Record Crowd Celebrates the Sourlands

Nalani & Sarina at 2018 SMF photo by John McSweeney.

The Sourland Music Festival reported record attendance at the annual event on Saturday.  Spirits were high despite the gloomy forecast of 100% chance of rain.

Christopher Georgette, festival volunteer said, “It did rain early in the morning, but the ground was dry by the time the gates opened.” Georgette and his wife, Rosemary, have volunteered for several years. “Thankfully, the rain held off all day, a lot of people came, and we all had a really good time!”

The Sourland Music Festival began at Hillbilly Hall as a fun event with a few local bands.  Over fifteen years, the event has evolved into a celebration of the Sourland Mountain region.

Bob and Judy Czekanski organized Critter Corner and History Lane, and shared, “We are very fortunate to live in an area with such a rich history and so many active nonprofit organizations. We are really happy that they came to share the day with us and spread the word about the work they’re doing!”

The Seeing Eye, Sierra Club, Swallow Hill Farm Alpacas, Conserve Wildlife, Watershed Institute, Raritan Valley Beekeepers, Mercer County Wildlife Center, Philadelphia Insectarium and Butterfly Pavilion, New Jersey Audubon-Plainsboro, Somerset County Park Commission, Mercer County Park Commission Outwater’s Militia, Van Harlingen Historical Society, Stoutsburg Sourland African American Museum, Hopewell Valley Historical Society, East Amwell Historical Society, and Northeast Organic Farmers Association of NJ (NOFA) brought artifacts and offered demonstrations and information.

Adventurous guests of all ages enjoyed the climbing wall, bouncy house and riding automatic bicycles on a trail created by Sourland Cycles.  “Riders enjoy the beauty and challenge of the mountain,” said Michael Gray. “We’re happy to support the Sourland Conservancy in their efforts to preserve and protect the mountain.

A banner near the stage read, “Save the Sourlands.”

“That’s our unofficial motto,” said Sourland Conservancy Executive Director, Caroline Katmann. “Our mission is to protect, promote and preserve the unique character of the Sourland Mountain region. The health of the forest is critical, so we do focus a lot of our efforts on the environment – especially stewardship. We also strive to protect and promote the rich history of the region. For instance, we’re partnering with the Stoutsburg Cemetery Association to create the Stoutsburg Sourland African American Museum (SSAAM) – the first African-American museum in central New Jersey. I would encourage everyone to attend our free guided hikes and Train Station Series events and visit our website to learn more.”

The 90-square-mile Sourland region is home to the largest contiguous forest in Central New Jersey.  The sparsely populated area includes parts of Somerset, Hunterdon and Mercer counties, and encompasses a complex ecosystem of forest, wetlands and grasslands. Its mosaic of habitats is home to a rich diversity of animal and plant species, many rare or endangered. The forest is especially important as a breeding area for migratory songbirds, particularly those who nest only in large wooded areas. The “Sourland Mountain” is actually a 17- mile long ridge extending from the Delaware River at Lambertville to the western end of Hillsborough Township near the community of Neshanic, through Montgomery Township and into Hopewell Township in Mercer County.

Rain in the forecast did not dampen the spirits of Sourland Music Festival attendees. The 15th annual event attracted a record number of attendees, and a good time was had by all! Photo by Laurie Cleveland.

The region has been receiving a lot of attention lately for its organic farms and farm-to-table restaurants. The Ryland Inn hosted the VIP Experience for the second year. Guests enjoyed beverages and snacks throughout the day with a full buffet meal prepared by renowned Executive Chef, Chris Albrecht. Chef Albrecht uses local ingredients – many from his own garden at the Inn.  In addition, several local vendors served their specialty foods and beverages to festival guests: Sourland Mountain Spirits, Brick Farm Market, Basil Bandwagon, Tower Dogs, Rockhard Pickles, Dellano’s, Maddalena’s Cheesecake & Catering, Ama’s Italian Gelato, River Horse Brewery, Flounder Brewery and Unionville Vineyards.

The Sourland region also boasts a vibrant arts community. Over twenty artists, crafters and vendors attended the festival including Alleyne Studios, Art Sink, Bourgie Glass, Cookin’ with Greens, Devalila Yoga and Trauma Resolution, Kathy Jeanne Millinery, Inside Out, Friends of Historic Flemington, Dar James, Lisa Medoff Designs, Montessori Kids Universe, Myriad Mirage, Princeton Learning Cooperative, State Plate Designs, Stephanie Michelle Creations, Sugar Mag’s Rags, and Susan Joy Rosetty.

Sourland Conservancy Trustee, Tim Johnson, and member, Suzanne Parsons, volunteered as Festival co-chairs. “We had a really strong lineup, and they put on a terrific show,” said Johnson. “People were out of their seats right away, dancing. It was great!” This year’s artists were J. B. Kline Band, Joshua Branson, Nalani & Sarina, The Verdict, Stolen Rhodes and Flux Capacitor.

The Sourland Conservancy would like to thank Festival sponsors and partners: The Ryland Inn, Secure Retirement Strategies, Bank of Princeton, Sourland Cycles, Sourland Mountain Spirits, Kilbourne & Kilbourne, The Bent Spoon, The Brothers Moon, Volvo Cars Princeton, Coldwell Banker, Union Line Garage, Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA), New Jersey Sierra Club, the D&R Greenway Land Trust, Mercer County Park Commission, The Watershed Institute, Friends of Hopewell Valley Open Space (FoHVOS), REI, and Princeton Music Exchange.*

The Sourland Music Festival is a fundraiser for the Sourland Conservancy.  Proceeds support their education, stewardship and advocacy initiatives. For more information about the Sourland region or the Sourland Conservancy, visit

*Edited to include additional sponsors at 2:40pm on 6/27/18.

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