Fayetteville Roots Festival gathers in the masses with community programming

Nature & Madness will play a set of Guy Clark songs as part of a tribute to Clark, who headlined the 2011 Roots Festival and passed away in 2016

Courtesy photo

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the sheer size of the Fayetteville Roots Festival. With 108 events spread over five days at more than a dozen venues, and including headlining musical acts such as Iron & Wine, The Wood Brothers and Rodney Crowell, no one could blame you for overlooking an event here or there.

Or perhaps there’s the idea that it’s all sold out, considering main stage passes for Friday and Saturday nights (Aug. 26-27) and VIP passes have been fully claimed for months.

Yet, the Fayetteville Roots Festival, which starts on Wednesday (Aug. 23) at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville and concludes about 100 hours later with concurrent events at the Fayetteville Town Center and Maxine’s Tap Room, features dozens of accessible, open and community-oriented events.

What: Fayetteville Roots Festival
When: Aug. 23-27
Where: Various venues in Northwest Arkansas
Cost: Many events free; others, like the Sunday mainstage show, start at $49
Tnfo: therootsfest.org

Some require free-to-acquire tickets to gauge attendance. Others still require only that you show up and enjoy the music or the food. Bryan Hembree, one of the festival’s cofounders and also one of its mainstage musicians courtesy of the band Smokey & The Mirror, says that while it’s hard to officially measure the full impact of the festival, its affects can certainly be felt. The Fayetteville Farmers’ Market, for instance, reports the Roots Festival crowd is typically among its top two weekends each year. An estimated 5,000 people will engage with the festival, Hembree said.

Community programming makes up a considerable portion of the festival. And it is one of the remaining options for locals to experience the festival. Community programming has always been critical to the mission of the Roots Fest, Hembree said, and this year it extends further into the culinary offers.

“We wanted to bring the food up to the level of the music,” Hembree said.

The opening of the new Brightwater culinary campus at Northwest Arkansas Community College finally provided a kitchen large enough to host master classes. All of the master classes are currently sold out.

The festival has expanded community offerings in other locations, too. Stage 18 in downtown Fayetteville will also offer a series of food and beverage related events. They too are sold out.

“There’s really an interest in that kind of event,” Hembree said.

But several food options remain open to passersby. Hembree recommends visiting the pop up bistro, with will be located at the Fayetteville Town Center plaza and features chef Michael Robertshaw of the Pressroom in Bentonville. The bistro will focus on food sourced from local vendors and is open from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday.

There’s also the chef cookoff, which begins at 11 a.m. Saturday near the Town Center and features chefs working with farmers’ market ingredients.

Free programming extends beyond food, of course. Of particular note is a pair of film screenings at Crystal Bridges and the Fayetteville Public Library that offer films about sustainability and music. The films are “Verdigris: In Search of Will Rogers” and the Arkansas premier of “Look & See: A Portrait of Wendell Berry.” Included at the screening of the latter will be a question-and-answer session with director Laura Dunn and co-producer (and television star and comic) Nick Offerman.

Free music offerings include a Gillian Welch tribute show led by a series of female singer-songwriters at 4 p.m. Sunday at Maxine’s Taproom and a series of Guy Clark tribute events at the Fayetteville Public Library, also on Sunday.

The tributes to Clark, who headlined the 2011 Roots Festival and passed away in 2016, will include a talk at 1 p.m. with his longtime publicist, Tamara Salviano, and Sunday headlining artist Rodney Crowell. Salviano wrote a book about Clark, and Crowell credits Clark with helping him get a start in Nashville. Following their discussion, the band Nature & Madness will play a set of Guy Clark songs starting at 2:30 p.m.

The full schedule of events for the Fayetteville Roots Festival can be found at therootsfest.org/full-schedule and can be sorted by category, including free and community-oriented events.

Free community events – 2017 Fayetteville Roots Festival

Selected highlights from the free community programs at the Fayetteville Roots Festival
For a full schedule or to reserve a spot, visit: therootsfest.org/full-schedule/

Friday, Aug. 25

Noon – 2 p.m. – Live taping of KUAF’s “Ozarks at Large” with special music guests, Fayetteville Public Library
8-11 p.m. – Square dance, Backspace
10:30 p.m. – Free Roots music, Stage 18
11 p.m. – Open mic, Chancellor Hotel

Saturday, Aug. 26

8 a.m. to 1 p.m. – Pop up bistro, Town Center Plaza
10 a.m. – Songwriting workshop with J. Wagner, Chancellor Hotel
11 a.m. – Chef competition, Town Center Plaza
11:30 a.m. – Film screening for “Look & See,” Fayetteville Public Library
11 p.m. – Open mic, Chancellor Hotel
12:45 a.m. – Open jam session, Stage 18

Sunday, Aug. 27

Noon – Gospel brunch with Shawn James, Maxine’s Tap Room
1 p.m. – Guy Clark tribute with Tamara Salviano and Rodney Crowell, Fayetteville Public Library
4 p.m. – Gillian Welch tribute, Maxine’s Tap Room

This article is sponsored by First Security Bank. For more great stories of Arkansas food, travel, sports, music and more, visit onlyinark.com.