Music festivals are notoriously ground zero for excess - when it comes to both festival goers and festival throwers. As Libby Rose, founder of Wildwood Revival puts it, "That is what so much of festival culture has become. Less about the experience, more about the mighty dollar." So, when her family acquired Cloverleaf Farm in Arnoldsville, Georgia (located right outside of Athens and a quick two-hour drive from Atlanta) she knew it was a chance to create an out of the ordinary experience that didn’t fit the typical music festival culture. “We've always had a strong passion for music and talked about the dream of producing a unique music festival of our own. Perhaps serendipitously, our family acquired what is now Cloverleaf Farm and we knew it was the ideal setting."
Now, three years later, that festival continues to grow substantially and organically, hosting acts like Shakey Graves, The Wild Reeds, and JD McPherson. As there about page denotes, Wildwood Revival is a little bit country, a little bit rock n’ roll, and everything in between.
When it came time to curate their own ideal festival experience, they not only knew what they wanted - but also what they wanted to avoid. "We had attended so many festivals across the country, but we felt there was something missing and much about them we wanted to leave behind. We wanted to create a festival atmosphere without the unpleasantries of high-dollar bottled water and food, folks crammed mercilessly into a cattle-call like environment with hundreds of thousands of people and trash everywhere."
What they ended up creating was an experience that landed sweetly somewhere between a music festival and a cozy backyard bbq. "We took some of the things we liked about the other [festivals] and rolled in some ideas that we thought would create a more communal environment. Part of that communal environment is hiring local vendors, artist, and liquor companies to serve the guest. We serve food from local farmers, partner with small craft beer, wine, and liquor companies, and even throw some wiffle ball and yoga in there too. Our artisan market features vintage clothing, antiques, printmakers, woodworkers, 1800's era tintype photography, leather makers, handmade crafts and more. Guests get all that and amazing music."
If the 'Wildwood' explains its location outside of the hustle and bustle of the city, the 'Revival' refers to that communal aspect they've worked so hard to cultivate, because as Libby puts it, "our goal was to "revive community. Over the past several decades, we've all seen how suburban sprawl has disintegrated individual communities and created the ubiquitous and homogenized "burbs" that we see today. Having grown up as the quintessential suburbanites until we were early teenagers, we have that first-hand experience of what was lacking and we felt like we knew what those voids were. We wanted to take the feeling you get from visiting places like small town juke joints, honky tonks, farmers markets, swap meets, front porch parties, and supper clubs and bring those elements to the farm in the form of a festival. We've grown a lot over the course of the last few years. We deliberately chose not to advertise and let the festival grow by word of mouth so the crowd could stay an intimate size and attendees could get the most out of the experience."
Not only are attendees in for a treat in the form of some of music's most talented up and coming acts, there's a whole farm of experiences you can take part in. "We've incorporated yoga, lawn games, workshops, dance parties with a range of old music from Motown to The Rolling Stones, a live band karaoke set which was a huge hit last year, and a bunch of other cool stuff. We're like an Adult Camp with a really great soundtrack. It's amazing watching live band karaoke. I'm in awe of the people that can get up there and sing without inhibition, and then it's really funny to watch the ones who are singing some awful 80s hair metal song and getting really into it."
Outside of wanting attendees to let loose in the form of an 80s hair band cover, or two, Libby wants attendees to allow the communal aspect of the festival to grow not only their appreciation for music but their circle of friends. "We want Wildwood to become a "family" reunion of sorts over the years. A place where you came with your friends but made some new ones and that circle keep growing every year. The festival is designed to be a sort of "staycation" for people coming in from Atlanta. You don't have to drive too far to get out of the city, but once you're there it feels like you're far away."