The second annual 7 Mile Bluegrass Festival and VA Food Drive will be held in Greenfield on July 31 and Aug. 1, organizer and bluegrass musician Billy Self told The Times-Gazette.
Admission to the event is free with a donation of at least two cans of non-perishable food, though Self said they will accept monetary donations.
“I don’t ever want to charge money at that gate,” Self said. “That brings in younger people who have never experienced bluegrass, and I want them to experience. We give opportunities for kids who wouldn’t pay but who would come see something for free.”
All food collected during the event benefits the Veterans Food Pantry and the Chillicothe VA Medical Center.
This year’s festival will feature bands from various parts of the country, including Edgar Loudermilk Band, Kaufman Road Bluegrass Band, Middlefork Grass, Poplar Ridge Bluegrass Band, Three Rivers Bluegrass, West Liberty Mountain Boys, and Self’s band, 7 Mile Bluegrass, all of which can be found on Facebook.
The Detty Sisters will sing the National Anthem on both days of the festival.
The festival got its start when a Greenfield property owner wanted company and music, Self said.
“The festival got started with the property owner, Larry Case, asking us to do a bluegrass festival on his property,” Self said. “I’ve been to plenty of bluegrass festivals and played plenty of them. I said, ‘We can do it here. Let me look into it.’”
Though at first Self was discouraged because of the $4,000 it would take to rent a stage, Craig Thornton, the owner of Eastern Avenue Lumber Company in Chillicothe, stepped in to help.
“I was fixing a forklift at a lumberyard, and a fella said, ‘Hey, it looks like you’re upset today,’ and I was like, ‘Yeah, I am, but I really don’t want to get you involved,’ and he was like, ‘Well, what’s going on?’ I said, ‘I can’t even afford a stage to start out. I was going to do something good here,’” Self said. “He donated all of the lumber for the stage after I told him what we were going to do. Everything from there moving forward was all donated.”
Though Thornton passed away shortly after, Self said he named the stage “Craig.”
Self knew he wanted to do something for local veterans from the beginning.
“We played for the veterans down there, and after the show, I was trying to find a restroom, and one of the veterans was in the hallway, asking where the food pantry was,” Self said. “They finally showed him, and he goes, ‘Do you believe that? There ain’t nothing in there, and this is what happens when you serve your country.’ I felt guilty, so I talked to the band about it, and I said, ‘How about we do a canned food drive and not charge a dime. We’ll talk about the sponsors, and that’s how we’ll run it forward.’ My first year, I raise $8,500, and that paid for all of the bands.”
The festival also collected 4,900 pounds of food in its first year.
“They brought cases of food. It wasn’t just two cans — they brought a lot of food,” Self said.
Though Self said hand-sanitizing and hand-washing stations will be available and he will post signs to encourage people to follow social distancing guidelines, he said the festival must happen for local veterans’ sake.
“Everyone’s pretty much adults — they know how to do it by now. They want to get out. I’ve already raised the money, and the bands want to play — they aren’t afraid,” Self said. “We’re just trying to make it fun, but we don’t want to shut it down because of the veterans. They need that food more now. Since all this stuff is shut down, they’re not getting the money, and they need that food right now.”
This year, Case’s neighbor is also let festival organizers use his land for the festival, which means the festival will take place on 20 acres this year instead of ten. Festival-goers will have the option to camp, though there are no camper hook-up stations. Self recommended that people just “come and go each night.”
South Salem-based Rescue 101 Search and Rescue will be on-site during the festival to provide first aid as needed.
The festival is family-driven, Self said, and will include a cornhole tournament, a sand pit and face-painting this year. Vendors and crafters will also be present at the festival.
Festival-goers are allowed to drink on the premises, but festival organizers request that they drink responsibly.
Those interested can purchase T-shirts by contacting Self through the 7 Mile Bluegrass Festival’s Facebook page. Shirts will be for sale at the festival for $20 but are available in advance for $25 including shipping. A live album, which will include at least one song from each band, will be available in the future.
The 7 Mile Bluegrass Festival will be held at 4569 Lyndon Rd., located northeast of Greenfield.
For more information, visit the 7 Mile Bluegrass Festival’s Facebook page or go to https://7milebluegrassfestival.live/.
Reach McKenzie Caldwell at 937-402-2570.