The Big Up and Bella Terra: Two festivals bring on the fun


This may be the final stretch of the season, but summer shows no signs of slowing down. In fact, two Berkshire County-based organizers are working to present two different weekend-long music and arts festivals in August, both located just over the lines of the Berkshire-New York border.

The first festival on tap is The Big Up, which runs Aug. 8 to 10 at Hemlock Hollow Farm in the Hillsdale/Claverack, N.Y. area. The following weekend, Aug. 15 to 18, is the fifth annual Bella Terra Festival in Stephentown, N.Y.

Each festival has a vast and varied lineup of performance artists and activities, camping and community, but each comes with its own

"Our main goal is offer music by presenting it in a boutique way. It's quality over quantity," said 24-year-old Jules Jenssen of Housatonic.

"It's cool and it's a beautiful thing to be a part of. Anything that is going to last is going to take a while to come into fruition. Some festivals try to go way too big, way too fast. We did it humbly, starting small and starting local," Jenssen said.

He co-founded and co-produced the first festival in 2009 through a group known as Ruralliance Productions. He's also a member of the electronic-jam-experimental group Higher Organix.

The first festival was called "Let It Roll: End of Summer Extravaganza" and was held at the historic Sunnyview Farm in Ghent, N.Y., before the name changed to "The Big Up," and expanded in multiple ways, from performing acts to production teams.

"We've doubled our attendance every year," he said. In 2010, the festival attracted 700 people. In 2011, it brought in 1,500 people. Last year, the event went on hiatus. This year, Big Up is hoping to see around 3,000 people in attendance.

This year's Big Up features more than 60 performers, from the Berkshires to the U.K., and beyond, all brought together under the Shireworks Productions moniker. Acts range from headliner Beats Antique out of Oakland, Calif. to Jensenn's Higher Organix to Swiss drummer Jojo Mayer's group Nerve, as well as copious amounts of deejays.

The modus operandi of the Big Up is to bring people together and let them dance, so most of the sets are upbeat fusions ranging from EDM, jazz, pop, world, rock, groove, funk and more.

"I'm as excited to see these bands as anyone," said Jenssen, who also looks forward to performing.

"That's a special part for me, because, in a way, that is why we started making events. It was to have an outlet to make music in, like back in the Searles days," he said, referring to the concerts he helped stage at the former Searles Middle School in Great Barrington.

"To be able to make music and have it reverberate over a field with hundreds of smiling, beautiful faces and having them enjoy my music is extremely gratifying. I think the other groups feel the same," he said.

This year's event will also feature a more comprehensive array of other activities, like drumming and performance workshops and the Green Festival Challenge, which aims to engage people through incentives to reduce waste, carpool and keep the grounds green.

Behind-the-scenes, Jenssen said The Big Up has become successful by "developing strong relationships with reliable companies, vendors, production staff. It's about finding the right people, sticking with them and growing together."

The Bella Terra music and arts festival has come a long way from a soggy field at Bogies Steak & Ale in Great Barrington.

Now in its fifth year, the event will be held on the idyllic farm land of Gardner's Ice Cream & Coffee, located in Stephentown, N.Y.

"Yeah, five years. I haven't had much time to sit back and look at it. Since 2009, it's been go, go, go," said festival founder Jeffrey Schneider, 29, of Pittsfield.

The first event was literally a wash due to river flooding into the Bogies field. The event was moved to New York, not only to offer patrons more hospitable grounds, but also to generate more traffic between Massachusetts, New York, Vermont and Connecticut.

"We've been bringing in a lot of really prominent artists as well as those that are up-and-coming. We're also bringing a really cool arts scene to the area," Schneider said.

He said Bella Terra is a unique offering of a wide variety of music genres, including hip-hop, reggae, EDM, jam, rock and more. This year's headliners include Ghostface Killah of the Wu-Tang Clan, dubstep producer Datsik, to veteran regional rockers Max Creek, among more than 60 other performers.

Berkshire-based acts include Rev Tor with Charles Neville, Longview Gunslingers, The Fallen Starlets, Mass All Day, and other guests.

"Each year we manage to have some type of unique collaboration, in this case it's Robokop, which includes Allen Aucoin of The Disco Biscuits and Clay Parnell of Brothers Past and Biodiesel," Schneider said.

Instead of one main stage, there will be two stages this year, with a large-scale interactive art and light installation by Jangala Designs set in between.

He said artistic endeavors are a festival mainstay, like the live graffiti painting on moveable 50-foot mural panels and what Schneider calls "edutainment" programming. This year's activities include Kung Fu classes, digeridoo meditation, Wellness Village, a kids' tent, One World puppetry, and a 40-by-60-foot tented marketplace.

Bella Terra will also host a commissary program where it's buying fresh seasonal produce from local farms and distributors in the region to sell to the event's food vendors for them to utilize in their booths.

"With the back-to-school season here, we've also decided to do a school clothing, supplies and food drive to benefit the St. John's/St. Ann's Outreach Center in Albany. It's the perfect opportunity to do something to try to give back to the area," Schneider said.

"We really want to benefit the region socially, economically and culturally," he said.

If you go ...

The Big Up 2013

What: A music and arts festival featuring more than danceable 60 bands and DJs.

When: Around the clock entertainment on Aug. 8, 9, 10.

Where: Hemlock Hollow Farm, 2177 County Route 11, Hillsdale N.Y.

Amenities/activities: Camping, dancing, green initiatives, art areas, yoga and music classes, public and private Porta Potties and cabanas, food vendors, karaoke, theme nights and more.

Tickets: $75 to $200, which includes admission and camping passes. Day/gate prices will be announced this weekend.

Schedules and info:

Bella Terra 2013: Fifth anniversary

What: A music and arts festival featuring more than 60 bands and visual artists.

When: Around the clock entertainment on Aug. 15, 16, 17 and 18.

Where: Gardner's Ice Cream & Coffee, 15898 Route 22, Stephentown, N.Y., near the intersection of routes 22 and 43.

Amenities/activities: Camping, dancing, green initiatives, art areas, wellness and music classes, food vendors and farmer's market, live art installations and galleries, kids activities, nearby diner and mini-golf course and more.

Tickets: $56-$350, based on number of days, camping and VIP privileges. 

Schedules and info:


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