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BBQ, bluegrass and beats: music festival merges NC and OH

BBQ, bluegrass and beats: music festival merges NC and OH

By Staff

Ohio and North Carolina are 485 miles apart, but share a distinct culture and culinary flavor.

To celebrate this, the Ohiolina (pronunciation is a portmanteau of the two states) Music Festival is bringing the music and food of the Ohio/North Carolina culture to Mount Vernon next weekend on Saturday, Sept. 14.

The festival was started by Sarah Trafford Koenig and her husband Chris Koenig, a young couple from Ohio who met in North Carolina.

According to Sarah Koenig, Ohio and North Carolina cultures are linked by Interstate 77, a similar history and growth patterns.

“Ohiolina is a folk and bluegrass festival that my husband and I, and a group of people who are passionate about music and this type of music, decided to put on,” Sarah Koenig said. “My husband has done some bluegrass festivals in his life. He did two when he was in college ラ he worked for the Wexner Center for the Arts in Columbus, so he has a lot of experience with arts and putting on large-scale events.”

The Appalachian-folk-infused musical lineup includes sets by the Ramshacklers, Front Porch Revival, Buckles and Boots, the Twin City Buskers and the Mighty Troubadours.

“The different bands are pretty well known ラ they have great followings in their respective genres,” Koenig said.

Buckles and Boots is comprised of Jessi and Brian Maxwell, a husband-and-wife duo who play soft-folk rock music.

“Buckles and Boots is a rugged, primitive, stripped down exploration of the full range of human emotion carried by the powerful, often haunting vocals, melodic guitar and creative use of two-foot stomping and percussion from Jessi accompanied by the driving rhythm of [my] upright bass, banjo and mandolin,” Brian Maxwell said.

Professor of Sociology and Rural Life Center Director Howard Sacks was also involved in the development of the festival.

“I met with the festival organizer early in the planning stage to discuss the concept, the reception it would receive locally, possible artists and to provide some local contacts that might be useful,” he said. “I think the festival promises to enrich life in Knox County, and I hope its success results in an annual event.”

“[My husband and I] met in Winston-Salem, N.C., and we have quite a family affection for both North Carolina and Ohio,” Sarah Koenig said. “We were both from Ohio and living in North Carolina at the time. We found that over time, we were running into people with North Carolina and Ohio connections that loved barbecue and listening to music. They share a ton in terms of their culture and their growth patterns; if you think of economically, they both have a hugely robust and growing economy.”

Tickets for the Ohiolina festival cost $35 for students and $45 for general admission.

Admission includes a barbecue dinner provided by the restaurant City Barbeque. Children under the age of 12 will gain free admission.

Koenig is already excited for the event’s future.

“It’s our ムbeta test’ year,” she said. “This is obviously being built from the ground up. We are looking forward to seeing how it goes, and expanding it and improving it next year and onward.”

The Ohiolina festival is sponsored in part by the Community Foundation of Mount Vernon and Knox County. Doors will open at noon, and musical acts run from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m.

A portion of the proceeds will go to the Community Foundation, which supports education in the arts.

Koenig is confident that the festival’s combination of food, music and location will make it a success.

“This is a passion project for us. We are really excited about it. We think it’s going to be a great group of musicians. It’s a beautiful location ラ an 85-acre family farm. That makes for some really scenic things to look at and experience when you’re listening to music.”

The Ohiolina Music Festival will take place at 19260 Hopewell Road, Mount Vernon. For more information on the festival, please visit, or Tickets are available at

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