Red Wing Roots Music Festival is rocking their seventh year this weekend. The three-day music festival — created by a local band — continues to expand their festival and hopes to inspire people with music.
The Steel Wheels’ band members include Trent Wagler, guitar and banjo; Eric Brubaker, fiddle; Brian Dickel, bass; Jay Lapp, guitar and mandolin and Kevin Garcia, percussion, keyboard and mallet-based instruments.
Wagler moved to Harrisonburg to attend Eastern Mennonite University. The band played their first show in 2005. Their first album came out in 2010.
“We had been doing some touring shows across the country and into Canada,” Wagler said. “I think it was a conversation in the van as we would drive home and get back to Harrisonburg — it was coming home and seeing this beautiful area we live in. [We thought,] ‘Man we want our close friends and family here to have that same experience. Wouldn’t it be amazing if something like that could grow up here?’”
This sparked the idea for Red Wing Roots Music Festival held at Natural Chimneys in Mount Solon.
“There are plenty of music festivals that do a downtown, city feel,” Wagler said. “Our vision was to do something a little bit more classic in terms of what you think of when you think of a music festival: outdoors, camping. Natural Chimneys was the first place. It was the top of the list for me for what came to mind.”
They thought of Natural Chimneys due to the natural beauty of the chimneys, the built in campground and the flat ground to make it easier for people to maneuver.
“I give a lot of credit for Augusta County for giving us a shot,” he said of working with Augusta County Parks and Recreation. “I think we have done a good job over the years of putting on a festival that’s very family-friendly and is really about focusing on the music and trying to lift up the positive things of our community as well as the beauty of the park. It’s been a great partnership.”
Red Wing Roots Music Festival ran Friday, Saturday and Sunday. They offer performances on five stages throughout the day: Shenandoah Mountain Stage, Blue Ridge Timberwrights Stage, The Roots Stage, The Kinfolk Stage and The Hill Stage.
In addition to live music, the festival offers camping, vendors, food and drinks. They also heavily focus on kid events.
Red Wing Academy, hosted by Brubaker, has grown over the years. It is a four-day camp held before the music festival at EMU. Red Wing Academy is open to non-beginner violin, viola, cello, bass, guitar, mandolin and banjo students.
“The big idea of Red Wing is partly hoping to affect music’s future in the Valley, in the sense of having kids grow up and having families make this a part of their yearly experience,” Wagler said. “This is year five we’ve been doing the Red Wing Academy. It’s also grown not only in numbers, but also in the amount of time that we work with students and the number of instruments that are offered.”
More than 100 children are involved now. It leads up to a performance on stage with The Steel Wheels at Red Wing Roots Music Festival.
“The hope is maybe they’ll be inspired by something they see,” Wagler said. “If they’re the kind of person that’s going to eventually be creative musically, maybe that’s an important moment for them. That’s what they hope for.”
The Kinfolk stage is centered around children. They have events such as square dancing, Wildlife Center of Virginia presentations and more.
“If we’re doing a kids’ stage, we want it to be good music and just as good as stuff coming off the main stage,” he said. “That’s been very important all along for us. Programming for children and kids shouldn’t be something that should be seen as an extra or add on. That’s a large part of what the mission is of what we’re doing.”
This year, The Steel Wheels released an album at Red Wing Roots Music Festival. The band member was blown away the festival’s already been held for seven years.
“I feel so grateful for the way the festival has grown up and grown into itself,” Wagler said. “This year things really fell together in a beautiful way for the seventh festival.”
For more about the festival, visit redwingroots.com.