Many moons ago, at a party in Rogers, the Hillberry Harvest Moon Festival was unknowingly conceived.
“Our first event was a private party,” says Jon Walker of Deadhead Productions. “We brought in about 200 people. The second year it was the same but double the number of people. On the third, we were like, “Oh, shoot, maybe we should make this thing public.”
Now in its eighth year, Hillberry Harvest Moon Festival, which runs from September 29 to October 29. 1, will be at the farm in Eureka Springs.
“This year, our composition is a little different. We actually expanded the genres a bit. In the past, we were very greedy for bluegrass and jam grass,” says Walker. “We have other acts to break that mold a bit. [such as] Oteil & Friends, — Oteil [Burbridge] is in the group Dead and Company — coming out. I think people are excited about Cory Wong. He was from the Vulfpeck group. He has an amazing new album he just released. It’s really interesting. It starts as a funk album and sort of turns into a bluegrass album. He did like sit-ins with Billy Strings and Del McCoury. He adds that beloved bassist Victor Wooten will also be returning to the festival this year.
“We have a lot more local acts this year,” he adds. “We have so much musical talent in Northwest Arkansas. It’s really unbelievable. We really wanted to try and develop that and showcase a lot of up-and-coming local bands. So to do that, we started programming earlier. We have music starting at noon on Thursday, and the music will continue until the wee hours of Sunday morning.
Walker adds that the festival starts early this year on September 29 with local band Danny Spain Gang.
He says he can’t wait to hear Arkansauce, a band that has played at previous festivals.
“They are rapidly gaining strength. They’re emerging more and more as a regional band and not a local band anymore,” he says, adding “Opal Agafia, from Eureka Springs. She also does a great job. She’s grown a lot and making a lot of noise, so it’s good to have [her and her band] back.” He adds that he is excited about performances by The Gravel Yard and Country Jesus and other local bands including Danny Spain Gang, Eureka Strings, The Damn Neighbors, Rachel Ammons, Charlie Mellinger Band, Sprungbilly and Skye Pollard and the Holler family.
“We have two different stages that we will rotate the music between. None of the acts play at the same time. So you have the ability to see all the bands there if you really want to,” Walker continues, adding that there will also be around 30 craft vendors and seven or eight food trucks.
“I have an activities director, and she has programs from Thursday to Sunday. We have workshops for children; we have parades. There is a tie-dye workshop for children. There is always something going on for the kids during the day.
For adults, there’s the music, of course, but there are also activities ranging from “Bloody Mary Breakfast Clubs” to face painting to instrument-focused workshops led by national musicians.
“We also have a live art tent. We present a group of artists in the region. They come in, they exhibit their paintings, they all do live art too. So I mean, there’s constantly stuff going on all over the room. I mean, we usually have about 3,500 to 4,000 people there. The majority of them are there for the full term.
“We are going to open the doors on Wednesday the 28th. That way people can arrive a day early, they can camp, you know, kind of prepare. We had a lot of traffic, a lot of congestion, last year. So hopefully this will relieve some of the incoming traffic to the site.
Walker says that while RV spots are sold out, on-site camping is available.
“Camping comes with the purchase of a ticket. So you know that when you come in, you’re basically camping near your car,” says Walker. “The place itself is amazing. It’s 160 acres. We run into the Mark Twain National Forest. We have three miles of hiking and biking trails. We have an 18 hole disc golf course.
Railroad Earth drummer Cary Harmon says they’ve had a busy summer and are looking forward to a more low-key fall and a return to the beautiful hills of Eureka Springs.
“We were busy for the first time in a long time. You know, everyone’s been on a bit of a break for the past two years, in terms of live shows with everything that’s been going on, but we’ve been busy. We played a lot of festivals this summer, we traveled a lot and kind of calmed down in a bit slower autumn, which is welcome, which is great. So it’s been a good year.
Railroad Earth returns to the Hillberry Harvest Moon Festival this year for two performances at 9 p.m. Saturday and Sunday to play old favorites and songs from their latest release, “All for the Song.”
“Interestingly enough, it was also interrupted by covid and everything that has happened in the last two years. We did it in 2019. And we started releasing it in early 2020. But we were closed in March. So we decided to stick with it and wait until everyone was back and we could play those songs and that kind of stuff. So we put it back on this year for real,” says Harmon.
“It’s interesting to be so far away from making a record and releasing that same record.”
Hillberry: Harvest Moon Festival
WHAT — A four-day music festival with arts, crafts and workshops. Music features Railroad Earth, Oteil & Friends, Cory Wong, Sam Bush, Yonder Mountain String Band, Victor Wooten/Bass Extremes, Keller & The Keels, Big Something, Circles Around the Sun, The Lil Smokies, Kitchen Dwellers, Horseshoes & Hand Grenades, The High Hawks, Arkansauce, Opal Agafia, Pert Near Sandstone, Friends of the Phamily, One Way Traffic, Clusterpluck, The Gravel Yard, Skye Pollard & Family Holler, Country Jesus, Eureka Strings, Rachel Ammons, Sprungbill, Pretend Friend, The Dirty Strings, The Charlie Mellinger Band, The Damn Neighbours, The Traveling Squirrels, The Danny Spain Gang, Blurred Name.
WHEN – September 28 (early entry); music from September 29 to October 2
WHERE – The Farm, 1 Blue Heron Lane, Eureka Springs
COST – $70 for a one-day pass to $215 for a full four-day pass; $230 for a full five-day pass; other ticket options available
Info — hillberryfestival.com