Grassroots Music Festival Grows Up

In its 12th year, Martinsville’s Rooster Walk promises its best-ever lineup.

The range of music at the Rooster Walk Music and Arts Festival in Martinsville has always been expansive, says Johnny Buck, executive director: “Typically rock, jam, funk, blues, bluegrass, soul, roots, and Americana. We toss in a little country, reggae, and jazz here and there.” Buck co-founded the festival in 2009 with William Baptist to honor their friends, Edwin “the Rooster” Penn and Walker Shank, who passed away in their 20s. “Walker and Edwin had a pretty wide range of musical tastes, which was the impetus for Rooster Walk’s musical offerings,” says Buck.

While the first Rooster Walk was “as grassroots as it gets,” he explains, the festival has evolved into a four-day event with 50 bands that attracts 5,000 fans to Pop’s Farm, its dedicated venue, along with a year-round concert series known as Rives on the Road. Since launching, the festival has generated more than $240,000 in donations to local charities, including the Penn-Shank Memorial Scholarship Fund at Martinsville High School and the Rooster Walk Music Instrument Program, which honors the late Todd Eure by providing refurbished instruments and making microgrants to local school band programs.

Now in its 12th year, Rooster Walk takes place May 26-29 this year. “I’m more excited about this band lineup than any in the history of our festival,” Buck says, citing a list that includes Little Feat, Tab Benoit, Mike and the Moonpies, Lettuce, and Andy Frasco and the U.N. “The thing that I’m most jazzed about is the depth of the lineup,” he notes, adding that both afternoon and evening sessions will feature nationally known touring bands. “That’s pretty cool—it’s something we’ve never been able to do to this extent.”

The family-friendly festival also includes “lots of arts and crafts activities,” says Buck, plus a kids’ parade, magician, silent dance party for teens, food and drink, river floats, hiking, yoga, and more. Attendees can camp on-site, stay at local hotels (shuttle service provided), “or just come for the day.” Get tickets online or on-site. RoosterWalk.com

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