Rockin’ in Hockin’

“Don’t do it!” That was the immediate response of my friends Meggan and Chuck when they heard about this article. They love the Nelsonville Music Festival (NMF) and want to see it remain small and unspoiled. The four-day event will be held this year May 31 to June 3 at Robbins Crossing at Hocking College […]

Nelsonville Music Festival rocks Hocking Hills


Nelsonville Music Festival headliners The Decemberists are certain to heat things up.

By Marla Boone

“Don’t do it!”

That was the immediate response of my friends Meggan and Chuck when they heard about this article. They love the Nelsonville Music Festival (NMF) and want to see it remain small and unspoiled.

The four-day event will be held this year May 31 to June 3 at Robbins Crossing at Hocking College in Nelsonville, Ohio. Nestled in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, Nelsonville is the site of what both The Onion AV Club and Ohio Magazine call the best music festival in Ohio. Billboard has called the NMF one of the best-kept secrets of the U.S. music festival circuit. Time Out Chicago refers to it as one of the Midwest’s best festivals.

Begun in 2005, the NMF is produced by and is a fundraiser for the Stuart Opera House, also located in Nelsonville. Over sixty musical acts will perform on multiple stages over the four days. Featuring a variety of music genres, Nelsonville has become a much sought-after gig for national, regional, and local bands. The vetting process is unique. Selections are based on not only prospective bands’ performance history (“Do at least 50-100 people come to your show in your hometown?” and “Have you played in more than four different states?”) but also mindset (“Have you volunteered for a charitable organization in your community in the last year?”). In addition to the main stage, bands play on the Porch stage and the No-Fi Cabin, the latter featuring artists who perform with no electricity. Nelsonville prides itself on the diversity of music, venues, and ages of both the performers and attendees. The festival is also noted for giving opportunities to up-and-coming artists.

Bands slated to appear this year include headliners George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic, The Decemberists, Ani DiFranco, as well as dozens more. There is no specific musical genre. NMF marketing director Brian Koscho says folk, rock and roll, soul, and hip-hop will be represented. There are nine tiers of admission tickets. These range from a $50.00 Thursday-only pass to a $350.00 VIP weekend pass that gains the ticket-holder admission to all four days, access to a covered viewing area at the front of the main stage, dedicated cash bar, food, and (obviously the most important part) access to VIP-only portable toilets. According to those who have been there, access to that shelter can be important in the case of strong sun or chilling rain. Children twelve and under are admitted without charge. Camping fees begin at $40.00 for a primitive spot for the weekend. Motorhome spots offering electricity are sold out. In an effort to keep the venue attractive to all, the NMF has adopted the following guideline: no more than four children under 18 inside the festival or at any campsite per one
supervising adult.

In the past, food vendors won special praise. Local foods and breweries were featured on-site with healthy options, including vegetarian fare.

Only slightly less heralded than the music is the festival’s commitment to having as little negative impact on the environment as possible. NMF partners with Athens Bicycle to offer secure and easy bike parking (daytime and overnight) and offers help with minor bike repairs and bike rentals. The entrance to the NMF is located on the Hockhocking (Shawnee for “twisted”) Adena Bikeway. GoBus is an intercity system that provides rural communities with transportation to urban centers. GoBus stops six times a day, every day, at the main parking lot for the festival at Hocking College. More information is available at ridegobus.com. When asked about the parking, my friends assured me the lot was adequate and an easy walk to the festival.

On a more ambitious level, NMF has worked with Rural Action’s Zero Waste Program to provide waste diversion, increased recycling, and use of compost piles. One hundred fifty volunteers (!) sort the waste generated by the festival. Last year over four tons of waste were diverted from landfills, a ninety-two percent diversion rate.

The beneficiary of the festival, Stuart’s Opera House, is a historic theater located on the public square in Nelsonville. For twenty years, Stuart’s has been a center for the arts. Over 23,000 visitors attend the more than 75 events held there each year. These include indoor concerts, theater performances, film festivals, free outdoor summer concerts, educational events, and private rentals. In excess of 7,000 students participate yearly in Stuart’s Arts Education Program. More information about programs is available at www.stuartsoperahouse.org.

Be prepared to have all bags (no larger than 12″x12″x18″) inspected. Prohibited items include coolers, cans, glass bottles, all beverages (except a maximum of four factory-sealed plastic water bottles), illegal drugs, guns, knives, potential weapons, umbrellas, fireworks, laser pointers and similar devices, pets (except documented service animals), bikes, scooters, skateboards, or other motorized vehicles (except for ADA), drones, and outside food.

Sorry, Meggan and Chuck. This is too good not to share.

Learn more about the Nelsonville Music Festival at nelsonvillefest.org. For Google Maps devotees, the address of the event is 3301 Hocking Parkway Nelsonville, OH 45764.

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Marla Boone has enjoyed a varied career, from nursing to aviation. She is an active volunteer with the WACO Historical Society in Troy. Reach DCP freelance writer Marla Boone at MarlaBoone@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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