Rebuilding Schoharie rocks for flood relief (with video)

A day of rock music under a tent in the village of Schoharie was headlined Saturday by local element

A day of rock music under a tent in the village of Schoharie was headlined Saturday by local elementary school students whose lyrics captured the spirit of the county.

“That brought tears to my eyes,” said Michael Bennett, the charity event’s emcee, who was moved by the positive message in their song. “These kids went through a devastation. They lived it.”

The day, Schoharie Valley Rock’N’Roll Flood Relief Concert, was sponsored by the Schoharie Kiwanis Club and served as a fundraiser for the Schoharie County Community Action Program. The event featured local bands, including M-16, Erin Harkes and Bar Stool Orphans, that rocked through the afternoon and into the evening.

The child performers were almost entirely from Karen Yager’s fourth-grade class at Schoharie Elementary School, where the song was designed with the help of Richie Phillips.

Phillips, who is the co-host of the Sean and Richie Show on radio station WGNA (107.7 FM), has typically helped area schools write funny, lighthearted songs through his reading, writing and rhyming program. “And then all these disasters hit,” he said, explaining the serious shift.

Using lyrics suggested by the children and a tune Phillips had devised, the group crafted a song in about an hour. A final performance made its way onto WGNA’s website, where the audio went somewhat viral and received about 5,000 listens.

Phillips is also thinking about working on a follow-up, as his music program in schools continues. He thought his next piece could focus on the rebuilding efforts that people are engaged in since the flood.

“I was thinking about doing a complete rebuilding tour,” he said. “These people need help on a continuous basis.”

Those people include some of Yager’s students, who were directly impacted by the flooding. Yager said she was lucky, because her home in Schenectady was spared, but three students had their lives uprooted. “I had three kids in my classroom who lost their home. It was tough, but kids are resilient,” she said.

Tears in the crowd

The song resonated with the crowd Saturday, as Yager said she saw a lot of tears after the performance. “People came up to me right afterwards and said thanks a lot,” she said, “The song has affected the community a lot.”

Aside from the music, which attracted the most people because it also sheltered people from the sporadic bouts of rain, there were children’s games, food vendors lined up on Main Street and busy beer sales.

Bennett, the event’s emcee, argued that the day, which was organized in only 41⁄2 weeks, was a testament to the spirit of the “Sloughters,” an affectionate term for Schoharie County natives that dates to the 19th century. “Everybody makes fun of these people, but the heart that they’ve got, you’re not going to get anywhere else,” he said.

“These people have been devastated since the 28th [of August]. They lost everything,” Bennett continued. “And look at them, they’re all smiling and dancing. They’re having a great time.”

On Wednesday, Bennett, who lived in Middleburgh before the flooding, will celebrate his 51st birthday while living at a friend’s house in Livingstonville. The fact he was displaced and lost everything does not quell his desire to restart his life in the area where he raised his family.

“I love Schoharie County, and I’m not leaving. This is my home and life,” he said.

Part of the reason he is so resolute about staying is the sense of community, which was on display at the benefit event. “I know every one of these people here, and I love them. They’re my friends, my family and my acquaintances.”

Even people who didn’t like each other before Tropical Storm Irene came together on Saturday as they have for more than a month. “Neighbors who hated each other pulled together,” Bennett said. “It’s been incredible.”

“We Can Rebuild” can be heard on WGNA’s website. Donations for SCCAP can be mailed to Schoharie Flood Aid 2011, c/o Schoharie Kiwanis, P.O. Box 305, Schoharie, NY 12157.

Categories: Schenectady County

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