Shakori Hills
Grassroots Festival
of Music & Dance

Silk Hope, N.C.


The Shakori Hills farm in Chatham County presents several concerts and other events each year (including the Hoppin' John Fiddlers Convention) but it’s primarily known for the spring and fall Shakori Hills Grassroots Festival of Music & Dance.

The festival, hosted by Donna the Buffalo, is a younger sister of the Finger Lakes Grassroots Festival of Music & Dance that Donna puts on each July in Trumansburg, New York, yet older than its February Virginia Key Grassroots Festival in Florida.

Shakori Hills has a distinct neo-hippie/green vibe, and draws an incredibly diverse crowd of young and old music fans, as well as families with kids, for a wide range of music. (The alcohol policy prohibits “public display,” calling for the use of cups and coozies.)

One evening at the Meadow Stage, for example, bluegrass stalwarts the Del McCoury Band were followed by progressive acoustic favorites The Waybacks, jazz chanteuse Nnenna Freelon and then Donna the Buffalo. Elsewhere, most acts are from the Americana/bluegrass and jam-band realms, but you can expect just about any kind of popular music over the course of each festival’s four days and four stages.

At top left, James Nash of The Waybacks and, below, the venerable Del McCoury.
Lake Street Dive, below, won over a large audience of new fans with its Fall 2013 show on the Grove Stage.

The spring festival’s lineup often provides a preview of lower-tier bands heading next to MerleFest, and the fall festival attracts regional bands that have just played the Carrboro Music Festival. Donna the Buffalo plays several times each weekend, often with guest musicians sitting in.

The main stage, the Meadow Stage, below, is on a slightly sloping field that accommodates the largest audience.

There's plenty of room at the front of the Meadow Stage to kick up your feet and, on a warm, dry afternoon, a little dust.

The Grove Stage is right around the corner from the main stage, and sometimes louder Meadow Stage shows bleed into acoustic performances there.

Across the grounds, the Dance Tent (below) and smaller Cabaret Tent are each intimate settings where the audience's energy can feed the performance. The Dance Tent, at right on a Saturday afternoon, holds more than 2,100 people, and fills to become one of the hotter venues on festival nights.

For the Fall 2014 festival, they eliminated the acoustic performance stage on the covered porch next to the Coffee Barn (where a local co-op also sells pastries, baked goods, wraps and sandwiches). Musician workshops are held on the front porch of the house beyond the food vendors.

The festival keeps the kids amused with lots of crafts, storytelling, music, dance and games that children and other family members can take part in. Read more about how Shakori Hills caters to families and kids.

Paperhand Puppet Intervention leads Saturday afternoon’s parade (left), which everyone is invited to join.

Each evening, an informal drum circle keeps a continuous rhythm around a bonfire. Healing arts practicioners offer massage and other bodywork therapy during the day, and there are tai chi, yoga and other movement arts clinics available over the course of the weekend, as well.

There are also musician competitions, a poetry slam and music, dance and hooping workshops.

Vendors peddle jewelry, tie-dyed clothing, hats, candles and other arts and crafts along the edges of the stage areas and on the field at the center of the farm. Several non-profit/advocacy groups and other vendors are also positioned near the Grove Stage.

In addition to about 10 food vendors at one end of the center field, there's a coffee barn annex at the rear of the Grove Stage area (above) and the Vinyl Lounge serves beer and wine next to the Meadow Stage (below_.

And though Shakori Hills is an easy commute from the Triangle, Triad or Sandhills areas (see the map on our April or October page), many festival fans camp and create a weekend community among the farm's woods.

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