The Transylvania Times -

By Eric Crews
Staff Writer 

Mountain Song Returns For 8th Year - Brevard NC

 

Last updated 9/4/2013 at 12:48pm

John Felty takes some time out at Brevard Music Center, where the annual festival is held. (Times photo by Eric Crews)

With seven years of memories, Mountain Song Festival organizer John Felty said it’s a tough task to pick a favorite moment or a favorite year.

“I would say they’re all special in their own way,” he said.

With the eighth annual festival just over a week away, Felty said if he had to choose one quintessential moment from the festival’s past as a favorite, watching the crowd’s reaction the first year Steve Martin made an unannounced visit to the stage to play with Steep Canyon Rangers is one of the most memorable.

“To see people on the lawn just peel away and everyone rush to the front of the stage…that was just such a cool moment,” he said. “You can’t buy those moments; they just happen. It was definitely great.”

While this year’s festival lineup is arguably as good or better than any in its past, with multiple Grammy-award winning acts performing, by all ac-counts, the eighth annual Mountain Song Festival will be bittersweet.

The annual music festival is one of the Boys & Girls Club of Transylvania County’s biggest fundraisers. In the past seven years, the festival has raised $270,000 for the after-school program. But the organization is still reeling from the loss of its guiding light, Cindy Platt, who passed away last month.

“It’s going to be bittersweet this year,” said Melanie Jones, executive director of the local Boys & Girls Club. “She, like most things around (the Boys & Girls Club), is the reason it exists at all. To have her support and her presence there has always been comforting for eve-rybody. She was our matriarch.”

Jones said the event was a perfect combination of many of things Platt loved most: music, the Boys & Girls Club and her family.

“She’ll certainly be missed this year,” Jones said. “It was the one public place where she could be proud of both her family and us at the Boys & Girls Club. There will certainly be something missing this year.”

Jones said that while Platt will be missed tremendously by all in attendance, she believes her son, Woody, lead singer of Steep Canyon Rangers and one of the festival’s organizers, will “make up for it in song.”

While Felty said that he’d certainly like to be able to take full credit for the coming up with the idea of the festival, it was Cindy Platt who originally came up with the idea.

“She actually had the idea and told Woody (Platt) that we should get together and do an event for the Boys & Girls Club,” Felty said.

Felty, who also produces the annual White Squirrel Music Festival in downtown Brevard each year, said he was yearning for the opportunity to put on a different type of festival when Woody Platt approached him.

“Woody and I had been friends for a long time when he called me up and said, ‘Hey, we need to do a bluegrass festival out at the Music Center,” he recalled.

Felty was wrapping up a long music career that had seen he and his band mates in Jupiter Coyote tour around 200 days per year.

“The timing was perfect,” he said. “So, I said, ‘Let’s do it.’”

After kicking around a few ideas and taking a look at the Brevard Music Center venue – a venue that Felty had attended during the summer concert series as a child with his parents – Felty called Doc Watson and booked the Mountain Song Festival’s first headlining act.

“That’s how Mountain Song started,” he said. “It really was that simple.”

The first year’s one-day festival featured acts including Doc Watson, Steep Canyon Rangers, Shannon Whitworth, and Third Time Out.

In the end, Felty said it was everything he’d hoped it could be.

“It was just great,” Felty recalled.

Felty said he always believed that the Brevard Music Center, what he describes as a “world class” music venue, was being underutilized.

“I just felt like there was so much usable time here in this venue that we should be doing something with it,” he said. “Mountain Song became an example of what else could happen here.”

These days, Felty said the Mountain Song Festival has become a signature event in Brevard, one that he believes not only showcases many of the community’s best assets, but helps that community grow as well.

“Ultimately, the biggest reward is the impact on the community,” he said. “To be able to bring that kind of music here to a small town where we normally would not be able to, combined with the fact that it’s having such a huge impact on the Boys & Girls Club, is tremendous. It’s a win-win for everybody.”

When the festival first began, Felty said he and Woody Platt had no idea what the festival would grow to become. Now, the event is the Boys & Girls Club’s largest fundraising event.

“It certainly has a tremendous impact on the sustainability of the club,” he said.

Parker Platt, Woody’s brother and a supporter of the organization since its inception, agrees.

“It’s remarkable what it’s become,” he said. “It’s become a signature event here every fall that has engaged the community in a remarkable way.”

He cites the hundreds of volunteers who come out to lend a helping hand during the event as indicative of the support the community has for the Boys & Girls Club.

“From a charitable standpoint it’s been huge,” he said. “But it’s also just a really great community builder. So many local folks come out, as well as out-of-town people, that it really has become a signature event for the entire county. It’s turned into something we never could have imagined.

“But it couldn’t have happened without the great support from so many in the community, from sponsors to volunteers.”

The festival’s fundraising efforts have provided roughly 10 percent of the nonprofit’s entire operating budget over the past four years.

Jones said the funds go a long way toward supporting the mission of the nonprofit organization’s afterschool programs that have over 300 participants this year.

“It really does go directly to operations, which is where it is needed,” she said. “If you’re looking at how many kids $60,000 serves, which is how much was raised by the festival last year, it’s a significant number.”

Jones said while the funds are undoubtedly a great contribution, the publicity the event provides is undeniably helpful, as well.

“Each year we gain a few more fans and a few more sponsors,” she said. “It has kind of created a family of friends of the Boys & Girls Club that has grown organically to become big supporters of what we do.”

In addition to helping pay staff salaries, the funds are also used to expand the programming offered by the club.

This year, a new program called Junior Appalachian Musicians is being sponsored, which is bringing music to the Boys & Girls Club in a whole new way by allowing the students the opportunity to learn to play music. Felty said he hopes the program will be an extension of his goal to continue to bring people together through music.

“Music just connects people. That’s just what it does. It brings people who wouldn’t necessarily be together,” Felty said. “But it’s in those moments when conversations start to take place and ideas are shared. The next thing you know, something good comes out of that. But in the beginning, it’s music that brings people together.”

 
 

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