Moved By The Music

SHERMAN – Thousands of music enthusiasts ventured into the rolling hills of Amish country Friday for the start of the 22nd annual Great Blue Heron Music Festival.

Amid the torrential downpours and constant dark skies in Sherman was a sea of lawn chairs and colorful characters. The sprawling grounds also featured meticulously placed wooden sculptures, the occasional hula hooper and a heavy security presence.

But it was the music that took center stage Friday, featuring eight bands over a 10-hour stretch on the main stage. In all, dozens of bands are scheduled to perform by Sunday.

“I just love all the music. It keeps me coming back every year,” said Laurene Reinsel, of Erie, Pa., also a volunteer at the annual three-day music festival. “I enjoy helping out, and I get to enjoy all of this for nothing. It’s everything you could want.”

According to Julie Rockcastle, a founding partner of the festival, 835 volunteers are expected to help this year. Those who provide nine hours or more of service are given free admission, she said.

“Everything went very, very well the first day,” Rockcastle said Friday night. “We’ve got such a strong team here and great equipment that we can handle any kind of weather. Once people got out of their vehicles the weather didn’t matter.”

Rockcastle also noted the music festival’s strong recycling push, including colorful canisters for cigarette butts. The goal, she said, is for 50 percent of all material – including glass, cardboard and general waste – to be recycled.

“Part of this push with all the recycling is for the education,” she said. “We’re trying to build the awareness and help leave this place the way we found it.”

Brocton resident Julie Spears, one of many found relaxing not far from the stage, said the variety of music and atmosphere keeps her coming back.

“Me and my husband come here almost every year,” she said. “This is about the music, and I think it’s a great place to be with friends and family.”

Also present outside the music festival in large numbers: police. Sgt. Gary Segrue of the State Police at Jamestown said officers this year would be working with the Chautauqua County Sheriff’s Office to monitor roadways around the grounds.

“We will be working to ensure the town of Sherman is peaceful and area guests are acting lawfully as they attend the Great Blue Heron Festival,” Segrue said.