WRSI’s 40th anniversary festival brings locally beloved music, food to Unity Park

  • Annakalmia Traver of the band Rubblebucket plays the saxophone on stage at WRSI’s 40th anniversary festival at Unity Park in Turners Falls on Sunday. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

  • Rubblebucket plays WRSI’s 40th anniversary festival at Unity Park in Turners Falls on Sunday. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

  • WRSI personality Christopher “Monte” Belmonte dressed up to introduce Rubblebucket at WRSI’s 40th anniversary festival at Unity Park in Turners Falls on Sunday. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

  • Winterpills plays at WRSI’s 40th anniversary festival at Unity Park in Turners Falls on Sunday afternoon. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

  • Rubblebucket plays at WRSI’s 40th anniversary festival at Unity Park in Turners Falls on Sunday. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

  • Rubblebucket plays at WRSI’s 40th anniversary festival at Unity Park in Turners Falls on Sunday. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

Staff Writer
Published: 8/1/2021 6:09:02 PM

TURNERS FALLS — Unity Park lived up to its name on Sunday when WRSI 93.9 The River’s 40-year anniversary celebration brought locals together under the greatly missed canopy of live music.

Meshing national-level prestige with popular regional talent, the local radio station partnered with the Shea Theater Arts Center and a series of local sponsors to bring sound and small businesses canalside. Moving and grooving bodies of all ages crowded the lawn, some bobbing their heads while seated with family members and others stomping their feet at the front of the stage. Organizers and attendees alike hope the celebration is a preview of festivities to come to the village.

Music lovers from several different towns congregated to hear Rubblebucket, And The Kids, and Winterpills perform. Montague Police Sgt. Josh Hoffman estimated at around 3:30 p.m. (an hour after live music began) that about 1,000 people were present.

“It’s good to bring in people from outside of town,” Hoffman said. “It really helps the town and the businesses. It’s awesome.”

“This is super good for the community,” said Scott Kuzmeskus, an attendee who has organized Greenfield’s Freedom Fest and Turners Falls’ Pumpkinfest, now called the Great Falls Festival. “There’s not a lot that happens in Turners Falls.”

Vinny Natalo, an attendee who has a long history with both Unity Park and the festival’s performers, said his appreciation for the park’s breath of life was deep-rooted.

“I played softball here for decades, so I have an emotional connection to this place,” Natalo said. “Nothing beats the outdoors, right? Being where you want to be.”

Even some who are less familiar with Turners Falls say they can sense magic within the town.

“We are so appreciative of the wealth of different types of music and cultures in this area,” said Gretchen Plotkin, who came from Amherst with her husband, Joel, to attend the festival.

It’s this acknowledgement of the town’s artistic and celebration-hosting potential that has some thinking that people could be doing even more to capitalize.

“(Unity Park needs) some kind of regular music,” Joel Plotkin said, “so that people know that this is the place to go on a Wednesday or Thursday night. It wouldn’t need to have this degree of infrastructure.”

“People need to be more involved,” Kuzmeskus said. “This is fun. People need to do this.”

For now, though, those in attendance made it clear that they were happy to have WRSI give back to the community that appreciates them with the free festival.

“How grateful we’ve been to have The River to listen to for many, many years,” Plotkin said. “It’s one of the speed dials on our car radio.”

Christopher “Monte” Belmonte, the station’s morning show host and Shea Theater president, said the station is proud to be a community staple that has served Turners Falls for so long.

“We hope to do more things at Unity Park,” Belmonte said.

Reach Julian Mendoza at 413-772-0261, ext. 261 or jmendoza@recorder.com.




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