The Town of Boone’s Cultural Resources Department led the charge with the help of many great sponsors and partners including the Watauga Arts Council and many Town of Boone staff members, volunteers, artists and sponsors. The Town of Boone hosts events regularly throughout the year but have been hoping to bring a new street festival to the town of Boone for years. After a couple years of social distancing and cautious planning due to the Covid pandemic, the town decided it was time to bring everyone back together. They had a solid backing from the plethora of local music lovers, event producers and friends in the High County who were ready to see a new festival enliven the downtown streets.
Mark Freed, Director of the Town of Boone’s Cultural Resources Department said, “The Town of Boone made a lot of investment in this event, and we had some amazing support from our community, including our leading presenting partners with the Downtown Boone Development Association, the Boone Tourism Development Authority, and the Watauga County Economic Development Commission. I like to include this because it was really a collaborative effort between our town, our downtown, and our county. We also had very generous support from many of our local businesses, including many who reached out to us to be part of it. It was an incredible example of a successful collaborative effort.”
They decided June 2022 was the right time to kick it into high gear. June just happens to be a time when the university is not in session so the town is less congested and it made for a great season for a “community homecoming.” Freed describes the festival as, “a time for past Boonies to return, current Boone folk to invite friends and family, and for our locals to feel like they have something to enjoy.” It was a time to celebrate all things Boone, especially local musicians and artists.
Due to the generosity of the festival sponsors, the weekend of events was free to the public, and the locals and travelers made the most of the opportunity. There were an estimated 6,000 people in attendance. Vendors set up along Depot St. with two primary concert stages on the north and south ends, and a lawn stage set up at the Jones House. Food, beverages and craft vendors decorated the town for that Friday and Saturday as guests poured into town to take part in the festivities.
The little white house on the hill known as The Jones House hosted the kick-off concert on Friday, June 17th. The evening consisted of tunes from Urban Soil Duo, Wiseapple and The Lazybirds. There was also a showing of the Trash Trout Motion Picture Show and some fun after-parties later into the evening.
It was important to the Town of Boone that the festival included artists spanning a wide-variety of genres and styles. From the reggae of Chalwa to the gospel of Junaluska Gospel Choir, the rock of Acoustic Syndicate and the Americana roots of Town Mountain and Songs From the Road Band, the Town of Boone brought in a wide-variety of styles and genres to round out the event. For the inaugural Boonerang the Town of Boone ensured that every band had a specific Boone connection and all of the vending artists did as well. It was important to the hosts of the event that the first Boonerang was Boone-centric and deeply connected to the roots of the town. To keep the tradition alive, the festival will ensure that more than 50% of the bands will be Boone-based acts for future Boonerang festivals.
The festival was a huge economic boost for the community and a huge morale booster after years of social distancing. There were about 60 local vendors, many of which claimed it was their best day ever. It was a family friendly event, good pups included, and it certainly felt like a gathering of friends. A rather large gathering of smiling faces happy to be a part of the inaugural celebration and excited to see some of their favorite artists take the stage, and vendors showcase their work. Signs of success displayed across the smiling faces decorating the streets.
The Jones House hosted the Tray Wellington Band, the raw and soulful sounds of Alexa Rose and Songs From the Road Band, an Asheville based bluegrass supergroup. Fans cozied up on the lawn with their blankets and chairs for a more intimate experience with the artists.
Soul Benefactor kicked off Saturday’s events at the South Depot stage featuring the Junaluska Gospel Choir. From the gospel and prayer of the choir to the smooth reggae jams of Chalwa, there was something for everyone. Town Mountain brought the alt-country and Southern Appalachian influence that highlights the blended backgrounds between band members that their unique sound is known for. Being close to home they had the luxury of bringing family to the show as well. Banjoist Jesse Langlais’s daughter made an appearance on stage to dance alongside her Dad. It’s safe to say she stole the show on that beautiful Father’s Day weekend.
The headliner for the weekend was Acoustic Syndicate, a roots-rock, Americana band out of Cleveland County, North Carolina. No stranger to inaugural festivals they also played the very first Boonaroo Music Festival back in 2002. Acoustic Syndicate formed in 1992 and is known for their traditional acoustic instruments, polyrhythmic banjo playing and the three-part McMurray family harmonies.
Local, old-time fiddler, Trevor McKenzie took to the BACR ACM tent, as well as Zodiac Lovers, Endangered!, H A U N T E R, and RUGG. Some Boone favorites graced the North Depot stage including King Bees, Naked Gods and rocker Melissa Reaves. The Watauga Library even hosted a kids-zone with bounce houses and fun for the young folk’s in the crowd. Silent discos have grown in popularity in the world of music festivals and Boonerang was no exception. Participants gather round, wear headphones and dance around together to the same song. As if it were a party for the extroverted introverts, it may be a quiet view for onlookers but it’s a community party for those connected by the music.
That’s what it’s all about, connecting with community through the music. As the festivities ended, it was clear it wouldn’t be the last Boonerang. The hosts are already planning the event for next year and will be looking to fill the artist lineup starting in the fall. Mark your calendars for June 16th-17th, 2023 and plan to spend some time among friends in the beautiful town of Boone.
The energy you feel when you enter the town gives you a peaceful feeling of home and Boonerang was certainly an extension of that vibe. It was a gathering of old friends. When you mix together the incredibly talented lineup of artists, the fans that showed up and danced, the prayers and hymns of the Junaluska Choir, and the beautiful backdrop of the Blue Ridge Mountains, it really felt like a family. There really is no greater recipe for a festival than that. When it feels like coming home.
For more information on the festival and the artists involved visit Boonerang. https://www.boonerangfest.com