Fayetteville Roots Festival
Organizers emphasize urban aspect
By Richard Davis
TFW Staff Writer
The Fayetteville Roots Festival isn’t just about music any more than a person is embodied in an eye, a heart, a kidney or any other singular organ. The Roots Festival is about the full living, breathing organism that is this unique Arkansas community.
“This roots thing is about having an inclusive festival that includes the food, the music and all the art that brings that all together and captures that idea where people are going to leave saying ‘This felt like classic Fayetteville,” said Bryan Hembree, one of the musicians with 3 Penny Acre and one of the Roots Festival’s organizers. “You know, kids all the way up to octogenarians hanging out and bumping and loving what’s happening.”
The Roots Festival will take place Aug. 27-28 with a Friends of the Festival kickoff party on Aug. 26. Jerrmy Gawthrop, owner/chef of Greenhouse Grille and the other main organizer, described it as a two-day urban festival.
“We’re definitely pushing the urban festival feel because it is, obviously, urban unlike your camping festivals where you’re out in the heat and the elements and the bugs and walking seven miles between stages,” Jerrmy said. “But all those elements of an outdoor festival stuffed in to a urban setting with lots of stages going on, lots of food, beer, wine, nonprofit exhibits, live art. Actually, we have more elements at this festival than you even see at some of the (camping festivals).
“It’s definitely locally centered with the roots in mind, and the root being ‘What is here?’ What’s here is local food and this kind of music and (artist) Hank Kaminsky and all these things that are local. And we’ll be showcasing those things all over the spot. So that’s the nature of the root: It’s Fayetteville.”
And even beyond music, art and food, the festival is about the Fayetteville sense of community, offering a couple of free events and showcasing nonprofit organizations such as the Omni Center for Peace, Justice and Equality, Ozark Slow Food and the Sierra Club as well as directly funding a new nonprofit group — Feed Fayetteville — dedicated to eradicating hunger in Washington County.
“It’s not all fun and games,” Jerrmy said. “There’s actually a huge purpose right here in the event, rooted in ending hunger.”
The Roots Festival will sneak in a preparty Aug. 26 with an event limited to 200 that will also serve as the Feed Fayetteville kickoff at the home of Hershey and Denise Gardner, the people behind the hunger-fighting nonprofit organization. Chatham County Line and the Honey Dew Drops will provide music, and food will be provided by Greenhouse Grille and Brickhouse Kitchen.
The Friday night ticket is $100 but also gets those “Friends of the Festival” supporters into all the Roots Festival events on Saturday, including front section seats for the headlining event.
On Aug. 27, the festival begins in earnest with a free event during the Fayetteville Farmers’ Market. Jerrmy said performers, including the Shannon Wurst Band, will play from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Town Center plaza near the square.
“This is kind of the family-friendly event, where it’s free, obviously. Kids’ll be out there, dogs will enjoy this music,” Jerrmy said. “It’s the opportunity for people who might say ‘I can’t afford to go’ or ‘I have too many kids.’ Well, here’s a free slice of the pie — giving back, you know.”
At 2 p.m., the festival moves to the Walton Arts Center with musicians playing throughout the afternoon on multiple stages, locally created food prepared from locally grown ingredients, live arts in the gallery and rose garden, exhibits by local nonprofit organizations and a silent auction and raffle going to support Feed Fayetteville.
The silent auction and raffle will feature some unique items and experiences. Bryan said Bayard Blain, who plays with 3 Penny Acre, has also become know for his handcrafted guitars. He said Bayard recently was the official crafter for the Kerrville Folk Festival and built a 40th anniversary commemorative guitar for them that netted $5,000 to support the Texas Music Foundation. Bayard is making a guitar for the Roots Festival as well.
Another item will be a chance to experience a beer tasting with some of New Belgium Brewing’s high-end fare.
“These are going to be experiences people are going to identify with the same vibe that the festival has,” Bryan said.
Throughout the WAC, artists will be working their magic as well. Jerrmy said Hank Kaminsky will be showing some of his new “Sacred Rocks” works. A potter will be spinning a wheel live in addition to showing his work. Jerrmy said they’re also talking with photographer Don House to bring his “Faces of Fayetteville” series to the festival.
At 6:30 p.m., the main stage event will begin with headliners Sarah Lee Guthrie & Johnny Irion, Chatham County Line and music legend Guy Clarke. When that ends around 10:30 p.m., Bryan said they hope everything will spill over across the street to the Kingfish bar for the official party with Mark Bilyeu (Big Smith) and Charliehorse. The Roots Festival wristband for Saturday covers the entry into Kingfish.
The Roots Festival will wrap up Aug. 28. The day will start with brunch performers at Greenhouse Grille — nothing extra for the musical atmosphere.
“We’re going to stuff a piece of the festival in. Reservations are definitely going to be a good idea,” Jerrmy said. “We’ll probably have extended hours that day to try and accommodate everybody. It’ll be performer after performer. You step off, you step in.”
Then in the afternoon, Bryan said he and other local musicians will participate in a panel at the Fayetteville Public Library in support of a project called The Fayetteville Sound. The project hopes to collect and catalog all Fayetteville music that’s ever been produced. The discussion will also feature performances, giving another chance to hear some music for free.
“It was important for us to make it as accessible as possible. Here again, it’s the idea of an inclusive festival — inclusive, that was roots for us,” Bryan said.
Jerrmy said the festival will end with another headline event at the Greenhouse Grille with Cletus Got Shot, 3 Penny Acre and the Roots Festival All-Stars. Bryan described the final show as “four hours of musical collaboration.”
And again, the Roots Festival — though offering plenty of opportunities for fun with food, music, art and more — has a bigger purpose. Jerrmy said a considerable portion of the proceeds from the event will go to two nonprofit organizations: Feed Fayetteville and the Fayetteville Roots Heritage Foundation.
“Feed Fayetteville is an umbrella organization that’s being developed by Dr. Garner and his wife, Denise.
The overall attempt is to end hunger in Washington County, start models that other states and counties can follow with taking donations, taking local food and turning it into a product to give to people.
And then also train them in how to eat for themselves and cooking classes … basically an education awareness, and I know you need a meal right now before we can even start teaching you to cook for yourself, so here that is. So you can get people on their feet,” Jerrmy said.
“It’s not all fun and games. There’s actually a huge purpose right here in the event, rooted in ending hunger.”
The Roots Heritage Foundation will seek to keep perpetuate the festival with ongoing year-round efforts to support roots with grants for musicians and local farmers and support for acoustic venues. Bryan said a long-term goal would be to fund a brick-and-mortar education center much like the Folk School of St. Louis.
“It’s not just about go out and have a good time; we’re going to do that,” Bryan said. “It’s what can the festival do to continue to give back to the community.”
For ticket information, a full list of performers, a complete schedule of events and a list of farmers and nonprofit organizations involved in the event, visit fayettevilleroots.com.