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A Sustainable Music Experience Unlike Any Other at the Nelsonville Music Festival

If your next dream vacation includes beautiful natural surroundings, meeting friendly people and having access to a wide range of activities, Nelsonville, Ohio, is for you. Originally settled in the early 19th century, the city has a rich history. In 1814, Daniel Nelson and his wife Sarah bought the land where the city now sits. Josiah Coe built the first mill in town in 1816, and by 1818 the Nelson’s had their land surveyed and laid out plots for sale. People and infrastructure quickly sprung up around the growing community. In 1838, the city was incorporated and the first mayor, Charles Cable, was elected in 1839. As the century continued, Nelsonville grew due to the coal and salt industries gaining a foothold in the region. Confederate Brigadier General John Hunt Morgan brought his cavalry through Nelsonville during a period of the Civil War that was known infamously as Morgan’s Run. They burned the local canal boats and were eventually chased out of town by the Union. Nelsonville currently has a population of 5,400 people and its storied history is preserved in many of the city’s historical buildings and landmarks.


The Nelsonville Music Festival has established itself as one of the more unique and vibrant music festivals in the Midwestern United States. Heading into its 12th year, the festival brings in thousands of people from the state and region. Last year they had around 7,5000 attendees and this year they are expecting more. Music will be played on four different stages, encompassing a broad spectrum of musical styles. Not only is this a music experience, but it’s also an event for the entire family. Your youngsters will love the giant kids area filled with games and activities. Adults will love the stunning natural surroundings and friendly people.


Another big focus of this festival is sustainable living. The show runners and patrons take pride in preserving the environment, and last year 94% of waste was diverted during the event. Make your next getaway one you’ll remember fondly for years to come and head to the Nelsonville Music Festival! got the chance to interview Brian Koscho, Representative for the Nelsonville Music Festival, to talk about the event.


RAL: Tell me a little bit about the event.

BK: This is the 12th year of the Nelsonville Music Festival. It's put on by Stuart's Opera House, a non-profit historic theater in Nelsonville, Ohio. Started back in 2005 as a one day event, it was located right on the Square in Nelsonville, outside of Stuart's. During that first year there were a dozen bands and 1,000 people in attendance.  In 2008, we became a three-day event (NMF is now four days and has been for several years) and moved to our current location, Robbins Crossing at Hocking College. Last year we had around 7,500 attendees at the festival and this year we are expecting roughly the same or more.


RAL: What is the typical demographic makeup of the event?

BK: NMF draws a wide audience of people, including families, college students, retired folks, kids, couples, baby boomers, and babies -- it is really an all ages event! We like to think we have an atmosphere that encourages all sorts of people to make it out for the weekend.


RAL: What makes this event unique?
BK: I think there is a huge focus on the music and a diverse lineup. Along with that, there’s a focus on creating a complete festival experience, not just music. I also believe the setting in Southeast Ohio, and our community at NMF, come together to make that experience a unique one.


RAL: Take me through a typical day at the event.

BK: There will be live music on four stages: Main Stage, Porch Stage, Boxcar Stage, and No-Fi Cabin, plus performances in the Gladden House Sessions. Also there will be a huge kids area for the young ones, artisan vendors, and so much more.


RAL: What will attendees find for dining options?
BK: We have a dozen food vendors from around Ohio that all have some amazing food. They will have food options like vegetarian and vegan dishes, BBQ, burgers, sandwiches, coffee, salads, and the list goes on.


RAL: Tell me about the overall environment of the event.

BK: NMF takes place on the campus of Hocking College in Nelsonville, specifically centered around the historic village of Robbins Crossing, located right on campus. Old log cabins and buildings dot the landscape of the NMF grounds creating a unique setting. We intertwined pre-existing buildings with vendors, booths, and of course stages for music. Some of the cabins even play host to music.


The No-Fi Cabin hosts sets all four days with no electricity.  All of this music is performed acoustically for small audiences in an old schoolhouse. The beautiful foothills of Appalachia surround the area and the campus itself is decorated and covered in artwork through the event. Artwork for this year includes a live art mural on an old boxcar that will also double as a brand new stage. The campground across the road is just steps from the beautiful Hocking River and the main entrance to NMF lies right off the Hockhocking-Adena Bikeway, a bike path connecting Nelsonville and Athens.


RAL: Does the event drive business to your local economy?
BK: Most definitely, the Nelsonville Music Festival brings in around 7,500 people to our small town of 5,500. That is a huge boost economically to our area. The attendees are eating and drinking here along with buying accommodations and going out to explore the local communities. At the festival, patrons can support many amazing businesses, artists, and folks from around Ohio in every aspect, from food and craft beer, to music and art. It's an incredible thing.


RAL: Does the event support a special cause in the community?

BK: The Nelsonville Music Festival is a project of Stuart's Opera House, a local 501c3 non-profit historic theater in Nelsonville. Stuart's was originally open from 1879-1924 and, after a devastating fire in 1980, re-opened in 1997. We currently host over 75 events a year at Stuart's including live music, theater, arts education programs, visual art, film, dance, and more. All funds raised at the Nelsonville Music Festival go back into Stuart's Opera House, NMF, and all of our programming year round.


RAL: Why should people come to your event?
BK: NMF is a special event, if you are a music lover there is no better place you could spend four days. Even if you don't normally enjoy music festivals, this one is a different experience. It's four days of amazing music, friends, art, good food, good beer, and fun in a beautiful part of the country. What could be better than that?

For more information about the Nelsonville Music Festival, please visit their website.