Brewster Walk – successful blend of craft beer, music and crowds

Ballad Brewing was among 25 breweries offering samples of craft beer during the fifth annual Brewster Walk Craft Beer Festival & Concerts on Saturday, Sept. 7 in uptown Martinsville.

By Kim Barto Meeks

Hundreds of people, 50 craft beers, and three bands added up to a successful fifth annual Brewster Walk festival in uptown Martinsville on Saturday afternoon.

Musician Josh Shilling, who headlined the event with his band, Mountain Heart, summed up the mood of the crowd as he introduced his song “No Complaints.”

C2 & The Brothers Reed perform at Brewster Walk Craft Beer Festival & Concerts on Saturday in uptown Martinsville.

“It’s about what we have today, and that’s no complaints. I’ve got no complaints,” he told the audience as he teased out a few notes from his keyboard. “The weather’s perfect, everybody’s out here enjoying the beer garden, and it looks like we’re in the same headspace, so let’s do this.”

Also performing Saturday afternoon were Isaac Hadden, a 16-year-old guitarist from Roanoke, and C2 & The Brothers Reed, a rock and soul band out of Lexington, KY. The 200 block of East Church Street in front of the Rives Theatre was closed off to traffic as attendees sampled beer, wine, and hard cider from 25 breweries.

Brewster Walk organizers said they were pleased with the turnout, which they estimated was on par with last year. “It was a beautiful day in uptown Martinsville, with plenty of delicious beer and great live music,” said Johnny Buck, who co-founded the event with William Baptist.

Before creating the city of Martinsville’s first uptown craft beer festival in 2015, Baptist and Buck started the nonprofit Rooster Walk Music & Arts Festival in 2009. Rooster Walk continues to be held every Memorial Day weekend in Axton. They also formerly organized the Turn 5 outdoor concerts at Martinsville Speedway, which coincided with the fall race. However, when the speedway concert series ended, it left room in their fall schedules to take on a new project.

Volunteer Jimmy McGarry pours beer Saturday at Brewster Walk Craft Beer Festival & Concerts.

Until that point, Buck said, “we had held multiple outdoor concerts in Henry County. We wanted to bring an outdoor live music event to our supporters in the city of Martinsville, as well, and take advantage of the history and beautiful surroundings of uptown.”

Many Rooster Walk organizers and board members already volunteered with another local live music organization, Arts at the Rives Theatre. The historic playhouse turned movie theater turned concert venue was a natural choice for the first Brewster Walk Craft Beer Festival & Concerts held in October 2015.

Brewster Walk has continued to be an annual staple of Martinsville’s music scene, even when hurricane rains and wind forced the event inside the Rives building, supplemented with tents and tarps, in 2016.

The past five years have also seen more local craft breweries spring up near Martinsville. This year’s festival featured Mountain Valley Brewing, located in Axton, and Ballad Brewing out of Danville. Both opened in 2017.

Crowd at Brewster Walk Craft Beer Festival & Concerts on Saturday.

Like its parent festival, Rooster Walk, funds raised by Brewster Walk support a variety of charitable ventures in the area. Buck said they plan to use event proceeds to donate $2,500 to the Penn-Shank Memorial Endowment Scholarship Fund for Martinsville High School seniors, $2,500 to the Rooster Walk Music Instrument Program for local school band programs, and at least two pallets of bottled drinking water for Hurricane Dorian victims.

Emcee Johnny Buck, Executive Director of Rooster Walk, Inc., introduces headliner Mountain Heart on Saturday at Brewster Walk Craft Beer Festival & Concerts.

The Penn-Shank Memorial Scholarship was started to honor two Martinsville High School graduates from the class of 2000, Edwin “the Rooster” Penn and Walker Shank, who died suddenly within a year of each other while still in their 20s. The two friends also inspired Rooster Walk’s name.

Josh Shilling, lead singer/guitarist/pianist for Americana band Mountain Heart, takes the stage with his band Saturday afternoon at Brewster Walk Craft Beer Festival & Concerts.

The instrument program collects, repairs and donates instruments to entry-level band programs in the Martinsville and Henry County public school systems, so that all students can afford to participate in band.

In the past 10 years, Rooster Walk Inc. has donated more than $200,000 from event proceeds to various local and regional charities.

For more information on Rooster Walk, Inc., visit

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