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It's an impressive feat, the way the Fayetteville Roots Festival has grown from its origins in 2010 as a one-day music event hosted at Greenhouse Grille into what it is in 2013: a four-day, multi-venue celebration of art, folk music, local food and, really, Fayetteville itself.
The marquee names have proliferated along with the festival's increasing profile — Guy Clark was top-of-bill in 2011, last year's headliners were John Prine and The David Grisman Trio and this year sees performances from Iris DeMent, The Del McCoury Band and Jerry Douglas. Of course, along with all the more familiar names are scores of other noteworthy acts, including veterans, up-and-comers and underground heroes of the sort that'll get the devoted folk, blues, bluegrass and country fans excited. It's also pretty much a given that attendees will discover some new performer they've never heard of who'll knock their socks off.
But in addition to the performers, the festival showcases the city of Fayetteville, said organizer Bryan Hembree, who also performs in 3 Penny Acre, a trio that includes Bernice Hembree and Bayard Blain and that serves as host band for the festival.
Hembree and Jerrmy Gawthrop of Greenhouse Grille are partners in organizing the event, an arrangement that stretches back to that first year and one that has undoubtedly influenced the festival's focus on showcasing local food and the folks who grow, distribute and prepare it. Seeing as 3 Penny Acre got its start busking at the Fayetteville Farmer's Market, that seems appropriate. Greenhouse Grille, Brick House Kitchen, Ella's Restaurant and Pure Joy Ice Cream collaborate with a host of farmers to cater the festival for attendees and artists. Two of the festival pass packages include dinner on Friday and Saturday, and there will be a food court at the Walton Arts Center on those days.
Last year, 16 states were represented between artists and ticket holders, "and this year there are 27, so we really feel like Fayetteville is on stage," Hembree said. And that's not just a figurative expression: the way the festival is structured — there are 11 stages scattered around the core of downtown — will create a sort of flow of people, most of whom will walk from one venue to another, from the Walton Arts Center and George's on Dickson Street up to the Fayetteville Public Library, from the Farmer's Market on the Square to bars and restaurants on Block and School Streets.
The festival is also geared toward creating a good time for everyone from families and children to the most party-hearty, late-night warriors. Many of the events are free, including a host of musicians, dances and programming at the library (including songwriting workshops, a screening of the Levon Helm documentary "Ain't In It for My Health" and live broadcasts of KUAF's "Ozarks at Large"). There are free shows at Maxine's, Greenhouse Grille, Arsaga's Depot, May Bell Music and the Fayetteville Town Center.
Then there are the art exhibits connected with the festival, including "True Faith, True Light: The Folk Instruments of Ed Stilley" at the Walton Arts Center and "This Land: Picturing a Changing America in the 1930s and 1940s" at Crystal Bridges in Bentonville. Visual art is another way the festival has grown since its debut, and the exhibits will remain up for several weeks so even folks who couldn't make the main event can still get an idea of what it's all about.
As of now, multi-day passes for the Fayetteville Roots Festival are sold out. There are still single-day tickets available for the Friday and Saturday concerts at the Walton Arts Center. They're $53 or $33 for University of Arkansas Students. Tickets for the Late Night Stage shows at George's are $10 for Thursday and $15 for Friday or Saturday.
"Everything You Need to Know About Making a Living with your Songs" — Fayetteville Public Library, 3:30 p.m.
St. Paul & The Broken Bones, Isayah's Allstars, American Aquarium — George's, 10 p.m.
Crooked Crow Songwriting Workshop — FPL, 9-11 a.m.
Local Food Festival Fare — Walton Arts Center, 3-10:30 p.m.
3 Penny Acre, Joe Pug, Iris DeMent and Del McCoury Band — Walton Arts Center, 6-10:30 p.m.
David Kimbrough Duo, Reverend Payton's Big Damn Band with Jimbo Mathus and Alvin Youngblood Hart — George's, 10 p.m.-2 a.m.
Shannon Wurst — FPL, 10 a.m.
"Ain't In It for my Health: A Film About Levon Helm" — FPL, 11 a.m.
Local Food Festival Fare — WAC, Noon-10:30 p.m.
Luella & The Sun — George's, 4 p.m.
Field Report — WAC's Starr Theatre, 4 p.m.
Mary Gauthier, Elephant Revival, John Fullbright, The Jerry Douglas Band — WAC, 6-10:30 p.m.
Paul Benjamin Band, Hayes Carll — George's, 10:30 p.m.-1 a.m.
"Tales from the South" live radio broadcast, with Mary Gauthier and Michael Fracasso — FPL, 1:30-3:30 p.m.
Roots Festival Closing Party, with 3 Penny Acre, Luella & The Sun and Field Report — George's, 6-10 p.m.