Owen Township prepares for first Roots Festival

Owen Township will host the inaugural Roots Festival to raise funds for the Clearspring Cemetery Association and Clearspring Baptist Church and raise awareness for the community’s local food pantry.

The event will be from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. May 29 at 3248 N. Broadway St., Norman.

With the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and other hardships, the sense of community pride and connection was lost for a time, especially in Owen Township, the festival chairwoman recently said.

“The Clearspring area, like much of America, was impacted by the methamphetamine crisis,” Amanda Cooper said. “As a result, the town has become run down and lost its sense of community pride.”

Cooper and other members of the Clearspring Cemetery Association in the past held an annual fundraiser on Memorial Day with the proceeds put toward tending the cemetery grounds.

“Many people are not aware that all cemeteries are not owned by the church but their neighbor,” Cooper said. “They often lead to despair because no one takes responsibility to take care of the property.”

The association formed a goal to raise funds to pay for mowing fees. It accomplished this goal by hosting a hog roast and selling T-shirts with cemetery humor such as “We got you covered” and “We can dig it.”

The association also introduced a fairly new food pantry and held a community day to raise awareness of this resource. Members decided to combine the two causes into one event to gain a larger audience.

Among different suggestions from the committee, the name Roots Festival came to mind by Tracy Hackman.

“With the Roots Festival, they want to rebuild the community and encourage pride of home ownership within the town, the idea being that we are encouraging the community to get back to their roots and reconnect with others,” Cooper said.

The association, composed of a combination of church members, cemetery board members and community members, started planning the festival in the fall of 2022. The committee consists of Pastor David Sawyers; Annette Sawyers, a member of the church; Susan Horton, the food pantry director; Stacy Cooper, the cemetery treasurer; Jim Cooper, the cemetery president; and Cooper as the event chairwoman.

Once the idea of starting a festival came together, the committee started searching for grants and other funding to help them along.

The association recently was awarded an Owen-Carr Township Community Endowment grant from the Community Foundation of Jackson County and also received a small advertising grant from the Jackson County Visitor Center. Additionally, the committee has reached out to Rumpke to provide trash collection and portable restrooms.

“Our goal is to make the community aware of resources in the community represented in our booths,” Cooper said.

With funding received to start the event, the committee wanted to keep three goals in mind for this festival. By the end of it, the committee hopes to raise at least $3,000 or more, increase church attendance and increase awareness of the food pantry.

“With the spike in food prices, the pantry is more important than ever,” Cooper said. “Gas, utilities and rent are also rising, creating a need for food in families that have never experienced the need to use a pantry.”

The association hopes events such as the festival bring the community together and make Clearspring a place where people want to live.

Stacy Cooper has lived in Clearspring for more than 20 years and has slowly felt the town has improved not just by reputation but also community connection.

“You can’t necessarily see the change, but you can feel it. Peace of mind drastically improved,” she said. “We are at the beginning of reclaiming our community and trying to remove the stigma attached to Clearspring, changing the reputation we didn’t want to earn. Be proud to be from Clearspring.”

As far as other measures to improve the area of Clearspring, they also have reached out to Jackson County United Way to host a community cleanup and project on United Way’s Day of Caring.

The committee currently has Dirk and Natalie’s Treasures in attendance as a vendor and hope to bring in other local vendors that deal in antiques, crafts, soaps, candles and a hog roast. They also are reaching out to various clubs and departments to host their own booth.

Six Scoops Ice Cream will be bringing its food truck to give out free scoops to the first 200 people who donate to the food pantry.

And what is a festival without music, as well?

The association has three scheduled acts for the music stage with performances from classic rock artists Dakota Skiles and Friends, country artist Dane Darlage and gospel artist Jerry Sawyers.

The association is still looking for vendors to be at the festival. For those interested in having a booth, contact the Clearspring Cemetery Association on their Facebook page, facebook.com/clearspringcemetery.

For information on how to donate and hours of the food panty, contact Susan Horton at 812-528-0981.