Fayetteville Roots Fest Keeps Growing

Fayetteville Roots Fest Keeps Growing
Courtesy Photo The Punch Brothers will be headlining this year’s Roots Fest. The band is renown for their mastery of instruments and progressive bluegrass style.

Courtesy Photo
The Punch Brothers will be headlining this year’s Roots Fest. The band is renown for their mastery of instruments and progressive bluegrass style.

What started out as a small event of folk musician friends at Greenhouse Grille for a day has grown to become a successful urban festival that showcases some of the best of Fayetteville has to offer.

Created by Bryan and Bernice Hembree and Jerrmy Gawthrop in 2010, the initial success and popular demand for another Roots Fest inspired the group to do it bigger. Before long the venues upgraded from the cozy south Fayetteville restaurant to the huge Walton Arts Center stage to house such legendary acts as John Prine in 2012.

If this is the first you’ve heard of the Roots, the festival — which is now in its sixth year — focuses on celebrating Ozark music, culture, food and community. Each year, organizers come up with ways to involve local non-profit organizations and the community with free events, workshops and lectures. Several local restaurants and microbreweries are involved in the local food and drinks served during the festival, too.

The goal for this year’s music lineup was to get some of folk music’s best new up and coming artists. Few artists at the festival are older than 40, and the theme is “tomorrow’s legends,” Gawthrop said. While the headliners can’t be missed, Gawthrop recommended checking out the Shook Twins and Pokey LaFarge.

Gawthrop said he was excited about Thursday’s VIP party’s “microfest” vibes and having The Punch Brothers on the bill.

“Over the years of bringing the lineup that we have, our resume of performers from John Prine to Guy Clark and Lucinda Williams, when we call and look to book somebody those names stand out to an agent,” Gawthrop said. “The Wood Brothers are on the same roster and agent as The Punch Brothers. The Wood Brothers loved (Roots Fest last year) so much that they went back to their agent and were raved about how awesome they were treated, the food, the crowd, everything about it. So when we called about The Punch Brothers, their agent said ‘We can make this happen.’”

With each year’s success, the festival has garnered international attention. People from the likes of Australia, Sweden, France, the United Kingdom and Japan are making their way to Fayetteville this year to take in the festivities.

“It’s great to create something that people have so much fun at,” he said. “It’s an art form creating an experience. When someone walks into Crystal Bridges what they see is a part of the experience. It’s kind of like creating an experience like that. That’s the most gratifying experience is creating memories.”

Courtesy Graphic

Courtesy Graphic


The newest addition to the Roots Festival this year is the local Chef Cook-off on Saturday morning.

The idea is to get regional chefs to collaborate with one another in an Iron Chef style competition. After randomly being selected into teams, they are tasked with improvising a meal using only the ingredients for sale from the Fayetteville Farmer’s Market that morning. Each team is given $50 and one hour to purchase all the ingredients needed. Anything that is vended is considered usable. The teams will have access to kitchen essentials at the “cooking arena” in the Fayetteville Town Center plaza, and are allowed a buss tub of their own tools.

The chefs from Washington County will be Darwin Beyer of Meiji, Ethan Altom of Bordino’s, Jared Hickman of Greenhouse Grille and Patrick Lane of Arsagas Depot. The chefs of Benton County will be Jason Paul of Heirloom, Justus Moll of River Grill, William Lyle of Eleven and Michael Robertshaw of Pressroom.

A mystery ingredient (spoiler alert: which will be a locally sourced and thawed protein) will be introduced before cooking starts, and must be incorporated in the chef team’s finished dish. Once the chefs are ready, the cooking clock is set to 30 minutes. When the buzzer sounds and the cooking stops, each chef team will present their finished dish to the judges. The to-be-announced special guest judges will select the winner based on the criteria of overall taste, use of market ingredients, presentation, execution/team performance and best use of the mystery ingredient.

What do they win? Each chef will be competing for their favorite food based, local non-profit organization. Collectively, the winning chef team will win a $5000 prize donation of Crystal Lake Farms frozen chicken to be split and given to their choice of non-profit organizations. The winning recipe will also be shared publicly.

The cook-off will last from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturday.

Courtesy Photo JD McPherson is an up and coming act with music reminiscent of the rockabilly era. He will be playing Friday 9 p.m. at the KUAF mainstage.

Courtesy Photo
JD McPherson is an up and coming act with music reminiscent of the rockabilly era. He will be playing Friday 9 p.m. at the KUAF mainstage.


In addition to all the music going on, there will be several free workshops and lectures to attend that are sponsored by the festival at the Fayetteville Public Library.

May Bell Music, a downtown music store that sells rare instruments and offers music lessons and repair services, will be hosting several events Friday and Saturday. On Friday from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. there will be a Luthier’s Summit where local musical instrument builders will demonstrate their techniques as well as provide a workshop on instrument maintenance and repair. On Saturday from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. there will be several traditional Ozark folk music workshops from local musicians on fiddle and guitar, clawhammer banjo, harmony singing, and harmonica.

If you’re feeling inspired by all the music going on, there’s going to be a free songwriting workshop led by J Wagner of Austin, Texas at 8 a.m. on Saturday at the library. Later on there will also be an on-site healthy food demonstration by Apple Seeds at 10 a.m., an Ozark flatfooting dance class at 11 a.m.

Beyond just lyrics, the Ozarks are rich with folktales. At noon on Saturday, there will be a story workshop along with a live storytelling on air with Kyle Kellams of FM 91.3 KUAF at the Fayetteville library.

Sunday will feature an all ages instrument workshop led by festival headliners Sara Watkins, Sarah Jarosz and Aoife O’Donovan.

Categories: Music
Tags: 2015, roots fest