Sparky, The Environmentalist and Town Elder
Last week, the Gratitude Migration team took a trip down memory lane in a candid conversation with Raymond “Sparky” Cann, a long-time environmentalist with roots in the Clearwater movement. We spoke with him about the history of Clearwater Festival, his involvement with the Migration team, and what he’s most excited for with this year’s Summer Dream.
Raymond ‘Sparky’ Cann, an environmentalist who is part and parcel with the New Jersey Friends of Clearwater and Clearwater Festival, has dedicated himself to preserving our waters and making them clean again. Originally hailing from Newark, NJ, Raymond has called Keansburg his home for almost 5 decades, living just down the street from the beach on which Gratitude Migration takes place. In his words,
Legendary singer songwriter Pete Seeger founded Clearwater Foundation in 1966, saddened by the toxic pollution destroying the Hudson River. With a mission to educate people about the Hudson, the Foundation purchased a replica boat reminiscent of the historic ‘sloops’ that sailed the Hudson in 18th and 19th centuries to remind people of its beauty when the waters were truly clean.
For almost 30 years, the Clearwater Foundation hosted the annual Clearwater Festival in a variety of venues in the region, and for a long time took place in Sandy Hook, a spit of land which extends out to the Atlantic Ocean, part of the Gateway National Park. As the resident electrician for the Clearwater Festival, he became known by the moniker ‘Sparky’. Last year, the day after Gratitude Migration, Raymond met Gratitude Migration co-producer Avi Werde and mentioned his role as Clearwater’s electrician as well as his tenure as the Head of Finance at Clearwater Festival for 15 years.
This beachside town holds a very special place in Sparky’s heart.
This year, Sparky is most excited that local residents will have the opportunity to show people who come to his town that there are like-minded individuals across the bay and that the residents are in fact very friendly.
Clearwater’s presence at this year’s Gratitude Migration will be interactive and educational.
For future Gratitude Migrations, Sparky is really excited about the prospect of bringing wooden boats into the fray. “Down the road, we’d like to build a wooden boat during the weekend of Gratitude Migration. We’d love to show festival-goers how to build their own boats and oars.”
According to Raymond, Keansburg’s population skews on the more mature side. “Anyone under the age of 40 is a youngster here.” Through Gratitude Migration, Keansburg has been able to tap into the arts, and bring in more young folks.
Sparky might be “older” but he certainly hasn’t lost his flame. He chuckled and left me with this little gem of a phrase before we parted ways: