MARTINSVILLE, Va. — Rooster Walk 6, which attracted some 4,000 estimated attendees over the Memorial Day weekend to the Blue Mountain Festival Grounds in Franklin County, is in the books.
No. 1: It’s where friends and family come together.
Ask Rooster Walk attendees and they will say it feels like a family or high school reunion. “I have run into friends I haven’t seen in 20 years,” said Billie Jean Jones of Danville on Saturday night. Jones, who is a local artist, came over to help her friend, vendor Julie Hardy with H2O Tie Dyes in Danville, and to enjoy the music. “The best part is it’s nice to have this in your backyard.” Win Webster, MHS Class of 1999 and a member of the Asheville, North Carolina-based bluegrass band Sanctum Sully, described Rooster Walk as a town party. “Living in Asheville, I look forward to this all year,” he explained. “It’s like a big family reunion. It’s just really special.”
No. 2: There’s a unique blend of eclectic music.
Duh, it’s a music festival. But rare is the festival that offers such an interesting blend according to mandolin player Andrew Hendryx, co-founder of Brooklyn-based alt-country band Yarn, who rocked it out on the Creekside Stage on Saturday night with fiddle player Jeremy Garrett of The Infamous String Dusters, among other guests. “One of the things I really love is the community people of here and the way the promoters blend music. What an inspiring thing to play after The Infamous Stringdusters and what an inspiring place to play music. They have an amazing quality of musicians here.” And Webster echoed those sentiments, adding, “It’s really unique. Egos are left at the gate and the caliber of music is great. I didn’t know how they would top last year, but they did. It was pretty surreal to see Tim O’Brien and Darrell Scott play on the same stage we played on.” Philip Wenkstern of Martinsville has attended about half the Rooster Walks and what he likes best is that it’s a music festival that transcends all genres. “Ten minutes ago we were getting’ down to Tim and Darrell pluckin’ strings and now we’re moving onto a larger more traditional ensemble with Anders Osborne and in an hour, we’ll be at a psychedelic dance party with the Pimps of Joy Time,” he explained Friday night.
No. 3: It’s a fundraiser for a number of good causes.
In its first five years, Rooster Walk has donated more than $59,000 to local and regional charities, including $31,000 to the Penn-Shank Memorial Scholarship Fund at Martinsville High School. Ashleigh Buck, daughter of Joseph and Lorrie Buck of Spencer, was this year’s recipient of a one-time $1,000 scholarship, which was created in memory of the MHS Class of 2000 graduates Edwin Penn IV and Walker Shank.
No. 4: Good beer, even better food and great vendors.
Craft brews including Foothills were served up by Blue Ridge Beverage as well as unique cocktails blended especially for Rooster Walk. Among the food choices were unique pizzas from Bangin’ Pies of Asheville, North Carolina, and fried egg sandwiches and banana French toast from Sugar Shack from the Boone, North Carolina, area. And Martinsville native Todd Johnson, who is now a chef in Richmond, returned with his signature pork from Local Table, which didn’t disappoint if the fact that he ran out on Saturday night was any indication. “For a big venue, the food and the music have been great and it has been so well organized,” Jones added. “The vendors and the volunteers have been really well taken care of. For me, that’s been sweetest thing.”
No. 5: Fun for everyone, no matter their age.
Whether it’s preschoolers splashing in the creek that runs between the stages or middle schoolers playing corn hole in the VIP area, there’s at least one thing at Rooster Walk that appeals to literally everyone. And for those who enjoy running up a mountain, there’s even the Tuff Stutter 5K Trail Run, dubbed one of the toughest courses in the Southeast. Rachael Wingfield, a Martinsville native who now works as an education coordinator at the George Washington University School of Medicine in Washington, D.C., returned to her hometown specifically to attend the festival she used to work as a volunteer. “For me, Rooster Walk is about coming home because it’s a good way to see everybody,” she said. “It’s the utmost Southern hospitality and a good way to slow down and unplug but with upbeat energy. I really liked that Empire Strikes Jazz joined the kids’ parade and really engaged them.” And for bluegrass musician O’Brien, he says he prefers festivals like Rooster Walk and Rocky Grass to the Bonaroos and Coachellas. “Let’s have a great time and the next time we see each other, we’ll do it again,” he said during Friday’s performance. Indeed.
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