Montford Welcomes Summer Again!

Ben Scales, Festival Director

On Saturday, May 20, we had another fabulous day at this year’s Montford Music and Arts Festival, our 14th annual, courtesy of the neighborhood association and its generous sponsors. I appreciate this opportunity to revisit that very special day and offer some heartfelt thanks to the hard-working volunteers who made it all possible.

The weather was perfect all day long, bordering on the warmer side, but the rain stayed away all day, unlike many previous festivals. As in years past, we had a juried art show and wonderful music on two stages highlighting the rich musical and demographic diversity that makes Montford such an exciting place to live and work.

The awards for the juried Art Show were as follows: 1st place: Patricia Spangler – Language of Leaves; 2nd place: Rachael Icard – Cotton and Cursive; and 3rd place: Bryan and Bridgette Davis – Artifactual Adornments. Our congratulations go out these fine artists.

As for the Music, The Midnight Plowboys opened the day on the Soco Stage. Their brand of comfortable, down home, old time bluegrass was a great way to start the day. Liz Teague was up next, delivering her sweet songs of motherhood, love, and home like a big batch of freshly baked cookies. The searing technicality and pitch-perfect vocal harmonies of Dear Brother came after that, kicking up the all-acoustic bluegrass format several notches. Buncombe Turnpike delivered, as usual, their wonderful vocal harmonies and music with a real touch of comedic flair. They had the crowd in stitches.

Then as the day grew hotter, so did the music. Dirty Badgers jumped on stage and melted faces, complete with singing lead guitar, howling vocals, and blaring saxophone. The crowd was awake and THEY WERE DANCING! Alarm Clock Conspiracy stepped up at 4:30 and played warm, tight rock a la Pink Floyd and Guided By Voices, cruising the crowd into late afternoon. Then, as the finale, The Crooked Beat kept the street festival atmosphere going with upbeat, rollicking covers of yesteryear and original tunes reminiscent of Texas outlaw Americana. Overall a fantastic day on Soco Street!

Over on the Montford Stage, the Billy Jonas Band kicked off the morning with a blend of Billy’s crowd favorites, such as “What Kind Of Cat Are You?,” as well as material from his new releases. Following Billy, Lyric wowed the crowd with her electric guitar and 7-piece funk and soul band, rocking through original songs and covers ranging from Prince to Aretha Franklin. Next up was Krekel and Whoa!, our Montford neighbors, who were previously known as the Mad Tea Party and the Moodies. Jason and Ami cranked through a powerful set of their signature quirky rockabilly that had the crowd dancing despite the heat. Following that was WestSound, pumping their fiery R&B up the avenue for us. And as in years past, all the lovely ladies were shaking it hard with singer Regina Duke on her powerful rendition of “Brick House.”

The next three acts were the Pond Brothers (George and Andy Pond), the Sufi Brothers (Jason Krekel and Woody Wood) and the Cat Dragons, which combines the two previous acts with the addition of your humble scribe. The Ponds were joined by Billy Seawell on drums, and the Sufis were joined by Paul Leach on bass. Both Billy and Paul joined the Cat Dragons for a jam for the ages.

In between acts, we were treated to terrific performances by the Asheville Morris Men and Ashgrove Garland Dancers, and the Chinese Lion Dance by the Mountain Dragon Gong Fu School, ensuring that our set change-overs were as entertaining as the sets themselves.

I’d like to send out a special thank you and mad props to the incredible team of volunteers who pulled together to make this wonderful event happen this year. A festival like ours takes a village. Here are a few of our characters.

Shana Kriewall pulled together and coordinated a cohesive team of over 80 volunteers and trained them well to do all the various jobs we needed to get done. With an all-volunteer festival like ours, all of the work that had to be done was performed by volunteers who Shana recruited and trained. We literally could not have done it without them.

David Baker and I served as the festival’s entertainment committee this year, working together to fully showcase the depth and breadth of what Montford’s musicians had to offer. David also served as chair of the fundraising committee, working tirelessly to collect the sponsorships necessary to put on the event. And on festival day, David was the stage manager for the Soco Stage. David’s commitment to our festival and to our neighborhood has been exemplary, and we thank him for it.

New Montford residents (relatively speaking) Rita Yerby and Sue Russell did yeoman’s work on the signage and the new banners for the Festival. Jerry Conner, who tried to retire from the festival last year, was back to coordinate the food vendors and the t-shirts, as well as other various odds and ends that had to be handled. And Mary Trauner kept the website that she built running like a top, managing the vendor and artist applications and many other computer-related responsibilities.

Finally, as usual, the festival would not have happened but for the heroic efforts of Vic and Sharon Fahrer. Sharon founded the festival back in 2004, and no one knows how to put one on like she does. This year, Sharon managed all the vendors and artists, who are the only groups of attendees who are paying to be here. Sharon made sure all the vendors were following all applicable regulations, assigned the booths, communicated with vendors, and set up the juried art show. Vic took charge of the weighty task of securing the City permit for the festival, wrote the vendor instructions for check-in and load-out, personally marked every booth in the street, and was our all-around problem solver. Vic and Sharon, for all you do, we love you!!!

So on the hottest May day we’ve had for any of the previous festivals, we had one of the best festivals I can remember. Perhaps as a necessary result of our city growing so fast, there were several other large events going on at the same time as our festival, but those who visited us were treated to a fabulous day of music, art, and wholesome family fun, courtesy of the neighborhood association and its generous sponsors. Next year will be the 15th Annual Montford Festival, tentatively set for Saturday, May 19, 2018. I can hardly wait!