Back In The Swim Of Things

Back In The Swim Of Things

Stream-A-Thon celebrates spirit of Roots Festival


When the coronavirus changed everything in March, Bryan and Bernice Hembree and their Roots Fest co-founder, chef Jerrmy Gawthrop, knew they’d have to cancel this year’s event. But the spirit of the festival has remained alive through the Roots Meals for Musicians program. That effort has given some 10,000 servings of food to musicians as close as the Roots HQ on the Fayetteville square and as far away as Eureka Springs, delivered every week by an “ambassador” for the nonprofit organization.

After all that work, it’s finally time for everyone to have a little fun. On Aug. 27, which would have been the opening night of the 2020 festival, they’ll host a virtual celebration they’re calling Thursday Night: A Roots Stream-a-Thon. According to Bryan Hembree, he and his wife, who play together as Smokey and the Mirror, will join Gawthop and host Kyle Kellams of KUAF’s “Ozarks at Large” at the Roots Fest HQ to introduce video performances by some of the festival’s all-time favorites. Among those who will send videos or be part of videos recorded at previous festivals are Birds of Chicago, John Fullbright, Nick Offerman & Megan Mullally, The Steel Wheels, Raina Rose, The Honey Dewdrops and more.

Making the decision to postpone the full festival was difficult and painful, Hembree says, “but we’re optimistic about 2021.”

“It was really hard in that moment, even though it felt like the right decision, because plenty of people were still thinking by August everything was going to be fine,” he remembers. “I know we made the safest decision. We’re not some gargantuan festival; it’s more like a family reunion. And this year, you know, we couldn’t have the family reunion because Uncle John was sick. But next year, we’ll be back better than ever. And I think that’s the way our longtime patrons look at it, too.”

Hembree says all the money from tickets patrons held on to was put away for next year. The Roots Meals for Musicians program has been funded by donations and the sale of festival merchandise, which is now available on the website at

“I hope people will tune into this stream and interact with us and buy a pizza or a Roots Fest mask,” he says. “The bands have all asked that anyone who wants to give, give to support the festival.”


Thursday Night: A Roots Stream-a-Thon

WHEN — 6:30-9 p.m. Aug. 27

WHERE — Register at

COST — By donation


FYI — Individuals can support Roots through purchase of a chef-curated chicken dinner or pizza for curbside pickup from the Roots HQ on Aug. 27, donating to the Roots nonprofit, purchasing Roots Festival merchandise or participating in the virtual silent auction during the streamed event.


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