Second Earth Day Jam boasts 16 bands, increased community support

  • Posted: Sunday, April 14, 2013 12:01 a.m.
Janna Griggs, executive director of Saving Grace Farms
Janna Griggs, executive director of Saving Grace Farms

SALISBURY — When Ashley Honbarrier wanted to host an Earth Day party at her house last year her friend, Stacey Carter, had bigger plans.

Carter suggested having the bash at Saving Grace Farm, where she works as an equine specialist.


When executive director Janna Griggs gave the go ahead, the two women got to work.

It didn’t take long for a simple party to turn into a full-fledged all-day music festival complete with eight bands and numerous vendors.

With the musical acts volunteering their time, the ladies decided to sell tickets and donate the proceeds to Saving Grace and The LandTrust for Central North Carolina.

This year’s Natty Greene’s Earth Day Jam, set for Saturday, will be even bigger with 16 musicians taking the stage.

Honbarrier is hoping double last year’s 350 attendees will come out Saturday.

“Last year we were taking a risk, we didn’t know what would happen,” she said. “It’s awesome that we were so successful and so many people were interested in being part of this.”

This go round organizers opted to hire Larry Keel and Natural Bridge as the headliner in order to attract a larger audience.

“Larry is an incredible guitarist and he’s got fans in all different age groups,” Honbarrier said. “His style of bluegrass is good to everybody.”

But Keel is the only act that will be paid; the other musicians are donating their time and talent.

“With me playing in ‘Big Break’ I have a lot of musician friends who are touring the country right now and wanted to be part of this,” Honbarrier said.

Bands will play on one of two stages starting at 11 a.m. Saturday and continue into the wee Sunday morning hour of 1 a.m.

“There won’t be any dead time, there will be music constantly,” Honbarrier said.

But the festival isn’t really about music, it’s about knowledge.

“We have so many life-threatening environmental issues that we need to raise awareness for,” Honbarrier said. “This is a good way to educate people while having a good time.”

Planning stages

Planning for the now annual event began back in November when Honbarrier and Carter assembled a committee.

After attending last year’s event while working for the city of Salisbury, Joe Morris, now development director of the Land Trust, decided he wanted to get involved.

“I had a really great time and just observed that there was a lot of potential to the event and recognized that maybe some assistance from the LandTrust would help grow it,” he said.

Morris said after the group booked Larry Keel and Natural Bridge about five band immediately contacted them for a chance to be on the same bill.

Once all the bands were secured, Morris said Honbarrier came up with the idea to have some of them play during Downtown Salisbury Inc.’s Earth Night Out and at various downtown bars the Friday before the festival.

“It’s a very well executed idea that will help offset their cost of travel,” he said. “It’s good for the bands and it’s good for us.”

The group has landed some big sponsors this year, including Natty Greene’s Brewing of Greensboro, which paid to have naming rights for the festival. The company plans to donate 50 percent of the price of each cup of beer sold during the event.

“Ashley has really been the artistic and creative genius behind the whole thing,” Morris said. “She has worked incredibly hard to identify musical groups and land sponsorships.”

Other major sponsors include Eddie Snuggs Hammer Truck Sales, Wallace & Graham, the Rowan Tourism Development Authority, Wallace Realty and Team Chevrolet. 

Wild Turkey Farms will be donating organic pork and Fresh House is supplying fresh fruits and vegetables.

Honbarrier said about 200 people from the community have stepped forward to help out in some way.

“That just goes to show that we can make a change, we are capable if we all work together,” she said.

The music

Jenny Keel, a member of Larry Keel and Natural Bridge, said the audience can expect an exciting performance Saturday.

“Our mission is always to connect to our audience, inviting everyone to join in our musical adventure journey for the evening,” she said. “Expect fearlessness and fun.”

Jenny Keel said the band’s music is based around bluegrass/acoustic instrumentation including the guitar, banjo, mandolin and upright bass.

“But the presentation goes way beyond the boundaries of traditional bluegrass and folk music,” she said.  “Larry is truly a king of flatpicking guitar playing,  but he has pioneered his own style, setting himself apart from others masters of the acoustic guitar with a particularly aggressive and technically brilliant delivery.

“It’s entirely original, powerful acoustic music.”

Jenny Keel said the group is excited to be headlining the event.

“It’s our greatest pleasure to take part in an event that honors our magnificent, bountiful and oh so fragile mother-home, Earth,” she said. “I think I can speak for everyone in the band when I say there’s ultimately nothing more important in human responsibility than to insure the health and sustained vitality of our planet.”

Honbarrier said there will be a good variety of music during the jam, including everything from rock to blues to folk.

“We will have it all,” she said.

Where the money goes

Funds raised during the festival will go toward general operating expenses at both the LandTrust and Saving Grace.

Morris said with an annual operating budget of slightly more than $400,000, the LandTrust will use the dollars to stretch its budget.

“We don’t know what to expect in terms of proceeds at this point,” he said. “As we build up some experience with this in future years and the concept becomes more established and predictable we may come up with some specific projects.”

Morris said in the past River Dance was the only major fundraiser put on by the LandTrust.

Griggs said it costs Saving Grace between $80 and $90 an hour to provide therapeutic horsemanship and counseling services to people with special needs and disabilities.

But the facility only charges clients $35 an hour, an amount that can be covered by a scholarship.

“This fundraising will help fill the gap between either the scholarship or the service fee and what our actual cost is,” she said.

Earth education

Despite raising funds and having a good time, organizers say the message is the most important part of the festival.

“Our main goal is to have a good time on the land,” Morris said. “It’s about building awareness, enjoying what we have and taking care of what we have.”

Morris said about 40 different vendors and educational booths will be set up during the jam to provide information related to Earth Day.

“We want to engage people in the activities of the LandTrust and those ideas around environmental awareness, a small footprint and sustainability,” he said. A special kid’s section will host wildlife from Dan Nicholas Park, inflatable bounce houses and slides, games and environmentally friendly activities by the Salisbury Art Station.

Contact Sarah Campbell at 704-797-7683.

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