By Brandon Martin
It may not be the Rooster Walk that festival goers are used to, but the show will go on at Pop’s Farm this year, according to festival co-founder Johnny Buck.
With three weekends of shows leading into Memorial Day weekend, Buck is just excited to finally have music acts back on stage.
“It’s such a relief and a joy to have concerts and live music coming back to Pop’s Farm,” Buck said. “The last concert that we put on as a non-profit was a Rives’ Theater season opener party in late January 2019 that featured Yarn as the headlining band. It has been almost 16 months since we had our last show. That’s been a long, long break.”
As the last headlining band to play, Yarn will also be the first headliner to grace the main stage amphitheater at Pop’s Farm for The Yarn Picnic set for May 7-8.
Also joining the band will be James Justin Burke of “JJ & CO,” Lizzy Ross and Omar Ruiz Lopez, Joey Recchio and Ashley Sutton of “Big Daddy Love,” Soul Grind, Violet Bell, The Jared Stout Band and Heavy Peace.
“This isn’t a full music festival,” Buck said. “It is two nights of music and folks can camp onsite at Pop’s Farm but it’s two bands on Friday and four bands on Saturday. All of the music will take place at the main stage amphitheater at Pop’s Farm.”
Buck said this marks a deviation from how the festival usually goes, with “bands bouncing around from one stage to another.”
He added that the show will more closely resemble some of the one-night concerts which have taken place at Pop’s Farm in the past.
“We will have a couple of food vendors. We will have beer, wine, water and soft drinks available for sale. But really, the focus is on the music,” Buck said. “We will not have some of the activities that you would see at a normal festival out here.”
Buck said there was a lot of behind-the-scenes work to ensure that the venue would be in accordance with COVID-19 guidelines.
“We will be following all of the federal guidelines regarding COVID, especially social distancing requirements, masks requirements, and sanitation efforts that are more in-depth than a couple of years ago,” Buck said.
That work was in addition to the normal tasks that go into making Pop’s Farm ready for the crowd.
“Festival co-founder William Baptist, as well as a number of board members and volunteers have been out here getting the venue ready for weeks,” Buck said. “It’s an 150-acre piece of property, so that’s a lot of mowing and stringing lights up so people don’t trip up at night.”
Buck said additional fencing was erected to help guide guests.
“It also serves as a delineation between the Gold section and general admission,” he said. “A whole lot of work goes into it. It’s been several weeks of getting it ready for Yarn to kick it off and two more shows later this month.”
The farm will also host Crowder & Power on May 15, with Corey Hunley providing a solo opening set.
The main show of the series will take place on Memorial Day weekend, which is typically the date of the Rooster Walk Music & Arts Festival. Instead, Moe.morial Day Weekend: A Rooster Walk Family Gathering will feature two nights of moe., as well as two opening bands on Friday, and four opening bands on Saturday.
“I’m just excited to see so many friends and music fans back at Pop’s Farm,” Buck said. “Like everybody else, it’s been a long year of feeling cooped up in the house and not getting to socialize with friends and family the way we are accustomed to doing in the past. This is still not a normal concert set up, but it’s still going to be totally awesome and it’s going to be such a pleasure to see so many familiar faces that I haven’t seen in a long, long time.”
Due to the pandemic, attendance for the shows will be limited this year.
“When we were organizing the event, the rule was 30 percent of standard capacity for the viewing area,” Buck said. “Here in about a week, the state is actually increasing that to about 50 percent, but we are going to stick to our 30 percent guideline that we organized our plan around months ago. That’s 1,500 people per day inside the viewing area,” which is well within the capacity of the main stage amphitheater.
“The main stage amphitheater at Pop’s Farm, during a normal festival, can have 4,000-5,000 people at once,” he said. “At Yarn, it’s going to be 300-400 people spread out over that same space. There will be plenty of room for people to socially distance, enjoy the show and feel safe and comfortable.”
Buck anticipates 300 to 400 people for both The Yarn Picnic and Crawford & Power.
“For Memorial Day weekend, we have moe., who are a national touring, festival headlining band,” Buck said. “There are six other opening acts that will join them over the course of the weekend. That’s definitely going to be our biggest show of the month. I’m expecting upwards of 1,000 people each day.”
Tickets will continue to be sold at the gate for each show until they are sold out. Buck said he doesn’t expect this to be a problem for the first two weekends, but he can’t make any promises for Memorial Day weekend.
“With the moe., concert, we still have about three weeks, so if we get close to a sell-out in advance then we will certainly let music fans know through our social media and website that there is a low-ticket warning in place if that comes to pass,” Buck said.
Buck said the Penn-Shank Memorial Scholarship will be awarded this year. Each spring, one outstanding senior at Martinsville High School is awarded the merit-based Penn-Shank Scholarship, a $4,000 award spread over four years of undergraduate study. To date, Rooster Walk Inc. has donated more than $110,000 to the endowment.
The scholarship, like the Rooster Walk festival, is named after Edwin “the Rooster” Penn and Walker Shank. After the two tragically passed away in their 20s, both the scholarship and festival were created to honor the two.
For more information about the upcoming shows or to purchase tickets, visit https://roosterwalk.com/.