News Column

Hops and Roots Festival features North Carolina music, beer and food

May 25, 2014

By Sarah Barr, The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.)



May 25--PITTSBORO -- Organizers at the N.C. Hops and Roots Festival pick the music and the beer, the crafts and the food, with one goal in mind: to make the weekend unmistakably North Carolina.

On Saturday, as a crowd filtered onto the field at Shakori Hills with blankets and lawn chairs for the festival's first day, they were surrounded by local and state offerings, whether it was fried fish brought in from the coast, Italian ice made just down the street or homegrown talent on the main stage.

Ira Planer, who founded the 3-year-old festival, said his vision for it grew out of trips to places such as Austin, Texas, and Nashville, Tenn.

At festivals in those cities, he felt immersed in the atmosphere of each place. He wanted to bring the same feeling to an event celebrating North Carolina's food, drinks and music.

"We've got such a great, diverse music scene, and we wanted to capitalize on it," he said.

Alongside local musicians, the festival features national acts, a combination Planer said he hopes will help those local musicians forge valuable relationships as they head out on the road.

Americana duo Nikki Talley and her husband, Jason Sharp, performed at the festival Saturday as they swung through the Piedmont on a multicity tour.

Talley, who is from north of Greensboro and now is based in Asheville, said the festival is a chance to recognize her roots in a laid-back, beautiful setting.

"You can't shake who you're from," she said.

By the time the last band takes the stage Sunday night, Planer expects 1,000 people to have made it to a festival that drew a few hundred in its earliest iterations.

Visitors to the festival could camp out Saturday night if they chose to at the former farm in Chatham County that hosts music festivals and more throughout the year.

John and Tiffany Pridgen of Clayton arrived early Saturday, ready for a day of good music and good beer.

"We're from North Carolina, so we try to support things that are local," Tiffany said.

The festival also brought together farmers and beer brewers active in the state's booming craft beer scene.

At the booth for Aviator Brewing Co., Dan Gridley of Farm Boy Farms held up small jars filled with samples of the farm's grains that Aviation uses.

The farm grows barley, wheat, rye, milo and five varieties of hops that go to local brewers.

Mark Doble, the brew boss at Aviator, said he eagerly buys from Farm Boys. The first time he heard from them, he quickly replied, "Whatever you've got, we'll take it."

"We're a local business, so we're very focused on doing everything locally," he said.

The festival gives North Carolina businesses a chance to recognize the support they give one another, said Gridley and Doble.

"It's just an opportunity to have the community gather," Gridley said.

Barr: 919-836-4952; Twitter: @barrmsarah

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(c)2014 The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.)

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Source: News & Observer (Raleigh, NC)