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JONESBORO – KASU and the Department of English, Philosophy and World Languages at Arkansas State University, together with the West End Neighborhood Association, will present the Arkansas Roots Music Festival on Saturday, April 13.
The festival will begin at 1 p.m. at Jonesboro’s City, Water, and Light Park, 1123 S. Culberhouse St. In case of rain, the festival will move to A-State’s Fowler Center.
KASU 91.9 FM’s radio personality Michael Doyle will serve as master of ceremonies, and recordings made at the event will be used for various radio programs, including KASU’s noontime show Arkansas Roots.
The festival, presented in conjunction with Delta Symposium XXV, will feature a variety of musical styles with a special emphasis on rockabilly and the roots music that contributed to its history. The outdoor festival is free, pet friendly, and open to the public.
Over the years, the music festival has become a popular community event where people bring lawn chairs and engage in activities like juggling, hula hooping, and playing chess on a giant set. Lost Pizza Co. of Jonesboro will have its food truck. Student organizations from A-State will also be present, offering activities for adults and children.
The Ozark Highlands Trio from Mountain View will open the show at 1 p.m. This string band performs old-time music, Ozark ballads, spirituals, and a variety of American roots music including western swing, bluegrass, jazz and country music.
The trio consists of multi-state fiddle champion Mary Parker, clawhammer banjo player Grace Stormont, and guitarist Keith Symanowitz. All three performers also sing. For their performance at the Arkansas Roots Music Festival, the trio will be joined by bassist Jerry Bone and fingerstyle guitarist John Severs.
They will be followed onstage by the Kurt and Andrea Stephenson Band at 2 p.m. Kurt is a past winner of the national bluegrass banjo championship, and he is an A-State graduate. Kurt has performed numerous times in KASU’s Bluegrass Monday concert series, most recently as part of the group High Fidelity. Andrea is an Arkansas native who grew up playing bluegrass and gospel music as part of her family’s musical ensemble, the Nichols. Now based in West Tennessee, Kurt and Andrea will bring with them a full band to perform bluegrass and gospel tunes.
At 3 p.m, Marcus “Mookie” Cartwright will bring his country blues musical style to the stage. Born in Stuttgart and raised in Holly Grove, Cartwright is a young musician who is continuing the long tradition of blues music coming from the Mississippi Delta. He has performed at the King Biscuit Blues Festival and the KASU Music Nights at the Johnny Cash Heritage Festival.
The afternoon’s music will close with a performance by the Boss Tweeds beginning at 4 p.m. This high-energy trio from the small West Arkansas town of Mountainburg plays rockabilly music that sounds as if it came from Northeast Arkansas in the 1950s. The group performs their own original songs inspired by the early days of rock and roll, and the band covers songs by Arkansas musical greats such as Johnny Cash, Ronnie Hawkins and Billy Lee Riley.
KASU program director and Arkansas Roots radio show co-host Marty Scarbrough offered praise for the line-up of musicians scheduled to perform at the festival. “Together, these Arkansas-connected musicians represent the wide variety of music that has emerged from our state. Audience members will experience Arkansas’ musical heritage coming to life through these incredibly talented and entertaining musicians.”
More information and a complete schedule for Delta Symposium XXV and the Roots Music Festival are available on the A-State Delta Symposium website.