is great. Camping is fun. But above all else, the weekend forms unbreakable bonds.

Emily Clark, for instance, attended her first GottaGetGon with her mom and dad when she was just 2 months old. Some of her earliest memories are of playing with friends at the festival, drifting asleep surrounded by the sound of folk music.

Today, Clark lives in New York City and is a mother herself. She still comes to GottaGetGon, and she hangs out not just with people her age, but with people she knew as her parents' friends when she was growing up.

"It's like a big extended family," she said.

Organizers are proud of that vibe, which they have cultivated since the first GottaGetGon in 1970. The festival is sponsored by the Pickin' and Singin' Gatherin', a participatory folk music group, and features concerts and workshops.

The formal activities are only part of what makes the weekend special. Long after the sun sets, songs echoes through the fairgrounds as people gather around campfires to sing and socialize.

Bill Kelsey of Berne, a member of the performer selection committee, explained that acts are told, "You come to spend the weekend with us. You sing to us, you sing with us."

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