SHERMAN - Illuminated, area residents enjoyed a campfire jam on the rustic stage of the Cafe in the Woods.
Night Lights at the Heron, in its 5th year, transforms the grounds of The Great Blue Heron Festival in Sherman into an eco-tourism experience as unique as the individuals who take the stage every Friday and Saturday night.
Friday evening's jam featured several area musicians, many of whom had never played together before. Yet, one would not have guessed that these talented individuals were not a full-time band. Their covers of classic, blues, Grateful Dead and Pink Floyd tunes got everyone, from child to senior, off their log seat and onto their dancing feet.
According to Doug Sitler, organizer, Night Lights at the Heron offers guests an evening unlike anything they've experienced before. And, giving area musicians the opportunity to jam together is a means of fostering talent.
"We feel like we've created something special that is worth the trek out to the countryside," Sitler said. "People always leave here feeling good, recharged and renewed. We get really good comments, and positive feedback - we love turning people on to neat stuff."
Julie Rockcastle agreed, stating, "It's been going wonderfully, and people should come out to get in the woods and walk around," Rockcastle said.
Allysa Dupont is shown playing a drum, which when struck caused the surrounding lights to interact harmoniously with the sound.
P-J photo by Dusten Rader
The group of musicians featured Oliver Burdo, an Infinity Visual and Performing Arts student who performs with several area bands and is also the performer liaison for The Great Blue Heron Festival. His uncle, Claud Schuckers, who celebrated his birthday during the show, Burdo's close friend and Jamestown Community College student Jeremy Little, two guitarists, a bassist and a djembe-playing volunteer coordinator Maria Gibbons joined in on the jam session.
"Claud and I have played Friday nights before, because the night is usually his gig, and he is usually joined by his best friend Chris Mckenna," Burdo said. "We did a big band setting because it's his birthday today. Claud always wants musicians to play with, so the idea was to create a band in which you never know who is going to show up. Sometimes you have two people, and sometimes you have a full band. You never know what's going to happen - the best music comes out of it."
Upon arriving at The Heron grounds, guests were greeted by a pathway of lights leading to the HQ Barn for check-in. Here, guests could opt to pick up a flashlight for their trek along the 1-mile trail, which was illuminated by an array of colorful, creative beams of light. While exploring the sights and sounds, guests march full-circle around a trail that eventually leads to the Cafe in the Woods, where the music they had been hearing on the trail was located.
"Everyone's having a good time and it's a great vibe - it's phenomenal," Burdo said. "Having the lights is awesome, and you don't get this playing bar-type gigs. It's like sitting out back with a campfire, hanging out and playing - the lights become the campfire.."
"You can't get this ambiance anywhere else," Little added.
Night Lights at The Heron will continue tonight with Buffalo's Black Rock Zydeco. Night Lights will also feature a two-day Fall Music Festival on Sept. 13-14, which will include nearly 20 bands. Some of the acts for the event include: Marco Benevento, The Heavy Pets, Schleigho, Jimkata, The Manhattan Project, Lazlo Hollyfeld, Smackdab, Aqueous, Aircraft, Funktional Flow, DJ Cutler, Universe Shark and others. For more information visit www.nightlightsfest.com.
The grounds will be open to the public from dusk to 11 p.m. each Friday and Saturday through Oct. 5. Admission is $10 for adults, $5 for children 7-12 years old and 6 years and under are free. The Heron is located at 2361 Waits Corners Road in Sherman. For more information, or to view the full schedule of entertainment, visit heronnightlights.com.