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Thousands of locals, out-of-towners gather for a groovy time at annual Hippie Fest

By Natalie Anderson
natalie.anderson@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — Groovy tunes, far-out food and good vibes. Can you dig it?

Thousands of locals and out-of-towners adorned in tie dye, flower crowns, bell bottom pants and bohemian flare gathered over the weekend for a return of the annual Hippie Fest at the Rowan County Fairgrounds.

With more than 130 different food, art and merchandise vendors, there was something for all ages Saturday and Sunday. Many children enjoyed face painting, henna tattoos and giant bubbles, while others enjoyed alcoholic drinks, fair food, groovy tunes and the collective hope for peace all around.

This year, many smiles and laughs represented the joy of a return to normalcy.

Jason and Teresa McColl of Statesville, who regularly attend the annual Hippie Fest, joined in on the fun in Salisbury this weekend and are hopeful festivals can now happen more often.

“We’re so glad we can get out and be with our people,” Teresa said.

When asked what it means to be a hippie today, Teresa said peace is still the goal.

Melanie McDonough of Charlotte said she was surprised how “weirdly normal” the festival experience felt after a year of social isolation and distancing.

Austin Shook, also of Charlotte, said it’s evident people have been craving connection and community and the joy of seeing other faces. He likened the experience of a return to gatherings to “coming out of a portal” and being on the other side.

Shook, a vegetarian, was bummed at the lack of vegetarian and vegan options, which “is hippie food.” Hoff’s Grill and Duck’s Donuts were among the local vendors, while others served traditional festival food and travel with the festival across the nation.

Randall Barger, events coordinator at the fairgrounds, said about 7,000 tickets were pre-sold for the Saturday and Sunday events in addition to hundreds more sold at the door. The Hippie Fest is a family-friendly food and arts festival that travels across the U.S. from May to October, making about 10 trips along the way. The next festival is scheduled for June 5 in Kalamazoo, Michigan.

Barger said Rowan has hosted the festival for five years now, and many vendors and attendees follow the festival. This year, while transporting attendees to their cars via golf cart, he saw license plates from Ohio, Tennessee and Georgia. In 2019, he recalls speaking with attendees from as far as Texas, Washington and New York.

Barger said many guests this year reported difficulty in finding lodging, which he hopes means a boost to the local tourism market.

“It feels normal again,” Barger said. “People have been tired of being cooped up. People are ready to get out and do stuff.”

Not many wore face masks at the outdoor festival in light of the state’s outdoor mask mandate being lifted, but Barger said both at the festival and in the days leading up to the festival that he encouraged anyone who felt more comfortable wearing one to do so.

Contact reporter Natalie Anderson at 704-797-4246.

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