From Fire to Festival

A pop-up bonfire with two staples: flames and music Photos provided

A pop-up bonfire with two staples: flames and music (Photo provided)

Pop-up pit evolves into event

There are many explanations of the origin of the word bonfire. Most early references associate it with “bone fires,” or ossiculum. In later centuries, and in many languages, the prevailing sentiment was more akin to feu de joie, or “fire of joy.”

Whichever meaning one ascribes to, nowadays most bonfires offer a communion, convivial and warm. For Christian and America Olivo Campbell, fire pits, the bonfire’s junior cousin, were a way of making it through the pandemic. Twenty people attended the first pop-up they organized, in March 2021, and they grew from there, taking place every few months in different locations.

Soon, the Beacon couple, who are producers, actors and singers and also renovating a Victorian mansion, added entertainment. More recently, they decided to throw a bonfire, music and art festival. It will take place Nov. 4 and 5, rain or shine, with 18 hours of programming at venues throughout the city such as Dogwood, the Howland Cultural Center and the Masonic Temple, as well as outdoors.

It was at a bonfire that the plan was hatched, of course, when the Campbells joined forces with Kelly Ellenwood and her husband, Tim Parsaca, and Jeremy Schonfeld, who is overseeing the music. 


The Beacon Bonfire producers, from left: Kelly Ellenwood and Jeremy Schonfeld (seated); America Olivo, Christian Campbell and Tim Parsaca (Photo provided)

“As a composer and pianist, he’s dialed into the extensive community of top-shelf musicians in Beacon,” Campbell says. “Kelly is our driving force and get-it-done person,” while Parsaca, who worked for Madison Square Garden for decades, is handling logistics, crew and project management. “If it needs to be built or unbuilt, he’s the man,” Campbell says.

The organizers hope to spark “conversation, curiosity and collaboration.” They chose the name “in a nod to the revolutionary fire that burned on the top of our mountain and gave the city its name, a beacon that celebrates the need we have as humans to come together, to tell our stories and to be inspired. Come gather around our fire and be in Beacon.”

The Campbells moved to Beacon in 2016 from Hell’s Kitchen — “skipped Brooklyn,” says Campbell — and were quickly converted. “We were taken, taken, taken with Beacon,” he says. “Since then, we’ve had about 10 friends move here.

“My dream eventually is that people embrace the idea of setting up their homes as venues,” he adds. “That would be an opportunity to get visitors off Main Street to see the other sides of Beacon.”

The Beacon Bonfire Music + Art Festival will take place from 5 to 8 p.m. Friday (Nov. 4) and begin at noon on Saturday (Nov. 5). Admission varies by venue, or a two-day pass is available for $39 ($19 for students and seniors, or $129 with swag) at

A Festival Sampling

Barnaby will perform Friday as part of the Beacon Bonfire festival Photo provided

Barnaby will perform Friday.

A detailed festival schedule will be posted today (Oct. 28) but here are a few events already on the calendar:

► Josh Geisler, a multi-instrumentalist composer and performer formerly of Cirque du Soleil, will present Bansara at 8:30 p.m. Friday at the Masonic Lodge.
Toybox, with musician and composer Rinde Eckert and storyteller and clown Richard Saudek, will perform at 2:30 p.m. Saturday at the Masonic Lodge.
Jess Linquist and the Full Circle Fire with Zeeliberation dancers and drummers will perform at 5:30 p.m. Saturday at Veterans Place.
Lisa St. Lou will perform New Orleans-style blues at 6:15 p.m. on Saturday at Kube Art Center.
The Whispering Tree will perform at 11:30 a.m. Saturday at the Towne Crier.
Guitarist Andy Stack and his organ trio will perform at 5:15 p.m. on Saturday at Quinn’s.
Barnaby, with Mimi Sun Longo, will perform at 7 p.m. Friday at the Kube Art Center.
The Wynotte Sisters will perform at 4 p.m. Saturday at the Masonic Lodge.
Bagels and Ballads, a songwriter circle hosted by composer Jeremy Schonfeld, will take place at 11:30 a.m. on Saturday at Kube Art Center.
Dancers and performance artists Skyla and Aaron will present First Date Conversation at 6 p.m. on Saturday at 364 Main.
Keepin’ it Real with Bridget O’Neill and Lance Horne will perform storytelling and cabaret at 7:15 p.m. Saturday at the Masonic Lodge.
The Costellos will perform at 5:15 p.m. Saturday at the Dennings Point Distillery.
Black Magic, a Santana cover band with Dan Garcia and Ryan Dunn, will perform at 1:15 p.m. Saturday at Quinn’s.

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