The upcoming Elderberry Festival in Carrboro, North Carolina mixes community engagement, artistry and fun in one gathering. Organizer Cindy Jones remarked that Norm’s Farms co-founders Rodger and Ann Lenhardt have initiated an event “where we can all gather together.” Begun in 2012 by Norm’s Farms to thank the local community for the amazing support they have been given and to create awareness around the mysterious elderberry, the festival has come to signify the heart of a tightly knit, generous city.
“Sustainability” was the phrase used by Cindy Jones to express the goal of the Elderberry Festival. However, she did not refer only to idea of environmental sustainability. In many ways, the Elderberry Festival, the “party with a purpose,” has come to represent sustainable practice not only with regards to the environment but also to the local community and its small businesses, artists and musicians.
The Environment and the Community
At its core, to be sustainable means to maintain and uphold, which is exactly what Norm’s Farms does with the Elderberry Festival. The event promotes natural, environmental products evident in its list of sponsors and vendors.
Various businesses receive support from the festival, including Little Bee Drinkwater Soap, whose products are all natural and handmade, as well as the popular local hosts Southern Rail and 2nd Wind. It is the hope of Norm’s Farms to return the overwhelming encouragement they have received from the community by paying it forward to other local businesses.
By featuring local small businesses in the Vendor Village, the Elderberry Festival promotes a resilient local economy and reminds people that a sustainable city is one that provides the care and sustenance necessary to maintain local and small establishments. In this way, Cindy Jones explained, “everybody helps each other” to grow local and buy local.
Sustainable practices do not stop with the promoting of local businesses. The Elderberry Festival tries to help the environment, too.
This year, one of the sponsoring companies, Carrboro Solar Works, is building a solar stage. One solar powered cart will provide the power necessary to operate the equipment for one of the performance stages. This “music powered by the sun” offers an environmental friendly and sustainable way to keep the party going!
The Elderberry Festival Community Artists and Musicians
Appreciation for the local extends beyond business community at the Elderberry Festival. As a music festival, the event champions local musicians and artists, too.
All of the performers featured at the Elderberry Festival mainly come from the Carrboro and Chapel Hill area, making them truly local artists. Even those who come from farther away, such as Asheville, still contribute to the local feeling. Cindy Jones explained that the musicians who come from elsewhere in North Carolina are always elderberry friendly and are “the kind of friends who come over to your house and ask what you need.” In fact, she said, “we consider them our family.”
Cindy described her vision of the festival as demonstrating appreciation to the “undervalued creative side of society.” Creativity is at the heart of all small start-ups and artistic endeavors. Part of the survival of any community is the support of its local creators, whether they are musicians, artists, or small business entrepreneurs. “We would be nothing without these folks,” Cindy remarked. “Our industry [here in the Carrboro and Chapel Hill area] is the art.”
“Music is medicine,” Cindy also expressed. She stressed the importance of music in a community even at the most individual level. As a therapist she recognizes the benefits of music for both the musicians and the listeners. Passionate about this phenomena, Cindy explained that live music is doubly “empowering” and “life affirming” when you are connected to the musician and the lyrics.
Such a connection is only possible through local musicians. Cindy expressed gratitude at having a wonderful music scene and appreciates that the “top-notch talented” musicians choose to stay in the area. She shared a conversation she had with one of the members from Gasoline Stove about choosing to stay local rather than move away to make it nationally. “We want to be here. We want to be on our farms and to be with our friends,” Cindy recounted.
Acknowledging the gifts that a vibrant community of musicians gives to the collective population, Cindy emphasized the need of making art sustainable through donations to the festival and tipping. She sees the Elderberry Festival as an opportunity to reinforce the value of local artists. “We want to be a model,” she states. “This is how you treat your artists,” she explained, stressing again the need for donations.
Thank You To The Community
Designed as a thank you event for a supportive community by Norm’s Farms co-founders Rodger and Ann Lenhardt, the Elderberry Festival has become so much more. This free festival has become a celebration of community, artistry, sustainability and elderberries (2DY4 is even using elderberries to make the dye for their t-shirts!).
The outpouring of love from the community is clear. Southern Rail and 2nd Wind have continued to offer their venues for the event and, this year, Goodfellas is providing 50% off rides for musicians. Additionally, every musician, artist and worker is a volunteer sharing his or her talent and hard work out of love.
Cindy called Rodger and Ann Lenhardt “community builders” and that is exactly what they have done with the Elderberry Festival. They paid forward the encouragement they have received for Norm’s Farms back to the community and truly created a “party with a purpose” aimed at “building community resilience with local businesses, musicians, artisans and food producers.”