BELLOWS FALLS -- Although the Roots on the River Music Festival will continue beyond this year’s 14th season, it will bid a heartfelt farewell to one of the festival’s co-founders and headliner, Fred Eaglesmith, Vermont Festivals producer Ray Massucco announced. The festival will be held June 6-9, at numerous venues throughout the Bellows Falls area.
"We have had 14 fabulous, fun-filled festivals with Fred," Massucco smiled as he recounted some of the memorable stories over the years, such as the time the power went out under the Big Tent and the artists kept right on playing, unplugged and all acoustic, to the frenzied delight of the faithful Fredheads. "But this is the foreseeable end of the Fred era."
It will be a big change, he said, but part of the natural evolution of festivals as Roots changes with the times.
"I have always believed that festivals have a shelf life. That they run their course," Eaglesmith said recently. "When this happens they should either fold or change."
In order to stay alive and vibrant, Eaglesmith said, the cast of characters needs to feature the next generation.
"It needs to wrap itself around a new and younger approach," he said. "It needs new and younger artists, and it needs to maintain its audience while bringing in fresh faces."
Eaglesmith has many great memories of Roots on the River, and he said he’d like to leave with those memories intact.
"I believe in impermanence and accept change as a way of life. I feel that my greatest contribution to ROTR is to step aside and to let change happen," Eaglesmith said. "So by not being there I am making it better by giving it room to grow in a different direction."
A highlight of this year’s festival will be the oft-repeated pairing of Eaglesmith with Mary Gauthier on Sunday at the Rockingham Meeting House. The two artists have co-written songs together and their duets in the old venue are always deeply moving, Massucco, who has produced the festival for the last seven years, said.
"If you have ever seen Fred and Mary perform in the Meeting House, you know how special it is," he said. "If you have not, and you like either of these consummate artists, this is a performance that will be one to remember for a lifetime."
Tickets for this final show are expected to sell out, Massucco said, and early bird tickets specials are still available through Feb. 15.
Other artists scheduled for this year’s festival include Dave Alvin and the Guilty Ones, Steel Wheels, David Wax Museum, Dan Weber, Shelley King, Heather Maloney, the Milkhouse Heaters, Poor Old Shine, Skumm & Oats, Grant Peeples, Shakey Graves, Carolyn Mark, Roger Marin Band and Zoe Muth.
For more information, and to purchase tickets, visit www.vermontfestivalsllc.com.