Lighthouse String Band
Sunday, June 22, 2014, 12:00pm - 12:45pm
Pete Seeger Room - Room #107

Community means many things to many people - but at Blue Sky Farms in Half Moon Bay on a foggy coastal morning it smells like coffee and fresh-baked pastries, tastes like a mouth-watering breakfast, and sounds like lively folk music from the Lighthouse String Band. The cold mist outside is watering the nursery plants, but inside the cafe it is warm and cozy as friends, neighbors and visitors enjoy music that draws out smiles. Beautiful images of California native landscape designs are on display, and talk of water conservation, green building practices and coastal sustainability are typical coffee-chat conversations in this unique coastal community that has formed over the past few years. This community is what Ken and Sally Coverdell have created with a little patience, focus and attention to the environment.

In 1977, the Coverdells bought a 2.5-acre coastal farm next to Nurserymen's Exchange on Route 1 in Half Moon Bay. After running their Blue Sky Designs landscape company for many years, they were inspired to build a retail location, Blue Sky Farms nursery, across the highway from their farm. What started out as a simple barn project eventually took almost three years; the results became a model for green building on the coast, earning the Coverdells a water conservation award. After adding the coffee shop and kitchen, the barn quickly transformed into a restaurant - and the restaurant became a community focal point for the Miramar section of Half Moon Bay as neighbors began gravitating to the cafe. Sally gets up at 3:30 a.m. to do the baking and cooking because "plants can wait, but food service can't." Ken says, "Now that we have the cafe, we've met everyone" and points out several items in the barn that have been donated by neighbors.

And met everyone they have, whether it's chatting with the band members about their music, discussing water conservation with a local board member, teaching about recycling and composting, or providing advice to community members about how to balance beauty with conservation. "We're passionate about water," Ken says, noting that a little bit of patience, planning and thought can make all of the difference in landscape design. "People are often buying on impulse and want instant gratification. We're focused on California natives, not just instant color."

It is this type of environment that prompted members of the Lighthouse String Band to inquire a few years ago if they could practice their music at the cafe; they could indeed, and eventually wound up adopting the cafe as their regular Sunday morning gig. The Coverdells were more than excited. Ken says the band plays "the happiest, most loving music I've ever heard in my life." And Sally adds: "So many families look forward to coming with young kids. They come inside, the windows steam up and people start smiling." Raymond Tsang, one of the founding members of the band, says: "This is our favorite place to be. We try to promote Irish, Celtic and American folk music and we want to be on the coast, and on the coast there is not too much folk music."

The band has a unique combination of vocals and instruments that include the fiddle, mandolin, guitar, bouzouki, hammered dulcimer, and bodhrán -an Irish frame drum. Whether the performance is out in the sun of the nursery garden or inside on a cozy morning, children dance around and friends, neighbors and visitors chat and smile.

The band has been together since 2009 and performs at several other coastal venues, including the local farmers markets. The band members - Robin Fish, Mary Maguire, Dave Sahn, Helen Tsang and Raymond Tsang (with Cyndi Menzel currently standing in for Robin Fish) - are also passionate about supporting their local community;