When the 12th Annual Spring Shakori Hills GrassRoots Festival of Music and Dance opens its doors – actually, its tents and stages – in April, 2014, there will be one thing missing,”says Carol Peppe Hewitt, long-time festival volunteer and Director of Slow Money NC. “The worry of their ever losing this beautiful festival site to developers.
”That is because on Tuesday, December 10th at 2pm, in a crowded boardroom at a law office in Chapel Hill, two non-profits jointly purchased the 73-acre farm that is the site of this much-loved community music and arts venue, commonly known as “Shakori” or “GrassRoots” to the thousands of local people, and beyond, who fill the site for a twice-yearly, four day festival of roots music and dance.
They come to enjoy several days of music on four different stages, a wide variety of participatory dance, a long list of talented craft vendors, a massive kids’ area, delicious food vendors, a healing arts tent, a sustainability forum, and a chance to relax out in the beautiful countryside of Chatham County. Along with the music, festival goers can look up and enjoy a stunning and natural ‘night-sky,’ something that is getting rarer and more precious for those living ‘in town.’
“We have had two angel investors since we found this site in 2002,” explains Shakori Hills GrassRoots festival founder, Jordan Puryear. “They have generously held on to this land until we could grow, and until we were able to finally raise the necessary funds to purchase the site. We wouldn’t have done it without them, or the festival-goers that helped us raise the downpayment last year. It’s been such a great community effort – as they say, ‘It takes a village.’
Puryear works closely with the board of the Fingerlakes GrassRoots Organization, one of the two non-profits that now jointly own the land and festival site.
Together with the local non-profit, the Shakori Hills Community Arts Center, they can now expand the arts programs they offer to the community, as well as making improvements and enhancements to the festival site.What this means for the local music, dance, and arts loving community is profound.
“This is more than just a land purchase,” explains Hewitt, who spear-headed the community financing entity that financed the loan to the Shakori Hills and Fingerlake GrassRoots joint venture. “This is another pivotal moment in history – when local people stepped up to make something important happen in their community. As individuals who care, we can do what traditional banks cannot. We can offer a low-interest loan from ordinary people, at reasonable terms. We can make sure this land continues into perpetuity as a community arts center – and we can make that difference.”
For the two non-profits that now share in the ownership of this festival site this has many ramifications.
“We would love to build a permanent indoor dance pavilion so we can have more events throughout the year,” says Sara Waters, Shakori Hills GrassRoots Festival Coordinator. “We will be able to include the community by adding more educational programs like camps and workshops, bringing local artists and educators in to share their talents. Now we can work on improving the property so that we can bring all of our dreams to life.”
The four-day Shakori Hills GrassRoots festivals happen in late April, and over the second weekend of October. They serve as permanent ‘anchor tenants’ on the site, with several other events happening throughout the year. The popular Hoppin’ John Bluegrass and Fiddlers Convention occurs every year in mid-September.
There have been weddings and private parties held at the site. With the upgrades to the site now in the works, there is no doubt that there will be many more.
Now that the folks that run the Shakori Hills GrassRoots Festivals own the grounds, the opportunities abound and people of the Triangle, Triad, and beyond can look forward to even more cultural arts offerings for our community to enjoy.