BATAVIA — Organizers of all-day music festivities in Batavia scrambled before the start of The Ramble Saturday.
A fast-moving thunderstorm hit about 10 a.m. and threatened to wash out the seventh annual Ramble Music & Arts Festival, but the event ended up starting only an hour late.
High winds took down some vendor tents and sign boards. A heavy downpour left a pool of water on the pavement in Jackson Square, the site of the festival.
The cement and asphalt was cleared off with squeegees once the storm blew through to the east.
Bill “Mild Bill” Pitcher, one of the founders of The Ramble, thanked the several dozen spectators on hand when the show started at noon in Jackson Square. He is part of the Ramble Posse, an informal committee that puts the show together and works out logistics.
Pitcher is also a member of the popular Batavia band The Ghost Riders, the traditional the opening act for the fest.
“Hardy folks we’ve got here. Welcome to the seventh Ramble,” he said.
Music fan Jamie Kendall of Batavia brought a lawn chair and staked out a spot near the stage, umbrella at the ready.
“I stay the whole time. It’s gets me out of the house and I love music.
“I like The Fools. They’re going to be playing pretty soon, I think,” Kendall said.
The number of spectators increased as the day progressed. There were about 100 people at 1:30 p.m. and an estimated 300 at 4:30 p.m.
The Ramble features 10 straight hours of free music on two stages, electric bands in Jackson Square and acoustic acts on Center Street. Buskers, street musicians who play for change, performed in the alley between the square and Center Street.
The Ramble might be best described as a reunion for musicians instead of high school classmates. Participants who play or played in local bands from the 1960s through 2012 take the stage with musicians who, in some cases, they haven’t performed with in decades.
“A lot of history,” said another member of the posse, the Ghost Riders’ Bill “Wild Bill” McDonald.
The Ghost Riders gave up its gig because of the rain delay but both Bills sat in with other acts throughout the afternoon.
Ramble supporter Craig Yunker of CY Farms introduced Saturday’s opening act, the country band Bush Hogs.
Bush Hogs vocalist Ricky Howe led the band through its version of “Pride,” an old Ray Price country tune, and The Ramble was off and running.
“It’s a real treat for the community. It’s the culture, the fabric of events like this,” Yunker said.
The festival is an organic occurrence.
Performers made up names for bands put together just for The Ramble. Some groups added musicians in mid-set.
Keyboardist Charlie DelPlato of the Ohms Band sat in with the David Viterna Band. He didn’t have to travel far.
“Charlie DelPlato came all the way from across the street,” Viterna said, before he kicked off a Stevie Ray Vaughan blues number, “Pride and Joy.”
Members of the group Sierra came from different parts of the country to participate in Ramble 2012. Paul Tye, 62, of San Diego met his daughter, Sara Guilbeau, 24, of New York City and Mike Murray of Pennsylvania came in Batavia for two sets, one on the electric stage and one acoustic.
“The expectation level is low, I hope,” Tye, a guitarist, cracked before taking the acoustic stage.
“My old friend, Bill (McDonald) used to have a band in the early days, high school,” Tye said.
Gilbeau, a singer songwriter who studies vocal performance at Hunter College and plays open mike nights in the Big Apple, participated in her first Ramble.
She said she grew up in a musical household and listened to a lot of songs from 1960s and ‘70s’ groups such as The Mamas and the Papas. She’s also a huge fan of jazz recording artist Norah Jones.
“First artist who made me want to be a singer,” Gilbeau said.
She opened Sierra’s set with a pitch perfect rendition of Jones’ classic, “Don’t Know Why” and followed with Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time.” Buffalo Road Show vocalist Kay McMahon of Attica joined Sierra on stage for “California Dreaming.”
Acoustic act Brent Persia of East Pembroke participated in his first Ramble Saturday. Persia, 30, a math and physics tutor, did an acoustic set with songs such as Blackeyed Peas’ “I Got a Feeling” and Dave Matthews Band’s “Ants Marching.”
Persia said he plays bars and clubs anywhere from Batavia to Niagara Falls. He enjoyed his first Ramble.
“I love it. A lot of times you see family bands, a lot of local people,” he said.
Cindy Smith of Batavia and Peggy Francis of Corfu came out to watch a friend on stage, Jenny Worthington, vocalist with Revival.
“I’m just enjoying he great friendships and great weather,” Smith said.
Worthington, owner of Heaven’s Gate Florists in Corfu, said she’s been part of the Ramble five out of seven years. Revival’s been around about three years and plays old country songs, blues, bluegrass and a little gospel.
“We like to change it up a little bit,” she said.
Her husband, Keith, is also a musician and played with two groups Saturday, Taken and Warren Skye and Friends.
Scheduling of groups was flexible. Savage Cabbage, a classic rock group composed of crop farmers from Elba and Byron, was initially slated to play at 3 p.m. on the main stage.
Band members asked for and received a later slot because they knew they would still be working the fields in mid afternoon.
“Let’s have a hand for Savage Cabbage. They just came off the muck,” Pilcher, one of the posse, said to the crowd.
Savage Cabbage, led by frontman and vocalist Frank Starowicz, lit into classic favorites including Molly Hatchet’s “Dreams” and Judas Priest’s “Living After Midnight.”
Music stopped at 4:50 p.m. as organizers paid tribute to performers on the local music scene who have died. Names of about 90 deceased musicians were announced.
The Buffalo Road Show opened its set with “New Band in the Sky,” a song composed specifically for The 2012 Ramble and in memory of the performers who passed way.
About 35 bands and 100 musicians participated in the seventh annual Ramble, the most ever, according to organizers. Each group played for 30 minutes, although some got a little less time because of the late start