Story – Evolution of A Grassroots Fest
A few words from Mike Aiken about how the Aiken & Friends Fest came to be…
“It is the fantastic result of looking for an area to host an Americana/Acoustic sort of festival. It started with my desire to start a low-key music festival that would feature mostly Americana and acoustic music… from sea chanteys to bluegrass, blues to singer/songwriter. Geographically the area had to be accessible by and have accommodations for boats, motorcycles, RVs, camping, B&Bs etc. Adding boats to the criteria (as I live on one) narrowed the options. The location also needed to have a good vibe of it’s own. So as I’ve traveled and toured I’ve kept my eyes and ears open for the right locale.
Meanwhile, in the not-quite-so-small town of Smithfield, VA (population roughly 8000), the town and Smithfield Music started expressing an interest in the festival. It turns out our goals are the same. We agreed the festival should be an Americana/Roots oriented festival. As before, the location had to have easy access by road, campgrounds nearby, B&Bs, hotels and of course, be accessible by water. That’s right, there has to be a protected anchorage and/or marina nearby (so I can bring my floating home). From Virginia to Maine, the centrally located, mid-Atlantic, Pagan River just off the Chesapeake Bay proved the best spot again.
The first time I visited Smithfield, VA was a few years ago while Amy and I were running from Hurricane Bonnie. Our ‘port of refuge,’ or our ‘one particular harbor’ as JB put it, was just off the Chesapeake Bay up the Pagan River in Smithfield. It was easy to love the quaint, artsy historic town. What we didn’t realize is that Smithfield has a very active music scene thanks to Jim & Elaine Abicht who head Smithfield Music, a non-profit entity whose proceeds benefit music education. It was easy to get behind their cause…we all recall the music programs our schools offered growing up…these days the kids need whatever funding they can get.
After careful consideration of the pros and cons (didn’t see many cons) here is what we came up with a grassroots, Americana/Roots music festival that celebrates the songwriter and genuine original music.
We are proud to add a new location. As of 2017, Aiken & Friends Fest – North Branch will take root on the Community College campus of RVCC – Branchburg, NJ. Under the guidance of Arts Director, Alan Liddell, we look forward to many years continuing to support and promote original music.