Newell Lodge Fall Festival falls victim to Matthew

newell_thLike most folks in the southeastern United States, we spent much of last week watching hurricane Matthew as he crept ever closer to landfall. With the storm past, the devastation is clear in the photos and videos of the damage left behind.

Outdoor events by the score were cancelled, from weddings to sporting events to even larger community events, like bluegrass festivals.

Our friend Ernie Evans in Florida shared this story about the Newell Lodge Fall Bluegrass Festival, scheduled to run October 5-9 in Folkston, GA. The festival is managed by Evans and his partner, his wife Debi, and as it became clear that Matthew was aimed at the eastern seaboard, the possibility of having to cancel became their top concern.

Ernie and Debi Evans“Watching the weather is as much of a part of what we do as anything that goes into a festival. When the threat of bad weather begins, we start to plan accordingly. However, the threat of a hurricane makes this task monumental. The unknowns and responsibility that comes next will take age off a person at warp speed.

First, you are lucky in one sense that you get an advanced warning with plenty of time to prepare. However, you don’t know at the time that the storm will even hit in your area so you don’t want a knee jerk reaction by cancelling. This can disappoint fans, leave bands without work, cost promoters marketing dollar but most of all, ruin something we work hard all year for and look so forward to. Next, you set a deadline for making a final decision one way or another because most, if not all festivals, advertise ‘Rain or Shine.’ If you cancel and it only rains, well… that’s better than a hurricane but not the answer, if you can help it.

Now, I should mention that ‘Safety’ is always first, and not just in the case of a hurricane.

It didn’t take long to figure out that we were dealing with a potentially serious threat with Hurricane Mathew. It wasn’t a storm that we could take a lot of time to plan for. After Debi and I discussed a plan of action, we immediately contacted the owners of Newell Lodge to see what they wanted to do.

Hurricane Matthew - NASA/NOAA GOES ProjectAt the time the threat was looking serious. Camping customers were already arriving to the festival site. Together, we decided that we would wait until the next weather report came out with the latest forecast. This would be the last chance to inform the bands before making their long journey to our venue from VA, PA, KY and other areas. When the report came out, it was time to start calling to give folks a chance to get home to get their homes prepared, and plenty of time to evacuate. The cancellation went pretty smoothly, but it did not come as a surprise.

Unfortunately, this was the last festival to be held by Evans Media Source for the owners of Newell Lodge for a while. On May 11th of this year we had received an email from the owner of Newell Lodge informing us that it was going to be difficult to go forward. We were encouraged to seek another alternative, and that is what we had decided to do after this past scheduled date that had to be canceled. Newell Lodge will continue to operate as a resort and lease the facilities for other events.

The good news is, Evans Media Source has many other events that our bluegrass family will be able to enjoy – the same bands soon in the same season.

Amiri-Fest from Evans Media SourceEvans Media Source has rolled out a new line of events called Ameri-fest that will be shared in more detail in the near future. In short, it is a festival that celebrates the culture of American Heritage through food, crafts and live entertainment while cultivating interest for new fans to bluegrass. In the immediate future, we are getting ready for our next bluegrass festival in Okeechobee, Florida called Yeehaw Music Fest with The Gibson Brothers, IIIrd Tyme Out, Monroe Crossing, Nothin Fancy, and Remington Ryde just to name a few.

As for our current status due to Hurricane Mathew… Our team at Evans Media Source would like to send out our heart felt sympathy to all of the people with damage to their homes and their work place, or left without power. This has been a very eye opening experience, but we are here to help any way we can. Anyone that has experienced a major loss does not have to worry about not being able to afford our festivals. We started this business to share it with you all, and that vision has not changed. If you have experienced hardship due to devastation by the hurricane, please call us. You will need bluegrass more than ever we will do all we can to make sure you can continue to enjoy our shows.”

Ernie also mentioned that they were unable to do their regular Sunday afternoon radio show on WFCF yesterday after power was lost on the campus of Flagler College which houses the station. The school has had to cancel classes at least until Thursday of this week, so hopefully The Sunday Afternoon Breakdown will be back next weekend.

Evans Media Source can be reached by email or phone (904-886-8378) should you have any concerns about the cancellation, or upcoming festival and music events.

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.