Festival celebrates indestructible women

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 11, 2013

It started off as a conversation between girlfriends about playing a gig together and grew into a music festival with the tagline “Celebrating Indestructible Women.”
Organizer Sue McHugh said the idea for the annual event dubbed Chickweed came to life when the women began making plans. They decided to use their talents to host a benefit concert for a good cause, so they went to work narrowing down organizations that support women.
McHugh said they initially thought of donating the profits from the show to a foundation that supports breast cancer research, but they decided that cause already received a lot of support.
“We settled on the Family Crisis Council because nobody knows about it, nobody hears about it, yet it’s so deserving,” she said. “It kind of flies under the radar.
“They do amazing work and so much of it I don’t even think the community knows about.”
The nonprofit group helps those affected by rape, incest, sexual assault and domestic violence. The agency offers an emergency shelter, court advocacy, 24-hour crisis line, individual and court counseling services and support groups, while seeking to raise public awareness about the problem.
“We are here for anyone who is a victim,” said Renee Bradshaw, executive director of the Family Crisis Council. “We’re just a safe haven and everything that we offer is free.”
Bradshaw said the crisis hotline, which received more than 850 calls last year, is the only one of its kind in Rowan County.
The shelter, which can house 24 women and children at a time, racked up 4,300 service nights last year. After 30 days, victims typically find housing near relatives and the council foots the bill for transportation.
Bradshaw said Chickweed’s goal of empowering women goes hand-in-hand with the council’s goal to prevent sexual and domestic abuse through awareness.
“Chickweed is fantastic,” she said. “Sue has worked so hard and diligently to help us and it’s meant so much.”
About 200 people showed up to the inaugural Chickweed last year and McHugh is hoping for at least 100 more this time around.
There will be a total of 10 performances this year, including those by newcomers Lyric Leeda Jones, April Turner and Sy Arden, the show’s headliner.
McHugh said Arden participated last year as the featured artist, a role that will shift to Catawba College professor Ashley Pierce.
Willow Catherine, Chelsea Rhae Childrers, Laura Vella, Ashley Jo Farmer Band, Diane Hoffman Band and McHugh herself will be returning to the stage this year along with Nadirah belly dance troupe, which will weave through the crowd between sets.
“We range in age over five decades,” McHugh said. “Because of that we have all these different genres.”
The name for the festival emphasizes the “Celebrating Indestructible Women” theme, McHugh said.
“I have a bit of landscaping background and I knew chickweed is fairly indestructible in the garden,” she said. “You can’t get rid of it.”
McHugh said she’s been surprised about how much support Chickweed has received.
“It’s amazing how viral it went,” she said. “Everybody was talking about it, which is amazing because it started out as a bunch of gals who just wanted to play together and have fun.
“There has been an outpouring of affect and support not just for the event, but for the Family Crisis Council.”
Salisbury Mayor Paul Woodson has proclaimed this Chickweed Week and Saturday will be known as Chickweed Day in the city.
McHugh said she hopes the festival will continue to flourish.
“I’d love to see it grow,” she said. “We have so many talented women here; why not feature them?
“It can also help the Family Crisis Council continue to thrive, so it’s a win-win.”
Saturday’s festival features women, but McHugh said “guys can come too.”
“This certainly isn’t just for women,” she said. “It’s a community event.”
Items such as toilet paper, paper towels, dish detergent, liquid soap, laundry detergent, twin sheet sets and over-the-counter medications will be collected during the concert Saturday.
Those who can’t attend, but would like to donate to the Family Crisis Council can send a check made payable to Chickweed to 910 N. Main St., Salisbury, NC 28144.
Bradshaw said the council also needs volunteers. Those interested can contact her at 704-636-4718.
During Saturday’s event there will be vendors on hand selling everything from jewelry to garden art.
A variety of food, as well as beer and wine will also be available.

Contact reporter Sarah Campbell at 704-797-7683.
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