Deena C. Bouknight – Contributing Writer
After a year of almost no live performances, area and visiting musicians are once again looking forward to potential opportunities to play in front of audiences.
“It’s been a very long strange year, ‘The Year of the Covid,’ but things are looking up!” said local musician Dave Stewart. “Venues are starting to open, and it’s my hope that this spring and summer will be music-filled.”
On Saturday, March 27, Blue Jazz plays in public at La Italiana on Highlands Road. The local band includes Stewart, Delphine Kirkland, and Scott Crowley.
Bear Shadow Music, Mountains & Revelry is planned for April 23-25. The music festival will have as its “base camp” the 50-acre Winfield Farm at Scaly Mountain. For three evenings in a row, beginning at 5:30 p.m. and ending at 10 p.m., a range of artists and genres are offered to participants of the music festival. All questions regarding pandemic safety protocols and ticketing is addressed on the festival’s website at bearshadownc.com.
Karen Hunt is already establishing the logistics for the first annual Highlands Porchfest, scheduled for Sept. 19. Hunt, who recently moved to Highlands from Napa, Calif., after retiring as president of DAOU Vineyards & Winery in 2020, joined the board of directors for the Center for Life Enrichment (CLE) in Highlands and presented the idea for an event that became successful in California while she was involved with the Napa Rotary.
“The Napa Rotary and many volunteers started the Napa Porchfest in 2011 and had a blast,” said Hunt. “We went from 10 bands and a couple hundred people walking around to listening to over 130 bands and over 20,000 in 2019 people attending.”
The free walk-around music event in Highlands will take place from 12 p.m.-5 p.m., “but the time may change depending on the number of musicians we get to play,” said Hunt, who encourages locals all over Macon County as well as visitors to mark their calendars for the fall event. She also expressed hope that she can work with individuals to plan a Franklin Porchfest sometime in 2022.
“The Porchfest in Napa really grew to have a life of its own,” said Hunt. “The initial intention was not to raise money, but people began donating money because they thought it was such a great thing to do for the community. So, we raised enough to help local nonprofits, and I’m hoping that the same thing will eventually happen in this area as well.”
Currently, Hunt is working with volunteers to establish a website and t-shirt for the event.
“And we are now looking for local musicians who will donate their time to play on porches or outside of restaurants, churches, parks, or wherever we can find spots in Highlands that will allow us to use their property for free on Sept. 19 for a few hours. The length of time that musicians will need to play will depend on the number of musicians, and they will be allowed to play for tips and can have CDs and t-shirts and any other products available for sale.”
Another element of the Highlands Porchfest will be a downloadable app that will provide an online map “so that people can meet to listen to music and plan their afternoon around eating out, visiting the park, having coffee or a beer, walking more, etc.,” explained Hunt. “It’s a way to have fun together, get outside together, and to support local musicians.”
Hunt said she welcomes input and volunteer assistance, and she needs musicians to express interest. Contact her by sending a message on Facebook; emailing her at firstname.lastname@example.org; or, calling (707) 287-4534.
“There are a lot of logistics to get this put together, but I think it’s going to be a success,” she added. “Since we did it for 11 years in Napa, (it still goes on as of today) I know how to get all the moving parts going, but it’s going to take people helping and these months leading up to September to get it all together.”