ITHACA, N.Y. – The first annual Ithaca Reggae Festival is kicking off Saturday morning at Stewart Park, offering music, food, drink, dancing and other activities which will last throughout the day and into the night.

Seven of Upstate New York’s most popular and influential reggae bands fill up tomorrow’s lineup, including John Brown’s Body, Giant Panda Guerilla Dubsquad, Kevin Kinsella, Thunder Body, Analogue Sons, Root Shock, and Bomb Pulse. Several DJ’s are also lined up to play throughout the day.

However, the festival is not only aimed to celebrate the local reggae scene, but has also been organized to bring awareness to the protection of Cayuga Lake, said co-founder Michael Mazza.

Mazza said the idea of organizing a reggae festival in Ithaca has been in the works for years. A born and raised Ithacan, Mazza moved to California and returned to Ithaca in 2009.

“I have a deep passion for live music – I remember going to The Haunt when it was on Green Street and reggae music was often what would be playing at the time,” he said as he recalls early memories of seeing John Brown’s Body and Kevin Kinsella play. “I’ve always had a dream to celebrate reggae in this community.”

Now, Mazza’s dream is coming true – but it’s not just reggae on the list of things to celebrate on Saturday.

The festival was founded on two core missions, Mazza said; to celebrate the reggae community and bring awareness to restoring Cayuga Lake.

“There’s so much attention which has been brought to Seneca Lake, and for good reason,” Mazza said. “But everyone thinks Cayuga Lake is going to be fine… we need to make sure our lake stays healthy – it’s all of our responsibilities.”

Organizers of the festival have decided to use reggae music as a way to create a platform for water activists – Mazza adds that this is not an afterthought, but instead a primary part of the festival. Over 25 tables for water-related activist organizations will be arranged at the entrance of the festival, welcoming attendees.

Additionally, Mazza said he is aiming for a single-use plastic-free event, as a way to eliminate waste and prove that the event can run successfully without single-use plastic products. Free running water will be available throughout the day, and food vendors will be using compostable products.

Mazza noted that while each of the bands lined up are crucial to the Upstate reggae scene, and some of them have played together, this will be the first occasion that all seven will be playing at the same event.

“The seven bands that we have playing represent the nucleus of the reggae scene in Ithaca, and this will be the first time they are all sharing a stage together,” he said. “It’s going to be an awesome celebration of Reggae in Ithaca.”

Featured image courtesy of the Ithaca Reggae Fest Facebook page

Alyvia Covert

Alyvia is a Crime Reporter with The Ithaca Voice. She graduated from Ithaca College with a degree in Journalism and Photography.