Steven Pfanenstiel has a firm hand in the folk community: He works with the Folkus Project, runs the monthly YMCA acoustic jam in Baldwinsville, and even performs folk music.
On Saturday, July 28, noon to 6 p.m., he’ll play twice during the inaugural Plainville Folk Festival at the Plainville Christian Church, 754 W. Genesee Road, Plainville. The event will feature music, food and vendors from various sponsors. There is no admission price, but donations are welcome.
When the church held a winter concert series in which Pfanenstiel participated, Rev. Mike Grinalls gave him the idea for a festival. “He thought it would be a fun thing for the community,” Pfanenstiel recalled. “He wondered if I’d help set it up. And crazy me, I said, ‘Sure’.”
They began planning in February and put together a lineup of artists that Pfanenstiel describes as “under the radar.” Pfanenstiel discovered the performers and groups through an open-mike night he runs on Mondays at The Road, 4845 W. Seneca Turnpike.
“I like that it’s all local,” he said about the festival roster. “I don’t want to say they’re lesser-known people, but they’re not out playing big gigs all the time, but they’re still accomplished musicians. I like that aspect: local, lesser-known and still very, very good.”
Aside from Pfanenstiel, the lineup also features JoAnne Sherwood, Frankie Diamond, Sweet Lou and the Otters, Riverstone and the Syracuse Small Pipes Society.
The Small Pipes Society had a show at The Road about six months ago that impressed Pfanenstiel, making them a leading candidate for the folk fest. The group features a variety of instruments including bagpipes, flute, fiddle and smallpipes, the “more soft-spoken cousins of the Great Highland Bagpipes.” Pfanenstiel expects the mixed instrumentation during their festival performance.
“The mix (of instruments) was just wonderful,” Pfanenstiel recalled about the society’s Road show. “They blended so nicely. They’re like the original folk music. They just popped up and I thought to give them a try.”
Riverstone will also have Pfanenstiel on their set. The acoustic group features sisters Kate and Betsy Wirshing as well as Van Cleary-Hammarstedt. They perform covers by artists including the Everly Brothers, Bob Dylan, Creedence Clearwater Revival and John Prine.
The hope is that the festival will remind people about the joys of folk music. “Country and pop have their big niches,” Pfanenstiel said. “Folk music is kind of like a stepchild. This is just one way to keep folk music alive. It’s kind of like bluegrass. You don’t hear a lot about it unless you’re a bluegrass person. Those festivals keep that genre of music alive.”
The folk genre is especially important to Pfanenstiel. “For me growing up, The Beatles were not allowed in the household,” he said. “We were not allowed to have Beatles records or posters. I grew up with my dad’s music from the 1930s and 1940s and classical. When my sister introduced me to Gordon Lightfoot and John Denver, I just fell in love.”
Pfanenstiel’s love of folk music extends to his long-running acoustic jam series, held every third Sunday, 2 to 4 p.m., at the Baldwinsville YMCA, 8040 River Road. Players and audience members meet upstairs for laid-back jams.
“We just go from person to person around the circle,” he said. “Someone will say, ‘I’m gonna play “Leaving on a Jet Plane” in G,’ and everyone goes.” Instrumentation often includes guitar, ukuleles, violins and mandolin.
Pfanenstiel also emphasized that even though the festival is being held at the Plainville Christian Church, there is no religious push behind the day. “Reverend Mike doesn’t want to label it as a church event,” he said. “You don’t have to wear your suit and tie. It’s just a fun event for the community featuring a nice group of local performers.”