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RiverRoots Activities

Folk Art Village offers many activities; Craft Beer Tent also a popular spot

Festival offers an educational element

(May 2016) – The Folk Art Village has been an integral part of the RiverRoots festival since its beginnings a decade ago. It continues to grow and encompass new talent and hands-on experiences for all ages.
“The first couple of years it was pretty small,” said John Sheckler, one of the Folk Art Village organizers. “This year, it is more spread out.”

Photo by John Sheckler

Darrell House and Nancy Hart perform at last year’s Jam Tent at the Riverroots Festival.

There are several different areas within the Folk Art Village representing a combination of music, arts, drama and education. Here, festival-goers can find something to interest all tastes, from demonstrating artists to musical workshops to a variety of vendors selling hand crafted wares.
Rhonda Deeg, part of the seven-person committee that organizes the Folk Art Village, said that at this time there are 15 modern craft vendors and quite a nice selection of handcrafted items for sale. “We are still confirming vendors, but we try to focus on handmade, and offer unique styles of art.”
In past years, a variety of handmade crafts for sale by the folk art vendors have included kiln-fired clay pendants, tie-dye clothing, glass marbles, beaded jewelry, wooden jigsaw puzzles, handmade soaps, hand bags and unique clothing designs.
Sheckler said the Arts ’n Action area has increased in size to include 10 small tents. It’s a place where “kids and adults can get their hands dirty.”
The Arts ’n Action area of the Folk Art Village is set up for demonstrating artisans to showcase their talents. Examples include pottery, needlecraft, stained glass, polymer clay, and traditional gourd instruments.
Last year’s sand pit in this area made it “a really popular area,” Sheckler said. A lot of volunteers pitch in to help make it a success as well.
Some performers wander this area, instead of remaining in one spot the entire weekend. 
Florida resident Darrell House is one of them. House, who will appear at RiverRoots for the third year in a row, is a children’s author and patio performer.
He will visit Madison a week early and go into 10 different schools, performing at each, said Sheckler. Like House, local re-enactor Dakota Phillips will wonder throughout the Folk Art Village both days, giving historical character portrayals of Emit Kelley and Harlan Hubbard.
Also in this area festival-goers will find artwork by the Hanover College Art Club. A fun new addition to this year’s offerings is a selfie booth. Deeg said it contains a backdrop of the Ohio River and she hopes lots of people will use it to take pictures to remember their time at RiverRoots.
A Primitive area within the Folk Art Village gives a historical perspective of life in the 1800s. Visitors can experience a variety of 19th century demonstrations by a dozen traditional artisans such as blacksmithing, fiddle making, cabin building, wool dying, muzzle loading rifles, Windsor chair making, weaving and wood carved items.
Sheckler came on board seven years ago to help with the Jam Tent, which he said will be “incredible this year.” At 2 p.m. Saturday, Indianapolis-based group CLANG! will hand out percussion instruments to children and have a Mardi Gras style procession through the area. They will conduct a workshop at 2:30 p.m. Sheckler was helped in establishing the Jam Tent by fellow musician Papa Joe Kretschmer.
A short time after the percussion workshop, the Jam Tent will offer The Lomax Project by Jayme Stone. This will focus on songs collected by folklorist and field recording pioneer Alan Lomax. The music will include some of North America’s most distinctive and creative roots music.
Then, a workshop by Nashville, Tenn.-based Billy Strings and Jon Stickley promises a wild ride through the world of folk and bluegrass music.
Other jams and performances on Friday and Saturday will feature Florida children’s author and patio performer Darrell House. He will perform his book, “The King of Fish,” and other songs and poems written for children. This is the third year House will perform at RiverRoots. House will also perform with Sagebrush Reunion, composed of members of a bluegrass band from the 1970s.
Also on the performance list is Joe Kimmel of Rushville, Ind. He offers earthy homespun blues. Many of his songs reflect on his childhood memories of life in the county.
Many of the performances and workshops in the Jam Tent will offer musicians an opportunity to jam along with the leaders.
The festival weekend wouldn’t be complete without craft beer and the annual Brew Off Competition. The 2016 styles are Porters and Stouts and a complete list of the categories can be found online.
“There were 20 competitors last year,” said Donnie Clapham, who heads up this portion of the festival. Prizes will be awarded for first-, second- and third-place winners and Best of Show. “All are Indiana craftsmen.”
Clapham said they all enter “for the feedback and to hone their skills.” All judges are certified and follow the BJCP style guidelines. It takes a while to become a certified beer judge, he said. Judges have to perfect their pallet to pick out the faults in a beer, learn the history and the ingredients that make a good craft beer.
The participants “all love to win, but they also like the feedback to help them become better brewers.”
There will be a Meet & Greet for home brewers from 2-4 p.m. Saturday at Madison Bicentennial Park behind the Craft Beer Tent. “We usually draw from the area and Jeffersonville, Louisville, Cincinnati and Indianapolis,” he said.
The craft beer aspect has been a part of RiverRoots in some way since the festival began. The first RiverRoots coordinator, John Walburn, approached Clapham in 2010 a few months before Walburn died. He had been a home brewer and a craft beer enthusiast. “We discussed going farther with this aspect.”
Clapham said craft beer is so popular because of its diversity. “There are so many different types and styles of craft beer. And it goes world wide with Belgium and English beers.”
He also credits its desirability to the fact that “people have become more sophisticated with their pallets.”
The craft beer portion is “just another part of the festival. We’re looking forward to another great year,” said Clapham.

• For more information on the RiverRoots festival, visit www.riverroots.org. For a Jam Tent schedule, visit the RiverRoots Folk Village page on Facebook.

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