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AUBURN — The rain came in waves Wednesday night, but that didn't stop dozens of people from celebrating freedom in downtown Auburn. 

For the second year in a row, the city hosted the Harriet Tubman Freedom Music Festival on State Street. The free concert featured blues, jazz and gospel music, all of which was performed in homage to the Auburn abolitionist. 

Composer and producer Sean McLeod came up with the idea of a Tubman tribute last year after reviving "A Soundtrack for Harriet Tubman," a collection that was destroyed in a fire roughly a decade ago. McLeod spent nearly three years recomposing the soundtrack after his daughter, Devon McLeod, discovered some rehearsal tapes in the attic of their home. 

Selections from the soundtrack were performed by roughly a dozen artists Wednesday. Some of the artists were local, like the McLeods, while others traveled from places as far as Germany. 

"We're very fortunate to have all of these guys come to Auburn to help celebrate Harriet Tubman's legacy ... and what it means to be free," Sean McLeod said. "It's very beautiful."

"It's a manifestation of joy and celebration," Devon McLeod added. "Often when it comes to Harriet Tubman there is a sad, liturgical kind of feeling because — while she did incredible things — she was running from slavery. ... So it's important that she is given something as beautiful as a music festival in the place where she decided to spend her life." 

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In addition to song and dance, several of the State Street pubs and eateries served some special Tubman-inspired beverages, including a strawberry ale that debuted at Prison City Pub & Brewery. That American-style, light-bodied beer was only available during the festival Wednesday night.

"Tonight we have Harriet on tap to commemorate one of America's great heroes," Prison City co-owner Marc Schulz said. "We learned that strawberries were one of her favorite fruits ... so we decided to make a strawberry ale to honor her."

Both the beer and the music were enjoyed by city residents and officials alike. City Councilor Jimmy Giannettino and City Clerk Chuck Mason sampled the ale at Prison City before stepping outside for the festival. 

"Harriet is a hero and this is history that we need to embrace," Giannettino said. "I think (Harriet) is finally getting the recognition she deserves."

Meanwhile, Auburnian Diane Manuel said she brought her grandchildren to the festival for a taste of freedom. 

"We want to hear some funky music for Harriet Tubman," Manuel said, smiling. "We're celebrating freedom ... and we're here to find out what it means to be free." 

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Staff writer Megan Blarr can be reached at (315) 282-2282 or megan.blarr@lee.net. Follow her on Twitter @CitizenBlarr. 

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