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From dream to reality

Val Stock music and arts festival opens in Kitts Hill

KITTS HILL — The inaugural Val Stock music and arts festival kicked off Thursday at Green Dragon Farms in Kitts Hill, and organizers could feel the presence of its namesake.

“Val makes everything sound good,” Poca Schultz, of the farm’s team, said, as she watched a performance of the New York band Let’s Be Leonard.

The festival, set to run through Saturday and hosted on a property on Sharp’s Creek Road owned by Homer Jenkins, is dedicated to the memory of Valerie Jenkins, his wife, who died in an auto accident in 2015.

The idea of a music and arts festival, with the proceeds going to purchase musical instruments for local schools, was her dream, and the farm’s team has been hard at work for months to make it a reality. An eclectic mix of local, regional and national acts, with styles ranging from bluegrass to funk to rock and roll, will perform over the next few days on the farm’s main stage, near where Schultz said Mrs. Jenkins’ ashes are interred.

“It’s going better than I’d hoped,” Schultz said, noting that she had found “the perfect camping spot” in a grove of oak trees on the farm’s hillside.

Organizer Bethany Russell agreed.

“It’s going beautifully,” she said, noting that more than 100 people, ranging from children to seniors, had already arrived in the festival’s early hours. She said the crowd was expected to keep growing as the weekend arrived and the schedule intensified.

In addition to performances from bands such as Ona, Restless Leg String Band, Fletcher’s grove, Tyler Childers, String Therapy, Sapphire and Qiet!, the festival featured vendors, an art gallery, laser shows, LED and fire flow teams, a general store and, starting on Friday, will host hot air balloon rides, courtesy of Bob Cleary of Ironton.

Dave Adkins, of Huntington, was working at his tent for his business, The Loaded Potato, where, in addition to preparing their signature food, they were serving hamburgers, home fries, biscuits and gravy and a full-on breakfast.

“We travel most of the year and do about 25 festivals,” he said, noting that it was the first event in the region he’s done in a while. “I’m happy to be home, and it’s great to see the area has picked up.”

At another tent, artists Jeremy Adkins and Candy Matthews, both of Huntington, were selling their works.

Their tent was full of their pieces, with Adkins’ intricately-detailed acrylic and paint marker works and Matthews’ acrylic paintings of planets.

“We just like to paint and came to sell art,” Adkins said.

Next to them was Jordan Elizabeth Apgar, a licensed and self-employed massage therapist from Huntington, who had set up a donation-based booth to practice her craft.

“It’s going really well so far,” she said. “I’ve had a great response.”

Across the grounds, campers from as far away as New York, Georgia and Alabama were setting up their sites, while some played music in the farm’s barn, which has stood in place for 120 years, according to Cayela Sherman, who lives at the farm.

Her multi-colored hair and rainbow-themed outfit captures the upbeat, positive mood of the event.

“It’s everything my aunt Val hoped and prayed for,” she said, as she worked in the farm’s general store, set up in a former tool shed, which she said was a merger of Green Dragon Farms and Granny’s of Ironton.

“We just moved everything in yesterday,” she said. “There used to be a general store here, years ago, before there was even a gravel road and it was just a cow path.”

The store sold of mix of items. Sherman said the most popular were the Grateful Dead pins and bear ears, a pair of which she was wearing.

Russell said the store was equipped with many things the attendees might seek.

“They have coolers, lemonade, buttons, flasks, big funky hats, tie dye — everything you’d want at a festival,” she said.

Organizer J.D. Thomas, said things were going “smoothly” so far.

He booked many of the bands for the show, and had experience working with the now defunct Appalachian Upising Festival, something many of Val Stock’s 20-member volunteer team had hoped to pick up from.

“We look forward to the community’s support, so we can support youth and the arts,” he said.

Appalachian Upising’s founder, Bob DeLong, an Ironton native who now lives in North Carolina, was on hand, helping to emcee the events, clad in his Bernie Sanders T-shirt.

“I’m here because of Val,” he said. “She wanted to continue having a festival in the area.”

He said the event’s goal of raising funds for arts in the schools was much-needed.

“It doesn’t have to be about Oxycontin and heroin here,” he said. “We can express ourselves. Instead of putting syringes in kids’ hands, we can give them musical instruments.”

Green Dragon Farms hosts several events throughout the year, including concerts and workshops on everything from yoga to making soap.

“We’ve been able to learn so much here,” Schultz said. “And we have a fall festival planned.”

Green Dragon Farms is located at 5876 County Road 19. Val Stock will run through Saturday night. Admission for the weekend is $80. Children 12 and under are admitted free. Day passes are available for $30 on Friday and $40 on Saturday. Tickets can be purchased at www.grenndragonfarms.org or at the gate.