Photo credit: Mare Bare

Last year, the Great Blue Heron Music Festival celebrated its 25th anniversary. This year, Heron Farm owners Julie and Steve Rockcastle and festival partner Dave Tidquist are at it again, and the festival shows no signs of slowing down with another stacked lineup of local and nationally touring musicians, and a plethora of other activities for kids and adults alike.

The music at The Heron comprises a diverse mix of genres including Americana; roots; rock; reggae; zydeco; swing; country; old time; hip-hop; Celtic; and bluegrass. One can listen to horns, strings of all kinds, percussion, and everything in between. Returning bands, to name a few, are Smackdab; The Gunpoets; Big Mean Sound Machine; Funktional Flow; Donna the Buffalo; Max Garcia Conover; Jim Lauderdale; and after a multi-year hiatus from the festival, Rusted Root.

The music, while amazing, is a catalyst for much more, though. The ultimate reason people flock to The Heron year after year is the greatness of the atmosphere. Newcomers know it by word-of-mouth, and whether people attend as musicians or audience members, the importance of The Heron is universal.

Veteran Heron musician Preach Freedom calls it a “magical place.” He says, “What made me love to play there is the community. When I do, it’s not so much a festival as it is a reunion. I’ve watched children grow up there. It’s safe, family oriented. It’s a sanctuary.”

Preach will be playing with the band Preach Freedom and Connect, which he says is more a verb than a band name. It’s “a mission, sending a positive message, preaching freedom and connecting, making people aware. It’s agitating the mind to think about where we are. It’s community and unity,” he says.

Offering an anecdote about how The Heron embodies the concept of community and unity that comes through in his music, he says of one of his first experiences at The Heron some 20 years ago, with wonder and gratitude in his voice: “I’m sitting around a fire with a bunch of people, and I am from the hood, the projects. I’m not supposed to be here, but people are calling me family. It changed my life.” Marvelously, this is not the first or the last story of this nature to come from The Heron.

New to The Heron this year is local, alt-country Americana rock band Uncle Ben’s Remedy. Also aware of the Heron kinship and positive vibes, band member Harmony Griffin says, “The sense of community here is really important to us. We are really honored to be a part of something this important. More than ever, the universe needs it.”

Griffin says the band is “Damn thrilled to play this year. Every year, we have people asking us, ‘Are y’all playing the Heron this year?’ This is the first time we have been able to make the trip. What we are trying to do, the country music that we make, it comes from a place with the same deep roots and honest approach as a lot of the artists at the Heron. I feel like the Heron audience will pick up on that pretty quickly. UBR shows are nothing if not fun. The vibe of the Heron, we are jumping in. We can’t wait,” he says.

People get so excited because The Heron is a gratifying celebration of the goodness of life, with the collective striving to help create a peaceful, free, and environmentally sound world devoid of the discord that continues to plague so many. This ideal is not a hippie cliché. Imagine what could be accomplished if everyone practiced peace, love, and unity.

To help with the environmental bit, Rainbow Recycling will once again be on hand as a colorful way of educating and encouraging patrons to sort their trash and recycle, and not only at the festival, but anywhere, even in their own homes. Taking care of our Earth is a special part of The Heron, as the Rockcastles promote a safe, happy, healthy, organic, sustainable environment for all.

With three stages and music that spans the genres, there is something in this lineup for all music lovers. The food and craft vendors are always top notch. Kids activities include face painting, water games, and story time, while the Teen Tent hosts pottery, tie-dye, and hula-hoop making. Bring a suit to cool off in the swimming pond. Head to the Revival Tent for yoga or meditation, or take a music lesson. The Slyboots School of Music, Arts & Dance will also be conducting drum and dance sessions throughout the weekend for both kids and adults.

Come up for the weekend or a day, but don’t miss out on an incredible experience for the whole family! For tickets, full lineup and schedule, directions, and other info: http://greatblueheron.com/wp/

Happy Heron!

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