Local bluegrass festival attracts attention

Your car rolls off of Henderson Tanyard road and onto the muddy gravel. A few minutes later, you leave it behind and start walking down a long dirt path. As you make your way, music and laughter fill your ears as the smell of campfires waft in the air.

This is the Shakori Hills Grassroots Festival of Music and Dance, the bi-annual weekend of fun, just outside of Pittsboro. For the past twelve years, the festival’s focus on community has made it a landmark.

“It’s about solidarity,” said Jon Pitts, owner of Woodcrafty handmade crafts and one of the vendors at the festival. “People get along. We’re coming together as a community to make everyone’s time better.”

From Thursday to Sunday, the festival’s four stages host over 50 artists and bands. The live performances are great, but the fun does not end there.

“My favorite part isn’t just the music on stage,” said Michael Crawford, the harmonica player for the band Dr. Bacon, in an interview with the Guilfordian. “The campsite jams are amazing. Incredible musicians come out and camp, and there is some really great music played.”

Along with concerts, the festival plays host to a variety of other events like poetry slams, musical competitions and children’s activities.

The entertainment at the kids’ tent includes a variety of arts and crafts for the young festival-goers to enjoy, along with a market where kids can sell their wares for five dollars or less.

These activities add to the family-friendly atmosphere of the festival.

“We go to 20 to 30 festivals a year, and I think that this is the best example of a place where the adults are wild and the kids are still safe and happy,” said David McCracken, the electric keyboardist for the band Donna the Buffalo in an interview with the Guilfordian.

McCracken’s band founded the festival and hosts it every year. They play one show a night and finish off the weekend by playing a show called “Donna and Friends,” where they bring tons of other artists on stage with them.

“It all comes together on Sunday at the all-star event when all the musicians get together and we finally get to let our hair down a little bit,” said a stage crew worker who goes by Smitty.

In addition to the musical atmosphere created by bands like Donna the Buffalo, there are lots of other attractions to enjoy. The vendors lining each stage sell unique crafts that you could only ever find at Shakori.

“We’ve been here nine years,” said Jenn Casterline, co-owner of New World Glass. “Our first festival ever was Shakori Hills and it took us into a whole new world of vending. Now all we do are music festivals.”

At a festival like this, where music is everywhere and people are just here to have fun, what’s the one thing that gets in the way?

“Mud has been here for years, that’s all I really need to say,” said Casterline.

This year it was a rainy weekend, and the mud was especially ubiquitous.

“Bring boots, definitely bring mud boots. Don’t expect that you’ll leave clean,” said Pitts.

Regardless, everyone has a good time. From a weekend at Shakori you can always expect good food, good people and good music.

“It’s a hoedown every time,” said Dr. Bacon banjo player Chuck Taylor in an interview with the Guilfordian.