A local farmer plans to open up his fields and property once again to the public for an outdoor music festival.
James Voelker of Vallonia said he is excited to be able to organize the two-night event, which celebrates healthy, organic living and musical expression.
Hoefest, which continues to attract a wide variety of musical talents, is scheduled for Friday and Saturday at Driftwood Organics Farm, 6473 S. County Road 550W in Vallonia.
This marks the third year for the event, which gets its names from the old-fashioned way of getting rid of weeds — hoeing.
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“It somewhat originated in the watermelon fields of Vallonia back in the late 1980s when a local farmer, Tom Hackman, gave me the nickname, ‘Spec MacQuayde,’” Voelker said. “Because I was so interested in farming, Tom liked to joke with all the other melon farmers that I was the ‘fastest hoer east of the Mississippi.’”
Of course, this was before the time people started buying all of their produce at grocery stores, he added.
“There were at least 30 family farm stands in Vallonia selling watermelons and other produce from their yards,” he said. “A vibrant subculture of melon growers all had nicknames for each other, and people came from everywhere for famous Jackson County watermelons. We joked about the ‘Great Watermelon God.”
Voelker said he never really was the fastest or best hoer, but he sure liked farming.
“If you saw my watermelon field now after weeks of rain and me struggling to get a tractor to run that is older than I am, you wouldn’t say I was the best hoer in Vallonia, let alone east of the Mississippi,” Voelker said.
The musical lineup for this year’s festival includes string, bluegrass, Americana, folk and jam music from 14 different acts.
Those scheduled to perform are James Lane, the Kenan Rainwater Band, Rusty Bladen, Flatland Harmony Experiment, White Lightning Boys, R-Juna, Megan Maudlin, Haley Jonay, Lexi Len and the Strangers, 220 Breakers, Spec MacQuayde, Avocado Chic, New Old Cavalry and Derick Howard.
Voelker said putting on a music festival can get in the way of farming, but he’s OK with that because of all the people who get to come together to enjoy the shows.
“It was created in the hopes of bringing our community closer together in the company of good bands and good people while unwinding in a beautiful farm environment,” he said.
He describes the farm as more of a park with lots of trees, making it better suited for a music festival.
“We have bald cypress, ginkgo, tulip magnolia, as well as native hickories and persimmons,” he said. “There’s no way I want to cut down all those trees.”
Besides music, there will be camping, mud wrestling and “redneck” swimming available, Voelker said.
“Last year, we experimented with a redneck swimming pool idea,” Voelker said. “We purchased about 100 straw bales, stacked them three high in a rectangle with T-posts for braces and a tarp to hold the water.”
Add in a few floating chlorine tablets and the water was crystal clear for days, he added.
“So we’re building a large one near the stage,” Voelker said.
Mud wrestling will take place from 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday before the music starts.
“The mud wrestling was popular at the first Hoefest in 2013, but we didn’t do it last year, a disappointment to some folks,” Voelker said.
Admission to Hoefest is $20 per day or $40 for weekend camping. A $10 discount is available for senior citizens, and children will be admitted free with adults.
Those who bring a hoe will get $10 off the ticket price.
“Hoefest is an event to give local people a chance to shine, a celebration of life and music, promoting locally grown produce, musicians and our farm,” Voelker said.