Earth Day Jam music provides soundtrack for day of sun, fun in glorious outdoors

Published 12:00 am Sunday, May 4, 2014

SALISBURY — The Natty Greene’s Earth Day Jam had it all, which might seem contradictory, because this growing event also is about the simple things, such as soaking up the sun, spreading a blanket and playing on the thick grass.
But mix in 16 bands on two stages all day and night, good food and beer, vendors galore and a cross-eyed possum — and you have it all, especially on a gorgeous day at Saving Grace Farm.
“They have a blast, and I have a blast,” Candy Parker said of herself and her children, 5 and 8.
When they arrived, Parker said, she showed the kids the important places and how to find her if they needed, “and then I set them free.”
As she spoke, one of her children was on the moon bounce; the other, at a face-painting station. She was listening to music and talking with friends.
The annual event, founded three years ago by Ashley Honbarrier and Stacy Carter, raises money for the LandTrust for Central North Carolina and Saving Grace Farm, which has become the much-appreciated venue just north of the Salisbury city limits off Trexler Loop.
This year’s Earth Day Jam was special because it marked a return to the stage and a tribute to Dave Myers, the Big Break musician who was critically injured in a motorcycle accident in March.
While he has been improving and expects to be able to play the guitar again, Myers remains paralyzed from the mid chest down. A host of friends were set to play a set with Big Break Saturday evening, as Myers hoped to sing from his wheelchair.
Andrew Hodges, whose group the Dionne, Hodges, Murphy Trio started the whole jam off, said Myers wrote a song several months before his accident titled “Take a Stand,” which Hodges and others had learned and planned to play Saturday.
Paraphrased, the lyrics of the song talk about even if you can’t feel your legs, you should not give up, give in or tuck in your chin.
Numerous fundraisers have been held locally for Myers. What made Myers’ connection to Earth Day Jam so strong was that Honbarrier is his girlfriend and a fellow band member of Big Break.
It made for an emotional night.
While the night-time part of Earth Day Jam concentrated a lot on the music, the daylight portion combined tunes and a joyous communing with the outdoors.
In various corners of the grassy venue were kids and adults gyrating with hula hoops, playing Wiffle Ball or cornhole, throwing Frisbees and footballs or just blowing bubbles.
“The music is great and the setting is just perfect,” said Ted Goins, who attended with his wife, Cheryl. They purchased a CD of Rebekah Todd & the Odyssey after hearing the Greenville band play early in the afternoon.
Todd said the group, together for just nine months, considers itself a folk-soul band. It relies on her singing and a dash of horns.
“I thought it was perfect,” Carter said, adding more bands should go with that combination.
The group tried to make the most of its first trip to Salisbury by also performing at Uncle Buck’s Friday night.
“The people here are just being so kind,” Todd said after her Earth Day Jam session was over.
The headliners during the day included The Deluge and The New Familiars.
Carter said the beauty of Earth Day Jam is how all the volunteers and sponsors come together as a team and do their jobs. “I just run around with some duct tape, a knife and some string,” she said.
Carter gave special credit to Chris Phelps of High Rock Outfitters for running the sound all day.
“Every year is getting better,” said Joe Morris, development director for the land trust. “Everybody has been so cooperative. We couldn’t be more pleased from a land trust perspective. … We’re happy to be a part of it.”
The land trust preaches things such as making rural land accessible and getting people to enjoy the outdoors, Morris said. As he spoke, one of the bands played a song titled, “Walk Around Naked.”
Katie Hopkins, who provided field games during the day, picked up a hula hoop two years ago and made it a personal pastime. Now she’s an instructor at places such as Center for Faith & the Arts and Rufty-Holmes Senior Center.
Hopkins provided several of her homemade hula hoops for play Saturday. When she first started, Hopkins said, it helped her to lose 40 pounds.
“And you can hoop anywhere,” she said, spinning and making the hula hoop travel without break up and down her body.
The day included many Earth Day-appropriate messages and exhibitors. Bread Riot was on hand to talk about the benefits of eating local; O2 Energies, which is building a solar farm between Rockwell and China Grove, had solar panels on display; and Dead Ed’s had a recycled crafts table set up so kids could build robots out of discarded metal parts such as wiring, bolts, cans and springs.
But that only scratched the soil of what was offered.
Crystal Cook, in fact, stood behind four clear jars of dirt for much of the afternoon to show the kinds of soil farmers could have by adding the right things.
Her organization,, focuses on permaculture systems and design. The emphasis particularly is on water, soil and seeds, she said. As folks came to her tent, she tested their knowledge of soil, using the dirt in front of her.
The best soil is the kind that looks, crumbles and has the consistency of a slice of chocolate cake, Cook explained, digging deep into the last jar.
Stephen LaFleur and Logan Stephens, both of O2 Energies, said the company’s new Rowan County solar farm will be one of the company’s bigger sites out of seven already going. It will include a herd of 150 sheep from Sun-Raised Farms to help with maintaining the property. LaFleur said the new solar farm should be operational and selling its power to Duke Energy by the end of the year.
The Dan Nicholas Park Nature Center brought several live mammals, reptiles and birds to Earth Day Jam, including Becky, a possum, who is a favorite of volunteer Cindy Smith Bernhardt. “She likes to be rocked to sleep in a blanket,” Bernhardt said. “She thinks she’s human.”
Becky was a show-stopper, and Bernhardt shared some interesting facts about possums. Did you know they are the size of a lima bean when born and stay in their mother’s pouch as they grow? Did you know they have a short life span — an average of a year in the wild and three years in captivity?
Did you know they eat baby copperheads? And did you know — and Becky confirmed this — they become cross-eyed when they put on too much weight.
“If people were like that, I’d really be in trouble,” Bernhardt said.
Yes, Earth Day Jam had everything.
Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263.