Highly Caffeinated Festival in Bethlehem rallies local bands, runners to raise money for Make-A-Wish

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On Saturday, Corey Durkin will be making the most of the Highly Caffeinated 5K & Music Festival he has founded with his wife Renée. He’ll be running in the 5K event at 10 a.m., playing guitar in the afternoon in one of the eight music acts scheduled from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., eating at the vendor booths and, as the festival’s name implies, drinking lots of coffee.

But the real beneficiary of the day is Make-A-Wish Connecticut, the state chapter of the national organization which helps realize the dreams of critically ill children.

The festival, held in Bethlehem, is the first of what Durkin hopes will be an annual event and is on track to raise $20,000 for Make-A-Wish Connecticut. But it’s also an exercise in community-building, creativity and self-betterment.

Most of the musicians are Connecticut-based. The lineup includes Hartford’s The Penniless Wild, Gracie Day (also Hartford-rooted but now living in Massachusetts), Canyon (from Westport), Brian Jarvis, Seth Glier, Fast River, Chris Trapper, Pat McGee, renowned singer-songwriter Sophie B. Hawkins (now a Westport resident) and Bridgeport’s The Alternate Routes.

“My wife and I started the Highly Caffeinated Endurance Team during the pandemic,” says Durkin, who grew up in Connecticut and now lives in Litchfield. “We wanted the team to be accessible to athletes of all levels, for anyone interested in leveling up their fitness, bettering themselves both physically and emotionally.

“We wanted to use the team as a platform and support for other projects. All the members of the team are pitching in on this.”

The concept of a day combining physical activity, a rock concert, food and drink and community formed organically, Durkin says.

A 5K was a natural extension of team runs that were already happening. Then because “I happen to be a musician as well,” Durkin says, “I called up Sophie B. Hawkins and the Alternate Routes and some other musicians I know.

Also during the pandemic, Durkin — who has his own music studio, and is an author, entrepreneur and public speaker — started a band, Fast River. They’re playing the festival.

“The goal is to make this a yearly event for Make-A-Wish Connecticut. “Sophie B. Hawkins is a huge supporter of Make-A-Wish,” Durkin says. “All these artists are. The support from the musicians is most important. Local businesses have been incredible as well.” The official main sponsors are New Morning Market, Friedrich’s Optik and Clauss Orthodontics, but many other businesses have offered support.

“Each wish costs an average of $10,000 so our goal is to raise $20,000 and fulfill the wishes of two children,” Durkin says. Well over half that amount has already been raised before the festival happens, through ticket sales, sponsorships and online fundraising.

The costs of producing the festival, including paying the bands, is being kept separate from the Make-A-Wish goal. Durkin insists “It’s important to me, as a musician myself, to make sure the bands are paid,” though he says his band Fast River will be playing for free. Hotel rooms are being offered to some of the musicians who have to stay over.

Like Durkin, some of the other musicians are doing double duty on Saturday. Harrison Poltorak of The Penniless Wild, the first band to play on Saturday afternoon, is also the owner of Rebel Dog Coffee, which has coffee shops in Plainville, East Hartford and Farmington and will have a vending booth at the festival.

Tickets are $45 ($35 in advance) for the 5K event, $50 ($40 in advance) for the festival only, or $55 ($45 in advance) for both. March Farm is at 160 Munger Lane in Bethlehem. More information on the Highly Caffeinated 5K & Music Festival is at trimorebemore.com/5k/.

Christopher Arnott can be reached at carnott@courant.com.