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The LEAF
Black Mountain, N.C.

[Festival Website]
[Current festival information: May or October]


The LEAF from across Lake Eden.

Though there are four primary stages, a family act stage and a jam tent with continual activity, the music is almost incidental at the Lake Eden Arts Festival.

Particularly if you have kids, you could attend the LEAF and never actually sit down to see any of the dozens of jam bands and Americana and world music artists who perform over the course of the four-day weekend. (Take a look at the kids' village below.)



In addition to catering to families with a large kids' area and activities on and around the lake, the LEAF offers poetry competitions, healing arts (yoga, below; massage), group hikes and a trail run, and arts-and-crafts and food vendors.



Perhaps because the LEAF offers so much more, the music venues are not very large. And though the festival admits a maximum of 6,000 people each day, stage areas, especially the Barn (lower on page), can get crowded.

The main stage, Lakeside (below), is an eight-pole tent where the audience inevitably spills out on all sides. Because it is relatively small and there are no reserved seats, it's easy to enjoy a show whether you want to get up close or take it easy back in the crowd.






7 Walkers guitarist Papa Mali joins Galactic in October 2011.


Dr. John and the Nite Trippers at the October 2013 LEAF.

Eden Hall, the camp's mess hall, is the next largest stage. Seating here is in ladder-back wooden chairs, but room is usually left open up front for dancing.



Sometimes, like for a Rising Appalachia show in October 2013 (below), the crowd at Eden Hall can be shoulder-to-shoulder standing room only.



A local vendor operates a cafeteria in Eden Hall and weekend meal tickets are sold, ensuring the availability of three square meals a day for campers who didn't bring their own. Other vendors around the grounds offer some of the usual street-fair foods, like pizza, barbecue, sausage dogs, gumbo, and the like, while some serve vegetarian and vegan meals, and breakfast foods.

Wine and beer are also readily available at the LEAF, though we didn't see anyone who had had too much except for late at night at the front of the concert crowd. The rules say not to bring alcohol into the festival, but there was no search whatsoever of what we brought with us, and we met folks who had clearly brought their own.

Below, the gymnasium at the center of campus is transformed into a dance hall with the addition of the Brookside stage, some protective flooring and a little decor.



The Barn (below), with its tiny performance area in the hayloft, sits up the hill from the car camping area and the main areas of the festival. The Jam Tent, which we did not photograph, hosts instrumental workshops.



The Kids' Village has the Roots Family Stage (below) which presents performers for youngsters during the day and, some weekends, shows at night for everyone. Elsewhere are other programs, like a circus act workshop and a kids' performance stage.



But the festival is just as much a jamboree-style campout, with thousands of tents dotting the 600 acres of Camp Rockmont, the site of the historic Black Mountain College in the 1940s-'50s.





There are also cabins, lodge rooms and bunks available on campus for the weekend. Cabins, like the ones below, are rustic boys' summer-camp-style housing with one large open and unheated room and twin-size bunk beds. Three bathhouses in the lodge and cabin area are open to anyone attending the festival.





The Kids' Village offers bungee trampoline, a climbing wall, a musical instrument "petting zoo," a market where children can sell their own crafts, as well as face painting and other arts and crafts, and other fun and games. (Read more about how and why the LEAF and other Carolina music festivals cater to kids and families.)









And back at Lake Eden, kayak and canoe rentals, and a zipline that splashes down into the water are popular. There's also a small beach and a swim area. (A "Splash Pass" costs extra.)







The deck outside Eden Hall, which you can just see at left in the photo below, is one of many nice places to sit and take it all in.





Even with all there is to see and do, in many ways (when the weather cooperates), just being at the LEAF is the biggest pleasure the festival has to offer.









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