RiverRoots to feature
headliners Williams, Thorn
Festival committee hopes move to June
brings better weather
June 2018 Cover
(June 2018) – Entering its 13th year and the second for festival chairman Dan Williams, the RiverRoots Music & Folk Arts Festival committee members are hoping for good weather after having suffered through four straight years of rain and cold temperatures, and even a tornado last year that shut down the festival early on Saturday night.
To try to avoid another rainy weekend, the committee moved the two-day event to June this year for the first time, setting the festival dates for Friday-Saturday, June 8-9, in Madison, Ind. The festival takes place at Madison Bicentennial Park on the riverfront and features bands on two stages – the main Park Stage and the nearby River Stage. The event also features many craft beers in the beer tent, which this year will also feature a small live acoustic type music stage with band members coming and going to play a couple of songs.
But that’s not all. Williams said yet another small stage will be set up in the crowd to allow the bands to play impromptu short performances in between sets. And there is also the Jam Tent that will return, allowing area musicians to join in the fun.
The festival also features a Folk Art Village with several vendors and demonstrations.
Thursday, June 7 -
• 6-8 p.m.: Free “Warm-Up” show featuring The Wild Ponies at 6 p.m. and The Harmed Brothers at 8 p.m.
Friday, June 8 - Bicentennial Stage
• 5 p.m.: Gates and Folk Art Village open
• 5:30 p.m.: Willow Tree Carolers
• 6:45 p.m.: Joseph Huber
• 8 p.m.: The Secret Sisters
• 9:30 p.m.: Paul Thorn
• 6:15 p.m.: Cari Ray
• 7:45 p.m.: Soda Gardocki
Saturday, June 9 - Bicentennial Stage
• 11 a.m.: Gates and Folk Art Village open
• 1 p.m.: The Local Honeys
• 2:15 p.m.: Bendigo Fletcher
• 3:30 p.m.: Whisky Bent Valley Boys
• 5 p.m.: Qiet
• 6:30 p.m.: Lilly Hiatt
• 8 p.m.: Ray Wylie Hubbard
• 9:30 p.m.: Lucinda Williams
• 1:30 p.m.: The Chestnuts
• 3 p.m.: Erik Brunner
• 4:30 p.m.: Brett Ratliff
• 6 p.m.: Charlie Parr
• Note: Also featuring a Jam Tent, Folk Art Village, Craft Beer Tent and Children’s Activities Area.
• Admission Wristbands: $20 Friday; $30 Saturday; $35 Weekend Pass through May 18; $40 at the gate. Teen pass (ages 13-16) $10 or $5 each day. Children 12-under free. Wristbands available online at www.RiverRoots.org or by calling (812) 265-2956 or 1-800-559-2956. Advanced wristbands also available at the Lanier-Madison Visitors Center and Friendship State Bank.
“We are trying out some different things this year to see what works,” said Williams, 42, a Cincinnati area resident who has been involved with the festival for many years, primarily by running the campground prior to being named chairman last year. He has prior experience as organizer of the Whispering Beard Folk Festival in nearby Friendship, Ind., and as a band promoter and booking agent in the Cincinnati market.
Williams stepped in to replace Greg Ziesemer last year and immediately faced a daunting task of leading the event out of negative financial territory. His team went to work securing new sponsorships and taking an aggressive action toward selling advance wristbands. Those efforts helped to save the festival from financial distress again last year with the heavy rain on Friday night and the rain and tornado that suddenly appeared Saturday night before the last two bands had taken the stage.
The staff had less than 30 minutes to warn the crowd of the impending storm and try to get people to safety, Williams said. Peter Rowan continued his set inside a large tent during the rain, and headliner Ricky Skaggs was able to perform his show on the main Park Stage after the storm had passed.
“We have addressed that issue for this year and have a better plan in place for evacuating people in the event of bad weather,” Williams said.
He said the committee is excited about the move to June, which they believe will allow more families to attend, since school will be out and graduation season over. “A lot of people are willing to travel farther in the summer months, so we hope that will help boost our attendance. Before Memorial Day, people tend to stay closer to home I think.”
Weather in May has always been a challenge, he added. “You either have 75 and rainy or 45 and rainy, it seems. There’s no middle ground.”
In addition, the move to June is a time when more bands are able to travel, so the selection of talent is bigger, he said.
Weather permitting, this year’s musical lineup features Saturday night headliner Lucinda Williams and Friday night headliner Paul Thorn, who played the festival back in 2011.
“Lucinda Williams was on our radar for a while,” Williams said. ‘She’s an icon. She’s a country-rock legend. You may not recognize her name, but if you heard some of her songs, you’d recognize them.”
Photo courtesy of
Joseph Huber will play at 6:45 p.m. Friday.
