A soundless spring

Spring for Sound. For seven years, it was a big attraction for the village of Millerton — one of the biggest. It drew musicians and music lovers from far afield to this small village — all as an important fundraiser for the North East Community Center (NECC).

But it wasn’t always picture perfect. For a few years, most notably last year, there have been complaints that things at the all-day music festival got out of hand. The day entailed multiple stages being set up throughout the village: at the community center, at the village green, at restaurants and at galleries. But, come end of night — at around 10 p.m. — sometimes-unruly behavior reportedly turned into aggressive behavior. Fights were reported, disorderly conduct cited. Gang violence was even rumored. On some occasions, the local police force was called in.

It all came to a head last year, after numerous complaints were registered with the Village Board. The cost of holding such a popular event (about 2,000 attended in 2017), it was said, was too steep for this quiet little village. Some called for Spring for Sound’s cancellation. Others called for its reform.

It was suggested that the late night concerts be held at Eddie Collins Park, instead of in the center of the village, to keep the commotion to a minimum. The open container law that the village typically suspended for the day, it was recommended, be reinforced. So agreed event organizers and the Village Board. Those two changes alone were thought to have been enough to salvage what is the musical event of the season. But, clearly, that was not the case.

On Monday, April 9, the co-producers of Spring for Sound, along with NECC leadership, announced the event was canceled. Gone are the concerts that highlight local talent. Gone are the free activities that involve entire families and whole communities. Gone are the notes of music floating through the spring air. Gone.

Some are unhappy about the decision, like local business people who saw prosperous returns from the day-long event. Whether sales that day improved, or customers returned for another look at a later date, Millerton businesses largely liked the festival. Some, though, complained about litter, drunkenness, vulgarity, fights — all unseemly behavior for a village as quaint and rural as this one. There were supporters and detractors, both.

In the middle was the Village Board, which set up an informal committee to meet with NECC organizers about how to improve the event. Progress was made, according to Millerton Mayor Debbie Middlebrook, who fully expected another event this spring. Trustee Jenn Najdek and then-Deputy Mayor Stephen Waite, who sat in on the talks, thought so, too. 

But the headway made in those talks was not enough to overcome the obstacles set in place by holding two events, such as it were: one in the village proper and one at Eddie Collins Park. The logistical and financial issues that arose were just too great, said NECC Interim Executive Director Jennifer Dowley.

For that, we’re sorry. We’re sorry to see an event that was so special be lost. We were sorry when Spring for Sound caused such a disruption, too, but were comforted by the work done by the Village Board to fix things. We’re sure their solution would have improved matters, and we thank all involved for their efforts. 

Perhaps in the future, NECC will reconsider Spring for Sound, improvements included. Doing so would be music to the ears of many in the village of Millerton, sad to see such a unique event fall silent.