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By Rachel Goff
Jeff Mack is really excited for Vermont Music Fest. Really, really excited.
For the past week, the Warren resident and founder of Vermont Music Fest has been spending a disproportionate amount of time in his garage making giant paper-mache puppets and costumes to be worn by volunteers at the fifth annual community event. The theme for this year's festival is "The World is a Circus," Mack said, although in the past "it's always been circus-like."
Vermont Music Fest began in 2010 as the after-party for Jeff and Kelly Mack's wedding at Lareau Farm in Waitsfield and each year it's "grown organically," Mack said, due to lots of collaboration and local support.
On Saturday, August 23, Vermont Music Fest will feature live music from over a dozen artists at the home of American Flatbread and—new this year—a kickoff concert hosted by Bow Thayer with camping on the field behind Kenyon's Farm in Waitsfield the night before. Several nonprofit organizations are participating in this year's festival, including the Vermont Foodbank, People's Health and Wellness Clinic of Central Vermont, Waitsfield Elementary School's Open Hearth Afterschool Program and more.
As always, Vermont Music Fest will be "all about the kids," Mack said. He'd love to have the Northeast Kingdom-based youth performers of Circus Smirkus at the event, but "I don't have the budget or the team for that ... yet," he said. Instead, he's collected a "massive amount of dress-up stuff" for attendees to use to take fun, self-portrait photos.
In amassing materials for Vermont Music Fest, Mack has made use of several Valley-wide networking systems. He's posted on Front Porch Forum and scouted out yard sales—even convincing a few of the folks he's met there to lend their artistic expertise to the festival's décor in what he describes as "a beautiful coming together" of crafts and people.
Despite drawing larger crowds each year, from its hand-painted signs to its paper-mache puppets, Vermont Music Fest has stayed homemade and informal. Parking at Lareau Farm is again by suggested donation, "but I won't charge anyone who has more than 20 people in [his or her] car," Mack said. Likewise, "if you ride your horse in, I promise to find it the best shade on the property and give it water and maybe even some hay," he said.
While Mack is really trying to encourage carpooling, his suggestions are all about keeping Vermont Music Fest lighthearted and low key. "The world is a fun place if you make it that way," he said.
This year's Vermont Music Fest will take place rain or shine on Saturday, August 23, from noon to 10 p.m. at Lareau Farm in Waitsfield. The 2014 music lineup includes Locos Por Juana, Afri-VT Drum & Dance, Balla Kouyate, Michelle Sarah Band, Jonny Rawls & the Dave Keller Band, Joe Driscoll & Sekou, Aram Bedrosian, Doug Perkins & Friends, The Holter Kids, Bryce Dance Company, Nothing Quite Yet, John Van Hook and Fiona and Emmett. For more information about the event, visit vtmusicfest.com.