Thorn is returning after having received “great feedback” from the crowd the last time he played there, Williams said. “Also, it’s good to have some bands that people are familiar with.”
Charlie Parr of Minnesota is another returning artist who is a solo act “but offers good stomping music, and we’re glad to have him back in Madison.”
Two other returning bands are the Whisky Bent Valley Boys from Pewee Valley, Ky., and the locally based band, The Chestnuts, of Madison.
In addition to the full lineup of talent, the Madison Brass Band will return to entertain the crowd in between sets on stage. They will roam to play at various locations on the festival grounds, Williams said.
The band selection committee includes Jane Vonderheide, Pam Brown, Tony Schneider, Tony Novello and Williams. The committee solicited the input from other local musicians and music fans in town in making their picks for this year’s festival.
“I’m really excited about this year’s music lineup. We have a very diverse committee each with different tastes in music, so we try to mix it up with some bands that people may know and some new bands, “said Vonderheide, in her fourth year on the music selection committee. “I’m really looking forward to seeing Lilly Hiatt. I like her sound and she’s a good songwriter. I also am a big fan of Charlie Parr. Listening to him is something special.”
Vonderheide said creating the lineup is like working a jigsaw puzzle, in trying to match the time slots with the various bands and their availability. “There are a lot of variables to deal with, but we seem to always make it work out.”
Lilly Hiatt will play at 6:30 p.m. Saturday.
As for the craft beer tent, committee member Charlie Rohlfing is in his second year in charge after taking over last year for longtime beer tent director Donnie Clapham. Rohlfing said several changes are in store this year, in response to what he considered to be feedback from the crowd last year.
This year, the beer tent will offer 10 craft beers at one central table plus the first batch of the new Mad Paddle Brewing, which is set to open at West and Second streets in Madison later this year. The first batch was brewed at New Albanian Brewery in New Albany, Ind., in May. In addition, the beer tent will be selling three canned beers for the first time – three brews from Rhinegeist Brewery of Cincinnati. The beers will be sold in the beer tent as well as in a mini-tent to be set up in the stands, Rohlfing said.
As in the past, wines from the locally based Thomas Family Winery and Madison Vineyards also will be available. But this year, Rohlfing said they will offer for the first time traditional commercial wines such as pinot grigio, pinot noir, chardonnay and a red blend.
“We are just trying to respond to what people are telling us they would like to see at the festival as far as craft beer options go,” Rohlfing said.
Williams said there will be nine food options at the festival, including an ice cream truck and a snow cone truck. Food options will include pizza and the locally based Jugheads Grub Co. barbecue.
The band Qiet will play at
5 p.m. Saturday.
More picnic tables are being provided to allow for more seating and shade in the grassy areas of the festival grounds.
Admission wristband prices have remained the same as last year, with a two-day wristband $30 if purchased in advance before June 8. Two-day wristbands purchased at the gate are $40. A Friday-only pass is $25 at the gate. A Saturday-only pass at the gate is $35. Children’s (ages 13-16) wristbands are $10 for both days or $5 for one day. Children under 13 are free. Wristbands my be purchased online or at two Madison locations: the Lanier-Madison Visitors Center, 601 W. First St.; and at Friendship State Bank, 310 Demaree Dr. in Madison.
Primitive camping is available a couple of blocks from the festival grounds at Fireman’s Park, located on Vaughn Drive at the foot of Jefferson Street. The cost is $10 per person per night. Reservations can be made when purchasing festival wristbands.
On Thursday, June 7, RiverRoots will offer a free night of music at Madison Bicentennial Park to kick off the weekend. Two bands will perform during the “Warm-Up Show” on the River Stage. The Wild Ponies are scheduled to perform at 6 p.m., followed by The Harmed Brothers at 8 p.m.
Meantime, the Ohio River Valley Folk Society, a 501c3 nonprofit organization, was created several years ago to help raise money for scholarships, educational programs in the schools and to donate proceeds to the RiverRoots Festival itself. Membership has grown to more than 100 people.
The Secret Sisters will play at 8 p.m. Friday.
Over the past few months, the society has been organizing a monthly winter series of concerts, some of which have featured bands that have appeared at the festival in the past. The April concert featured Ray Wylie Hubbard, a Texas musician who is on the schedule to perform at 8 p.m. Saturday, just before Lucinda Williams takes the stage.
As a nonprofit, the group can apply for and receive grants. The group also generates money from sponsorships, donations and membership dues. These year-long activities culminate with the festival itself – an event that many RiverRoots volunteers and area music fans eagerly await to kick off the festival season in Madison.
Most winter series concerts are held at the Red Bicycle Hall on Madison’s Main Street. But one was held at Hanover College and another at Thomas Family Winery.
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