In the middle of her sunset set at Wildwood Revival, Cary Ann Hearst paused and looked out at the crowd of smiling people.
“Thank you for this day,” said Hearst, one of the two members of Shovels and Rope. “This really is the start of our tour, and we get to play it with all you folks in this idyllic place.”
Idyllic wasn’t even an exaggeration to describe Wildwood Revival music festival. Hearst was on stage looking out into a crowd of fans clustered around the front while other groups of families and friends sat in lawn chairs and blankets around the festival area.
Cloverleaf Farm, the historic venue where Wildwood is held every year in Arnoldsville, about 20 minutes outside of downtown Athens, was a picturesque location for the Southern music and sustainable festival.
Wildwood Revival, a three-day intimate festival, held Sept. 27-29 at Cloverleaf Farm in Arnoldsville, is the “antithesis of your typical music…
The three-day intimate festival, held Sept. 27-29, is the “antithesis of your typical music festival experience,” according to the website. It brought out people of all ages, including young families and older couples, who came to listen to Southern-inspired tunes and “get out of the city,” as the mantra reads.
In addition to three days of music, local and sustainable food vendors and artist tents lined the outside of the pecan grove of Cloverleaf Farm, where the main festival grounds were.
It was a mindful festival, with yoga sessions in the mornings, campfire jams at night and an emphasis on sustainable practices. There were no single-use plastic cups or bottled waters, so people had to bring or buy reusable cups. Food vendors such as Maepole had all-compostable utensils and plates.
The pecan trees were helpful in the afternoons since the Georgia sun hadn’t seemed to catch up to the season yet. To stay cool, people were lounging under tall trees, hanging out at the Creature Comforts stand, or eating a meal in the outdoor pavilion. Others had handheld fans and cowboy hats to beat the heat.
Attendees wore a hodgepodge of overalls, plaid and tie dye patterns, cowboy boots and earth-toned fabrics. And whatever was comfortable in the sun. Some who went to the festival decided to stay on the farm all weekend and camped out, and there was a line of tents and RVs around the pecan grove.
Hearst, along with her partner, Michael Trent of Shovels and Rope, were on the stage as the clouds started to turn pink and attendees were washed in a glow of golden light.
The married couple played mostly songs from their new album “By Blood,” which they released in April. And, of course, they sang “Birmingham” at the beginning of the set, and festival goers shouted the lyrics “Athens, Georgia, on a Friday night/ Saw that little girl she could sing alright” right along with the band.
Other bands during the weekend included Langhorne Slim & The Lost at Last Band, Palm Palm, The Texas Gentlemen and Mandolin Orange, which was a crowd favorite on Friday night.
Lucinda Williams closed out the live stage music on Saturday night. Julie and Hannah Pittman, a mother-daughter duo at the festival, drove about seven hours from Fairhope, Alabama, to see her and Shovels and Rope perform.
Hannah Pittman, who is about to turn 30 years old, said she brought her mother to camp with her at Wildwood as a joint birthday present since their birthdays are a week apart.
“It’s been a great time,” Julie Pittman said. “It reminds me of my hippie days.”
The Pittmans set up their hammock and blanket to the left of the stage, where Julie Pittman had a bucket of bubble mix that she and children of all ages were making bubbles with. She said her husband makes the mixes, and they bring the soap to different places since everyone always has a great time playing with it.
The festival was a haven for young families. There were countless areas for children to get down in the dirt, play different sports or just run around with their siblings and friends.
That’s what 21-month-old twins Brooks and Elliott have loved — just playing with sticks and dirt, their parents said.
Becky and Jeffrey Garnett said this is the first time they’ve been at a festival like this as a family, and the four of them came from Atlanta to be there. They’re both University of Georgia graduates and thought it would be a fun weekend to support their friends in the Georgia Mountain String Band, who performed jams Sunday morning.
The Garnetts said they enjoyed listening to all the other musicians as well. Beyond the almost-constant stream of live music coming from the stage, parents could watch cooking tutorials or shop for handcrafted clothes, folk art, jewelry and more.
On Sunday, performances moved into the indoor festival for afternoon jams. Super Doppler, a rock band from Virginia, closed out the weekend.
Wildwood Revival brought together all the best aspects of the South for a relaxing late September weekend — tasty food and twanging string instruments amid a beautiful landscape and a welcoming atmosphere.