Aretha Franklin Tribute and Fashion Show Merge

By Jennifer L. Warren

NEWBURGH – June Henley likes to refer to it as a “Happy Accident.”

Originally, it was slated to be a benefit concert for Saturday night to benefit The Ritz.

However, all that changed with the recent passing of singing icon Aretha Franklin. Henley, the director of Programming for Safe Harbors of the Hudson, wanted to do something to honor “The Queen of Soul.” So, she called her friend Dave McMillen of the Band-Bag of Trix- who rounded up his 11 musicians, only available during the day. She then called another friend, Danielle Van Houten of Photography and Hudson Valley Creatives, who was already scheduled Saturday to do a fashion show for another City of Newburgh event- Newburgh Open Studios. The result was a beautiful partnership of music and fashion show venues, honoring Franklin and attracting an impressive, energetic crowd to the Safe Harbors of the Hudson Green site.

“What I love so much about Aretha Franklin is everyone loves her, gets her; they are all familiar with her and her music no matter their age,” said Henley as she looked out to the smiling crowd, some of them even dancing to the legend’s catchy music scores. “Kids and people of all ages are clapping, singing and dancing along to the music.”

It’s exactly that lively, passionate, community-centered “vibe” that Lisa Silverstone, Executive Director of Safe Harbors on the Hudson, ideally envisioned the open “Green” space to be filled with when it became available to the public.

Members of the band A Bag of Trix performs at Saturday’s Aretha Franklin Tribute Concert on the Safe Harbors on the Green.

“I always think it’s important to activate the park area here and celebrate all the diversity and the City of Newburgh,” said Silverstone. “We always really like to collaborate with other events going on in the City, such as with the Fashion Show, Artist Open Studio Tour and music, and we are doing just that here with this Tribute event.” She added, “It’s just an easy place (The Green) to be-sit on the grass, a chair, anywhere and just enjoy, so nice to see it.”

Everywhere one looked around the Green people could be spotted enjoying the beautiful day, as they brought to life the music, time period and essence of Franklin. In fact, the merger with the Fashion Show was highlighted with an Aretha Franklin look-alike, who came down the runway in attire and accessories capturing the time period as well as the entire audience’s attention. That “happy accident,” uniquely blending the sounds of Franklin with an assortment of fashion, provided a memorable combination to the special event.

“Today we are showcasing the art of fashion, hair, makeup and design; fashion is wearable art,” explained VanHouten. “We are connecting with Aretha Franklin by doing the vintage clothing and style to match her soul; it’s nice that we are both part of a Safe Harbors event as well as the Annual Newburgh Open Studios Tour today.”

That marriage of Franklin’s music with a runway fashion show proved to be exactly what many people needed on this picture perfect fall day; everywhere you looked on the Green, there was joy.

“I came here today to see a friend in the fashion show,” said Laura Franklin of Blooming Grove, who was dancing The Stroll to the Franklin tunes. “I’m really enjoying the music, being out on a beautiful day, and seeing the fashion; all in all, it’s a very fun, relaxing and great day to be outdoors.”

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