May 4, 2007

Mayor Declares May 8 ‘Dead Day’

Print More

To commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Grateful Dead’s May 8, 1977 performance at Barton Hall, Mayor Carolyn K. Peterson has declared next Tuesday, May 8, to be ‘Grateful Dead Day’ in the City of Ithaca.
According to Peterson’s official proclamation, “The Grateful Dead have been recognized by many highly credible organizations, individuals and entities including the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame as significantly important and integral to the musical and social fabric of our contemporary culture … It has been said many times by many people that, ‘There is nothing like a Grateful Dead concert.’”
In celebration of the event, Dark Star Orchestra has been scheduled to appear at The State Theatre. The band will recreate the original set list as played by the Grateful Dead 30 years ago.
“The city has long ties, especially financial ties, to the State Theatre; we want to see the theatre succeed,” Peterson said. “The Dark Star reenactment of the 1977 Barton Hall concert of the Grateful Dead 30-year anniversary just seemed like a celebration opportunity, and so I was perfectly happy to participate.”
The Dead’s 1977 concert at Barton Hall is regarded by many as one of the best performances of their career. Recordings of the event have been widely circulated.
“There are many people who believe that the concert 30 years ago was one of the most influential concerts that the Grateful Dead did, and it was here in Ithaca,” Peterson said.
Members of the Ithaca community today remember being at the Barton Hall show in 1977.
“Last night [at city council], I asked the audience and my council members if anyone was at that concert 30 years ago, and lo and behold, my city attorney, sitting right next to me, raised his hand. So we all had a great laugh,” Peterson said.
Grateful Dead Day serves as an opportunity for celebration not only for Deadheads and attendees of their 1977 Barton Hall performance, but for anyone with an appreciation of American popular culture and music.
“I don’t wear Jerry Garcia ties, but I certainly remember Jerry Garcia for his impact on American music and American culture,” said Prof. Glenn Altschuler, American studies. “So I’m glad that The Dead lived. Grateful Dead Day in Ithaca reminds us once again that The Dead shall rise.”
Another connection between Cornell and the Grateful Dead is through Mickey Hart, one of The Dead’s drummers; his wife is a Cornell alumnus. In 2002, Hart visited Cornell to discuss his efforts in the preservation of rare and endangered recordings from the Library of Congress.
“The talk was called ‘Music at the Edge of Magic’, and he talked about the relationship of world music, traditional cultures and the West,” said Prof. Steven Pond, music. “[Hart] has a profile as an ethnomusicologist as well as a rock musician. The Grateful Dead are an icon of counterculturalism on one hand, as well as one of the great musical icons, but it also has an activist side that I think goes a bit underreported.”
“I think it’s great,” said Brad Bershad ’06, creator of the Cornell Deadhead Society, regarding the 30th anniversary celebration of the show. “Central New York has a great musical tradition, and the Grateful Dead are an important part of that. So it’s nice to see them getting recognized.” Bershad was also host of the Grateful Dead Hour on WVBR, and served as program director.
The community has also given back to the mayor for her declaration. After delivering her proclamation of Grateful Dead Day last night at city council, Mayor Peterson received a very special gift.
“Both the new director and the director who will be leaving [The State Theatre] came up to accept the proclamation and to give me a new green shirt that says ‘Ithaca is Grateful.’ So I’ll be wearing that tomorrow. It’s modeled after the ‘Ithaca is Gorges’ shirt,” Peterson said.
Grateful Dead Day in the City of Ithaca has garnered nationwide attention from the media and Grateful Dead fans.
“I have received letters and emails from all over the country,” Peterson said. “My favorite email that I’ve gotten so far came from L.A., and they were asking if I could move there and be their mayor.”