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Revelry at Rooster Walk
‘Laid-back feel,’ music among festival’s draws
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A crowd estimated at 3,500 people has taken part in the music, crafts and fun at Rooster Walk 5, a festival being held this weekend in the Figsboro area. Here, a festival-goer dances with a hoop to Sanctum Sully's performance Saturday afternoon. (Photos by Kim Buck)
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Sunday, May 26, 2013

By DEBBIE HALL - Bulletin Staff Writer

T-shirts with the message “Keep Calm and Walk On” typified the atmosphere of the fifth annual Rooster Walk Music & Arts festival this weekend.

“I like this kind of festival. It’s smaller, with a laid-back feel,” said Russ Helgren, one of the thousands of visitors and a vendor for the festival that began Thursday and ends today.

Rooster Walk 5 is a four-day celebration of music, arts, culture and educational activities at Blue Mountain Festival Grounds off Rt. 108 North in the Figsboro area. The festival, with title sponsor Bassett Furniture, also features workshop performances and children’s activities as well as camping.

More than 35 performers of all genres were scheduled throughout the event, which has attracted an estimated 3,500 people.

Saturday marked Helgren’s fourth year attending the festival, he said near his tent of tie-dyed items from One World Trading. Business, he said, picked up some on Saturday, but “was pretty slow” Friday.

But fellow festival goers and organizers of the event are the main reasons that Helgren looks forward to Rooster Walk each year.

“I like that I can walk away and not have to worry about people making off with my stuff,” said Helgren, who described himself as “mainly from Virginia Beach” and with a home in Floyd.

Helgren’s display was one of many. Some — including those of the Daily Grind, Patrick Henry Community College and the Martinsville-Henry County SPCA — were local, but most came from out of town.

Broocks Myers, of Earth Tone Stones, attended her first festival as a vendor, driving the four plus hours from her home in Charlottesville.

“But I’ve been just coming” in years past “to see and hear the music,” Myers said. “It’s absolutely beautiful here, and the people are absolutely fantastic.”

She had sold a few pieces by Saturday around noon, “and there’s definitely been a lot of people looking,” Myers said. “I’m hoping they come back” before the end of the event.

Myers said the lack of Internet service is the only downside to the festival. It hampers her business because “I can’t run customers’ credit cards, and a lot of my customers use credit cards,” she explained.

A nearby vendor, Class Wizard, developed a plan to address the lack of Internet, Myers said.

“They just go up the hill,” and are able to get a signal, she said.

Brian and Bobbie Johnson are the proprietors of Class Wizard. Brian Johnson said his wife, Bobbie, “makes the jewelry. I do the tie-dyes and blown glass. We try to make everything” they sell.

A second year festival-goer, Brian Johnson, said he plans to attend Rooster Walk each year because of the “atmosphere, facility and staff. The way they operate and treat everybody” is second to none, he said.

“We do shows from Atlanta to New York” from their home base in Ringgold, he said. “We go to a lot of places, and most are not as nice. The staff makes you feel comfortable, and the facility is beautiful.”

As far as the lack of Internet goes, “we just try to make the best of the situation,” Johnson said.

Jen and Nick Bruno came to the festival from Charlotte, N.C., along with “a whole Charlotte crew,” Jen Bruno said. This is her second year attending Rooster Walk.

“Attendance has doubled” this year compared with her previous experience at the festival, she said.

Saturday marked Megan Smith’s first visit to Rooster Walk.

“I think the line-up” that included Leftover Salmon attracted her to drive from Lynchburg, Smith said.

“This is good,” she said, and added that she just might become a regular attendee.

Sian Gooding, of Horsepasture, sat near a tree crocheting not far from the Creek Side Stage as she waited for Hotel de Ville to perform.

“This is my first time” at Rooster Walk, Gooding said. When asked if she plans to return, she said, “Oh my gosh, I hope so. That’s the plan. Everybody has just been so wonderful.”

Jimmy Jordan, sax player for Hotel de Ville, said he has performed “in some capacity” each year of the festival, and the band itself has performed at several Rooster Walks.

“Rooster Walk originated” as a way to honor and remember two Martinsville natives — Edwin “the Rooster” Penn and Walker Shank, Jordan said of the two men who died when they were in their 20s.

“That is really why we’re doing what we’re doing ... To honor their lives and” help raise funds for the scholarship fund created in their memory, he said minutes before he and Andrew Wall on bass, Kevin Plaster on drums, Junior George on rhythm guitar and vocals, Slate Lacey on lead guitar and vocals and Gene Martin, also a drummer, took the stage.

“Where are my dead-heads,” was heard shortly after Hotel de Ville, a Grateful Dead cover band, took the stage and launched into their first song, “West L.A. Fadeaway,” and then, “Don’t Let Go.”

Band members are all local, and Hotel de Ville is slated to head the line-up at the upcoming Front Porch Fest in Patrick County.

In the past four years, Rooster Walk Inc. has donated $20,000 to the scholarship fund at Martinsville High School.


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