IF YOU GO
What: RootsFest 2012.
When: Noon today through 7 p.m. Sunday.
Where: Cherokee Farms, 2035 Old Mineral Springs Road, Lafayette, Ga.
Admission: $50 three-day pass, $40 two-day pass, $25 one-day pass. Camping included with ticket purchase.
Venue website: www.roots-fest.com.
Some people take pleasure in the huge crowds, manic energy and sensory overload of the Bonnaroo Music Festival, but it's not everyone's cup of tea.
When she attended the Manchester, Tenn., festival in 2007, Ada Barnes was disappointed. She decided she could do better, so she founded her own festival.
The sixth iteration of RootsFest, her three-day celebration of regional musicians and artists, returns to Cherokee Farms today through Sunday. And if there's one thing Barnes think she does better than Bonnaroo, it's controlling the chaos.
"One thing that keeps me sane and one of the biggest compliments I get from people who do this and have to deal with me is the organization," Barnes said. "That allows everything else to run smoothly because no one is running around like a chicken with their head cut off."
In addition to a dedicated DJ/dance tent, two stages on the sprawling Cherokee Farms property will host three days of near nonstop live music. Two dozen artists will perform, representing a range of genres, from Celtic and indie rock to electronica and singer/songwriters.
Many of the acts on the schedule will be familiar to past RootsFest attendees, including seasoned vets such as The Molly Maguires, The Nim Nims, The Owls and Deep Machine. Barnes said she also is excited by festival newcomer Plectophilia, an Atlanta-based progressive bluegrass band fronted by guitarist Ian Newberry, former frontman of the funk outfit Newberry Jam.
Barnes said she made a big push this year to improve the festival atmospherics, including an emphasis on visual artists and dancers, and activities such as face and body painting.
She also has tweaked annual festival fixtures, such as the bonfire and drum circle, which have been relocated to a more open area. She has expanded the dancing area at the DJ tent.
Barnes said she expects a positive response to the new shade tent and a newly installed waterslide, which should provide a fun way to stave off the heat.
"It's going to be epic," she said. "I'm really excited about that, for sure."
Although she founded RootsFest as a reaction to the bloated giant of Bonnaroo, Barnes said she never intended to compete with the Manchester festival's crowds.
As a result of purposefully keeping the festival smaller and focusing on local instead of national acts, RootsFest has grown every year at a time when even legacy festivals are closing up shop. Barnes said she has been told that attendance should top the 500 who came last year.
"It's looking really good," she said. "We've had people steadily buying tickets since Christmas when we put them online."
Casey Phillips has worked as a features reporter in the Life department since May 2007. He writes about entertainment, consumer technology, animals and news of the weird. Casey hails from Knoxville and earned a bachelor of science degree in journalism and a bachelor of arts in German from Middle Tennessee State University, where he worked as the features editor for the student newspaper, Sidelines. Casey's writing has earned numerous accolades, including first and second place ...