Barbara Lawlor, Nederland. Rob Savoye, President of the Peak to Peak Music Education Association, watched children wearing capes and ear guards dance with light hearts and fast feet; he watched families spread blankets, smear on sun screen and gorge on hot dogs, tacos, barbecue and nachos. He watched the bands play to a happy crowd which swayed to the beat of the drums, the wail of the guitars, the harmonies of the voices. Savoye nodded in time to the music and looked out over the crowd, saying “Michigan Mike would have been so proud of the way his NedFest has turned out. It’s all about the kids and the families and three days of great music. This is what he would have wanted.”
The PPMEA was founded in 2011 after Mike Torpie, founder of the event, died and a group of people kept the festival going as a way to support local music education programs for local kids. TEENS Inc. has partnered with the Nederland Elementary School to purchase instruments for beginning students and offered scholarships for music lessons to promising young musicians. These kids got up on Sunday’s stage and performed during the Young Musicians’ Showcase. The talented beginners learned how to overcome stage fright, how to focus on what they were playing and how to feel confidence stir through them as the audience whistled and cheered their performance.
Festival food abounded. The Heady Tacos introduced their health driven tacos some of which are topped by kale salad. As the cook tossed the perfectly spiced pork bits, enough for 150 tacos, caramelizing it, the steam roiled around the festival grounds luring people to its source. When the pineapple was added to the savory mixture, there was no saying no to this healthy treat.
The 19th Annual NedFest began last Friday afternoon, August 25, 2017 and the bands played on, Saturday and Sunday, to the culminating Vince Herman and Friends act as the sun set. It was a successful weekend. The weather was warm, windless and dry. No rainbows, but no frantic vendors desperately hiding from lightning and swells of rain either.
Friday night’s crowd proved to be especially large, music lovers lured to the festival by the promise of Oteil’s Birthday Bash, a super group consisting of bassist Oteil Burbridge of Dead & Company and a variety of musicians who came together to celebrate the party. Alfreda Gerald stole the show with her powerful voice that took off on its own, soaring over Barker Reservoir as she hit her peak, thrilling the audience. It was a one-of-a-kind performance that set the tone for a great weekend.
This year’s NedFest was a fashion show that mixed the flower children era with the hip, bright skinny pants and layered tunics of today. Long time vendor of glittery capes sold his popular fabric statements to little kids who loved the superhero feel to the garment. Tie dye shirts and skirts and pants and scarves added to the festive color of the event. NedFest plays to one’s imagination, allows for the not-matching, but harmonizing outfits that danced throughout the day. Local moms swayed in their summer dresses.
Then there was the food and the beer that kept everyone happy, able to stay in the festival boundaries.
The kids tent, run by Tanya Bokat, featured tattoos and ribbons and body paints which were applied by pre-adolescent girls looking for the perfect tat to go with their outfit. A sandbox was filled almost all weekend and a tiny slide enabled toddlers to negotiate the climb all by themselves.
On Sunday afternoon, all the children at the festival gathered together with posters and freedom signs and adults with drums to march around the festival grounds making their statement of peace and love.
Remembrance of festivals past.
The Motet brought in the crowd on Saturday night and as the musicians gave it their all on stage, Scramble Campbell gave it his all on canvas, capturing not just the faces, but the motion of the sound waves that spewed from instruments to ears.
On Saturday night, local favorite, the Gasoline Lollipop performed at The Caribou Room for the late night partiers, packing Nederland’s other venue.
The Great American Taxi was founded by Vince Herman who has since left the group but returned to play with them for the last couple of songs which led into the last act, Vince Herman and his Friends.
By this time, the crowd was sunburned, the kids tired, the organizers beat, the Peaceful Security was peaceful and everyone was feeling good about the 19th NedFest.
(Originally published in the August 31, 2017 print edition of The Mountain-Ear.)