Summer Music Festival Cancelled (Exclusive interview and Photo)

Chris Merkley (left) and Ty Coakley (right)
Kevin L Smith/Cortland Voice File


Organizers of a summer music festival staple in Cortland County delivered bad news over the weekend. However, they provided hope for a future event this fall.

Chris Merkley and Ty Coakley, co-organizers of the annual Seedstock Music Festival in the fields at Reed’s Seeds on Route 215 in Cortlandville, announced Sunday morning via Facebook that the weekend-long event will not happen for a second-straight year.

“It was a little more disheartening this year to tell people that we can’t provide (the festival this year) and do what we want to do,” Coakley said.

The Seedstock Music Festival is an event that merely started as a house party by roommates Merkley, Coakley, Jamie Yaman and Mac Coats -- with a band included. It has since then grown into a large festival that brings in 800-1,000 people and around 20 bands a year.

“It mimics a small music festival, but also brings a house-party vibe,” Coakley said.

The music festival occurred for 11 straight years before the COVID-19 pandemic canceled the event in 2020.

This year, the biggest issue became time management. “We normally start preparation for Seedstock in January,” Coakley said, but New York state COVID-19 regulations for outdoor gatherings at the time made it tough for the festival team to make concrete plans.

“I think it was less of a cancellation than it was holding off on bringing it back,” Merkley said.

As of right now, NYS regulations for outdoor gatherings allow for 200-500 people at a time. It was less beforehand.

Coakley mentioned bands were booked for a potential music festival this year “way in advance,” but Merkley said regulations right now “still make things unclear.”

“More restrictions have been lifted in the past couple of months, but it just doesn’t give us enough time to bring the experience we want for us and for everyone else,” Coakley said.

Merkley added that more space for the festival, and social distancing had to be factored into a potential festival this year.

“It would take a lot to present the festivals we usually present,” Merkley said. “There’s no indication we can do that.”

Merkley added, “Changing too many aspects of it compromises the type of event it is.”

Despite no festival during the summer, Merkley is hoping to hold an “eerily similar Seedstock-like” event in November at Rose Hall. Rose Hall is located at the corner of Church Street and Central Avenue in Cortland.

“We don’t have to worry about maintaining the identity of the original show,” Merkley said.

Merkley noted that Rose Hall has two floors, one that can hold “about 500 people” with a stage, and another that can hold “close to 130 people” with a stage as well.

The goal for the indoor event this fall is to gather a few bands and at first sell tickets to “a few hundred people,” Merkley said. He added the event would be “only a half-day thing” instead of the usual day or weekend-long events Seedstock has had in the past.

“We’ll start and work with what the regulations are now, but if more allowed, we’ll sell more tickets,” Merkley added. He said the event is currently unnamed, but it will be “in the spirit of Seedstock.”

“It’s just an excuse to get together,” Merkley said. “We have a great community of people, here in Cortland and out of town, who gather for Seedstock every year. We want to try and give them something this year.”

The hope for Merkley and Coakley one day is to get the Seedstock Music Festival back to what it was before the pandemic.

“There are kids that have grown up with Seedstock and people who have been there every year,” Merkley said. “Even the Reed family has embraced the festival.”

“It’s something the Cortland community looks forward to every year,” Coakley said. “Someday, we’ll get back to the roots of the festival and throw that big house party once again.”