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Sally Marsh to make 51st hootenanny season her last

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Sally Marsh holds a gift from a fan to mark her 50th year of leading the Hootenanny at Allegany State Park. Marsh said this season will be her final.

By Rick Miller
Sally Marsh has just one more hootenanny season left in her.For 49 years, she held a Thursday night hootenanny in Allegany State park — mostly the Quaker Amphitheater.The 2020 season, would have been her 50th, but it was canceled due to COVID-19. When it looked like the state park might postpone the 2021 season over COVID again, the Seneca Nation Cultural Museum offered to let Sally have their amphitheater in Salamanca for two nights a week to celebrate her 50th year anniversary of the hootenanny she started in the early 1970s with Page Martin.She took the museum up on their offer last year and plans to do so again this year for the last hootenanny this season.It will be the last one she leads.“Thank you everyone for your messages about the hootenanny this summer,” Marsh said in a recent Facebook posting.“So I thought I would officially announce my ‘Farewell Summer of the Hoots.’ I decided this summer after 51 years to call it quits. One of the hardest decisions I’ve ever made because of all the love and support I have had for 50 years,” Marsh said.“And thanks to the generosity (of the Seneca Museum) and unanimously voting for me to come back. My final Hoot season will be at the Seneca Nation Cultural Museum Amphitheater in Salamanca like last summer,” she said.“I completely understand those who will be disappointed it’s not at Allegany. But honestly, to be treated so kindly and to be appreciated last summer, it was an easy decision for me,” she wrote.“Hoots will be on Thursday nights beginning June 30 through Sept. 1. We will have entertainment beginning at 7 p.m., with the Hoot at 8 o’clock,” Marsh said.“Thank you everyone from the bottom of my heart for going on 51 years of wonderful memories with all of you. I couldn’t have done it without you.”Marsh said she plans to bring back the song sheets she used to use at the Quaker Amphitheater. “It will bring back some nostalgia,” she said.“It has to end some time,” Marsh said of the hootenanny. “It’s been 51 summers of my life. It’s been so joyful. I can‘t tell you how much joy this has brought me. I cried all the way home after the last show last year. I’m very grateful to the Seneca Nation for showing their appreciation.”Marsh said, “I feel like a part of a lot of people’s families. It’s not really over for me. I put some thought into the last year. I couldn’t be luckier.“It will be sad this summer,” she said. “Last year my song was ‘I Did It My Way,’ and this year I’m going to sing ‘Thanks For The Memories.’”Sally was 17 when it all started. “I’ve got so many stories,” she said. She has raised thousands of dollars at her hootenannies over the years for hundreds of underprivileged children and needy families at Christmas time.“I’ve got a lot of helpers,” Marsh said. One woman has made more than 100 blankets. Another makes afghans. In addition to the raffles, her helpers also sell trinkets for the kids to raise money.Her fans keep track of her on Sally’s Hootenanny Facebook page. Her friend, Patrick Crants of Mt. Jewett, Pa., has posted thousands of photos from the Hoots at the Quaker Amphitheater and the Seneca Cultural Museum Amphitheater. Someone is smiling in each of the photos.“Fifty-one is a good number,” said Marsh. “Maybe it’s time, but there are some things I want to do yet.”A lot of Allegany State Park visitors drove down Interstate 86 to the Seneca Cultural Museum to hear Sally and participate in the hootenannies. Others came from Salamanca, Little Valley and Olean.“We have different singers to start the night,” she said. “And with the big dance floor, the kids can dance the night away. I’m looking forward to doing this one more time.”