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Wednesday, September 14,2011

Pawpaw Fest a good sign of a fine festival region

By Terry Smith

Photo Caption: The Pawpaw Festival (as shown here from last year) runs this weekend from Friday to Sunday in Albany.

Somehow or other, our little part of the world has filled up with top-notch music festivals in the past several years. It used to be that the main music fests in our area either were mainly for Ohio University students or Deadheads and reggae fans.

This weekend, one of my favorite local outdoor music celebrations, the Pawpaw Festival, takes place at Lake Snowden, just east of Albany. If you want to skip ahead and check out the packed music schedule, be my guest.

The high celebration of all things pawpaw is just one of tuneful assortment of local music fests that fill up the warm-weather schedule.

Check it out:

The Nelsonville Music Festival. This mid-May fest started off small in the Nelsonville town square but has now grown into a professional four-stage (counting the kids' stage) festival, with a full and diverse lineup of national acts each night of the three-day event. The vibe is mellow, the beer is cold, and when it rains, as it often does, fest-goers take it in muddy stride.

Boogie on the Bricks. This one-day street festival in mid-July, featuring popular local bands playing all afternoon and evening, has also taken off since its humble beginnings. It seems as if an event whose main attraction originally was on-street beer sales (!) has transitioned into more of a live-music community event. The vibe is electric, and my favorite part is the wide range of ages and demographics of the crowd. If you've lived in Athens as long as I have, you get weary of the engorged snake demographic model, with seemingly 90 percent of the population in the 18-23 age range. So it's nice to see people of all ages drinking beer (well, not all ages) and bopping to the music.

Athens Community Music Festival. This August event is patterned after the legendary South by Southwest in Austin, Texas, though on a much smaller scale. Numerous music venues in Athens host a night of local bands, and one wristband can get you in anywhere. The money goes for a good cause, and local bands get the sort of exposure that they normally wouldn't get playing at 1 a.m. before a familiar bar crowd.

Rhythm on the River/Big Bend Blues Bash. Every summer, the funky little river town of Pomeroy hosts a blues series for several weeks, with free shows in the Riverfront Amphitheater every Friday night, and then a big blues bash in late July right on the river. National blues acts rule the stage. The Pomeroy Blues & Jazz Society hosts the annual series.

The Foothills Blues and Arts Festival. This two-day blues festival in rural Meigs County (yes, redundant, I know) takes place the last weekend in August, and features two days of local, regional and national blues acts. They play in a farm field, with rolling pastures rising around it. Camping, BYOB, arts vendors and my favorite – fried catfish sandwiches – along with a full selection of other food vendors, what's not to like?

A new edition to the local festival calendar, the Groove Street Fest, takes place at the Dairy Barn Art Center on Saturday, Sept. 24. With a lively slate of mainly horn-driven bands, the fest will take over the Dairy Barn lawn, much as Barn Raisin' did for so many years. I only have one request in connection with the Groove Street Fest; I beg that another local newspaper slap a moratorium on headlines that employ the phrase "get your groove on." Please, for the sake of our children.

Then there's the beloved old standbys the Athens County Fair and Parade of the Hills and a relatively recent addition, the monthly Free Summer Music Series in the Stuart's Opera House parking lot. Add these events to regular national acts at the Opera House, the Fur Peace Ranch, uptown bars, Uncle Buck's, various Hookah-related fests in the region, Lennonfest, Aquabear Legion, and well, who can say that the Athens area can't compete with anybody when it comes to outdoor and indoor music?

THE 13TH ANNUALPawpaw Festival is a good place to start if you haven't partaken of what our area offers in outdoor music fests (though the PawPaw Fest is much, much more with a multitude of arts and crafts vendors, a beer tent offering sublime pawpaw [and other] beers, food vendors, and a variety of contests, most of them appropriately enough involving pawpaws).

Here's the music schedule:

(Further information about other demonstrations and presentations can be found at The fest has a relatively modest daily charge, or else you can get a weekend or two-day pass.)

Main Stage

Friday, Sept. 16

4-5 p.m. - Zach Parkman & Damaged Goods

5:30-6:30 - Whip & Tickle

7-8:15 - Larry Keel & Natural Bridge

8:15-8:30 - Steam Punk Ballet (dance)

9-10:15 - Spikedrivers

10:45-12 - Clifftones

Saturday, Sept. 17

10-11 a.m. - Steve Free

11:30 a.m. -12:30 p.m. - Megan Cameron & Amethyst Stone

1-2 p.m. - Broken Ring

2:30-3:30 - Grace Adele

4-5 - Corbin Marsh Band

5-5:30 - Paw Paw Eating Contest

5:30-6:35 - Heartlanders

7:05-8:15 - Hey Mavis

8:45-10 - Elemental Groove Theory

10:30 - 12 - the Porters

Sunday, Sept. 18

10-11 a.m. - Steve Zarate

11:30 a.m. -12:30 p.m. - Paranormals

1-2 p.m. - Coolville Hotclub

2:30-4 - Rumpke Mountain Boys

Beer Tent Stage

Friday, Sept. 16

6:30-7 p.m. - Brian Allton

8:30-9 - Troll

10:15-10:45 - Joey Hebdo

Saturday, Sept. 17

12:30-1 p.m. - Sheri Dean

2-2:30 - Corbin Marsh (solo)

3:30-4 - Leah Nairn

5-5:30 - Allen Strong

6:35-7:05 - Molly Jo Stanley

8:15-8:45 - Steam Punk Ballet

10-10:30 - Controlled Folly

12-close - Controlled Folly

No Beer Tent Stage on Sunday


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