Flash forward a few years. The Supper Club sadly went the way of growing families, burgeoning careers, school obligations, and general busy-ness. But something extraordinary was still brewing in the 'Burg - a roots music festival, born out of and in celebration of a place that I am so grateful to call home - the Shenandoah Valley. Spearheaded by Trent Wagler as well as other Supper Club visionaries Jeremiah Jenkins and Michael Weaver, the Red Wing Roots Festival can only be described as a gift. My husband, Mike, describes the music festival held at National Chimneys Park about 30 minutes south of Harrisonburg as his "happy place." I get it, because I feel the same way. Good times, good living, good earth, good news, good behavior, do-goodery.... it's all at Red Wing Roots.
The first year we attended Red Wing Roots in the summer of 2013, I was blown away by the sense of community that managed to pulse through a group of 3,000 people. Sure, it helped that virtually my entire social network was seemingly magically transplanted to a meadow, surrounded by great music, delicious food, and million-year-old limestone rock formations. Red Wing Roots II didn't disappoint either. It was there that I was able to celebrate my father's 66th and last birthday with him, while he watched with great pride as music danced across his beloved granddaughter's face.
Organized bike rides. Volunteers hauling recycling on bicycle trailers. Hiking among stunning natural surroundings. Kids programming to teach about healthy watersheds. Free drinking water provided by Klean Kanteen. If green is your thing, there are plenty of opportunities to help the planet at Red Wing Roots. Plus, with so many wonderful artists singing love songs to the natural splendor of their homes, it's virtually impossible to not want to give the earth a big ol' bear hug.
Free morning yoga sessions. Ample and delicious food. A variety of comfortable camping options. Clean and plentiful bathrooms. Beautiful hand-crafted and hefty wood Adirondack chairs and swings for festival-goers to sit a spell. Vendors with rugs, wind chimes, and other adornments to make your campsite feel like home. It can certainly seem like a pain to pack and unpack for a camping trip, but while you're at Red Wing Roots, the living is easy.
Red Wing Roots is the epitome of good news. Trent Wagler described the experience of listening to music in the festival program in this way:
"The language of music is as unique as it is universal. When we hear a beautiful
melody or feel the pulse of a rhythm, it touches us on a deep level ... Connecting
in this way, I believe, sends a signal or prayer to the greater universe that we are
capable of being one. That we are capable of love."
I can't think of any better news than that.
Wow. Is it ever a good time. Children's faces are smeared with the traces of face paint from Larkin Arts, dirt (never hurt anybody), and ice cream from Kline's as they hula hoop and chase each other across the Music Meadow. Adults lounge in comfy camp chairs, soaking in Vitamin D, taking a breather from the stresses of everyday, and basking in good vibes. Neighbors smile when they bump into neighbors. You may see your dentist, school official, or veterinarian (yes, I saw all of those), all relaxing and enjoying the music. Families play together in the Beer Garden (only the grown folks sample local craft brews and wine, of course). And when the sun goes down, it's easy to retreat back to campsites and fireflies, listening to the music waft on the wind.
Smiles, smiles everywhere. Simple rules are followed. You can leave your chairs parked in one spot for hours, secure in knowing that no one will mess with them. Adults tolerate kids playing hide and seek around their feet. Vendors are friendly. Volunteers are amazing. And all wear smiles. There are two big signs that greet attendees once inside the gate. One reads, "Love one another." The other states, "Respect this place." I can't think of better guidelines for good behavior.
Last, but certainly not least, there are the folks who use Red Wing Roots as a platform for making the world a better place. There are the hempsters touting the environmental, health, and economic benefits of industrial hemp production. People advocating for healthy rivers. Volunteers signing people up for the bone marrow registry. All of these people, doing labors of love at a place that's just bursting at the seams with it.
If I could live at Red Wing Roots all year long, I would. Although maybe it would be less special then, like a world in which every day was Christmas morning. So, I'll just start putting a large red X on the calendar each passing day, and wait patiently until next year. In the meantime, I'll also try to take the lessons of Red Wing Roots to heart. There's a lot of goodness in all of us, and we don't necessarily need to be transplanted to a magical music festival to tap into it. But certainly, playing an amazing soundtrack in the background can't hurt.