Five Minutes, Five Questions: Bryan Hembree, Roots Fest

Five Minutes, Five Questions: Bryan Hembree, Roots Fest

Hard as it may be to imagine, it’s been 10 years since musicians Bernice and Bryan Hembree and chef Jerrmy Gawthrop put their heads together to plan an “intimate urban music and food festival” in Northwest Arkansas. Scheduled this year for Aug. 22-25, the Fayetteville Roots Festival has grown up to be a destination event not just for lovers of music and farm-to-table cuisine but for top-drawer chefs and musicians in genres that range from folk to blues to jazz and country.

The Free Weekly asked Bryan Hembree to reflect on the festival and look ahead to the next 10 years.

Q. What did you envision musically for the Roots Festival when the idea was born?

A. From day one, we have viewed the music of Roots Fest as a wide spectrum. As music lovers, we are all three fans of so many different styles and genres of music. We have had festival patrons tell us they always discover a new artist they had never heard of before. We want Roots Fest music to be about exploring many diverse styles of music and both legends and emerging artists.

Q. How soon did you know it was going to be a monster?

A. The positive feedback we received after our first year made us feel like we were building an event that connected the community. Even though we have seen great growth since that first year, we work hard to keep the festival an intimate listening experience on the music side and a hands-on tasting experience on the culinary side. We think of it as less a monster and more something that is growing naturally and in thoughtful and concerted ways.

Q. What have been your favorite milestones along the way?

A. In short, the entire festival is surreal for our team of three — it doesn’t wear off that we get to work on a project that is a dream for all of us.

Last year was our first year to launch Roots Food & Spirits at Pratt Place. This event is special as it is extremely interactive, allowing festivalgoers to take part in beer, spirits and food tastings, demonstrations, as well as workshops and lectures. We look forward to offering this again in 2019, continuing to connect attendees with local and national chefs, brewers and mixologists.

Another milestone that sticks out from last year was an exceptional performance by Gillian Welch and David Rawlings. We have always looked up to them both as amazing examples of authentic artists. From day one of working on the festival, we felt that Gillian and Dave playing the festival would be a long-term “dream” goal. It felt surreal to see them and the audience connect on the main stage.

Q. What do you hope this year brings with it?

A. Every year, we learn how to build upon next year’s success. Our team is always learning and evolving to ensure our attendees have the best festival experience possible. As always, we hope the 2019 Roots Festival brings connection between the artists, chefs and our community. We are always surprised how many unplanned collaborations and artistic connections unfold during the festival. We’re excited to see what happens this year.

Q. Where do you see the Roots Festival in another 10 years?

A. We think our community is incredibly special. We see continuing to nurture the Roots Fest experience both during the festival and also with year-round programming by expanding music, culinary and educational outreach in ways that connect with the community on many levels. We hope to look back in 10 years and see more musical connections, more community togetherness, and a more sustainable local food culture that supports both the farmer and culinary talent of Northwest Arkansas.



Roots Fest

Music Lineup

WHO — Mavis Staples; St. Paul & The Broken Bones; Hiss Golden Messenger; The Milk Carton Kids; Rhiannon Giddens & Francesco Turrisi; Rising Appalachia; The Travelin McCourys; Darrel Scott Bluegrass Band; Amy Helm; John Fullbright; Los Texmaniacs; Jeff Austin Band; The Cate Brothers; Eliza Gilkyson; Yola; Joe Purdy with The Honey Dewdrops and Smokey & The Mirror; Smokey & The Mirror and The Sentimentals – The Denmark Project; Anthony Da Costa; Ana Egge; Her Crooked Heart (Rachel Ries)

WHEN — Aug. 22-25

WHERE — Various Fayetteville venues, including Fayetteville Town Center, George’s Majestic Lounge & Pratt Place Inn and Barn

COST — $149-$600

INFO — the

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