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Rooster Walk 6 hits high notes
Music, staff, weather praised
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The band Yarn performs at Rooster Walk on Saturday night. (Bulletin photos by Ben R. Williams)
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Sunday, May 25, 2014

By BEN R. WILLIAMS - Bulletin Staff Writer

Great music, beautiful weather, good vibes and the best turnout yet have marked Rooster Walk 6 as a roaring success in the eyes of attendees and organizers.

Rooster Walk, now in its sixth year, is an annual music festival held at Blue Mountain Festival Grounds at 1920 Coopers Mountain Road, just across the county line in Franklin County.

The festival kicked off Thursday night with a special VIP night, while the general admission festival runs Friday through midnight today.

Festival organizers Johnny Buck and William Baptist created Rooster Walk in memory of Edwin “The Rooster” Penn IV and Walker Shank, their late childhood friends and members of Martinsville High School’s class of 2000. Proceeds from the festival go to the Penn-Shank Memorial Scholarship Fund at Martinsville High School and local charities.

On Saturday, festival attendees across the board — whether they were there for the music or also working as volunteers — said they were enjoying themselves.

Joanie Davis, who works with United Way in Martinsville, said that she hasn’t missed a Rooster Walk yet.

“It’s been really great,” she said. “I’ve enjoyed the music especially. The food vendors are fantastic, as are the clothing vendors. The kids’ playground has been amazing this year, and the weather ... you couldn’t ask for better weather.”

Alex Gleasman, a festival volunteer, said he liked the music, the atmosphere and working with the Rooster Walk staff.

“I just moved down here (to Martinsville/Henry County) about a year ago,” Gleasman said, and though this is his first Rooster Walk, he’s already planning on volunteering at Rooster Walk 7 next May.

Chris Owens of Stuart, who helps organize the annual Front Porch Fest music and arts festival in Stuart, said he volunteered to work security at Rooster Walk.

Owens described Front Porch Fest as a sort of sister festival to Rooster Walk.

“They help us out and we try to help them out,” he said. “It’s a great event.”

“The bands have been great and the people have been great,” he said. “Even from a security perspective, it’s been really relaxed. No problems. Everybody’s just having a good time. It’s a great festival, and it’s great to see it grow. It’s been growing every year, and the level of talent that comes in has been growing every year.”

Owens was standing near a stage where Stephane Wrembel & His Band were playing. Wrembel, a French-born guitarist, scored the theme to Woody Allen’s 2012 Academy Award-winning film Midnight in Paris, and performed live during the Oscar telecast.

Owens said that seeing a performer such as Wrembel at Rooster Walk is indicative of the quality of the venue.

“(Wrembel) is just incredible, probably one of the best guitar players you’ll hear in the United States,” he said. “It’s just fantastic to be sitting here listening to this in Southwest Virginia on a Saturday afternoon.”

Wrembel, who played for two hours, was just one of 40 acts slated to perform between Friday and today, along with nationally recognized headliners Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe and The Infamous Stringdusters.

Buck and Baptist were not yet sure of the total turnout for the festival, but both agreed it was the largest turnout yet. Previously, Buck had predicted a turnout of roughly 4,000 people.

Both also agreed that, surprisingly, it also was the least stressful Rooster Walk they had worked. Both credited the hard work of the roughly 80 staff members and 250 volunteers who were helping to keep the festival on track.

“I am less stressed at this festival than any of the previous Rooster Walks,” Buck said. “Which is pretty neat, because it’s obviously the biggest one we’ve done. It’s a combination of getting more experienced at it and really just having an incredible staff in place this year, folks who are really good at what they do and taking ownership of it. When a problem does arise, which has not been that often, thankfully, they’re coming up with a solution and handling it on their own or within their department. It’s just been a beautiful thing to watch, to be honest.”

The reaction from the attendees, Buck said, had been “extremely positive.”

“A vibe is formed by the community that’s at the event, and it’s just really special compared to other festivals our size or bigger, in my opinion,” he said. “We have so many folks who have a connection to the cause or a connection to Martinsville. They take pride in the festival. It’s just a really great mix. It’s a party, but it’s a family friendly event. And everybody knows that it’s supporting a good cause.”

“Everybody’s just been very happy,” Baptist agreed. “The crowd’s been great. It’s every bit of what we had hoped for and more. I couldn’t ask for anything better. It’s a dream come true.”


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