Sometimes a tragedy can spur inspiration and promote a lasting legacy. In the case of Shane Hulsey, a passionate environmentalist and kayaker, this inspiration is exactly what followed after his untimely death. Losing his life in a boating accident at his beloved Little River Canyon, Hulsey’s family and friends were compelled to honor his memory and continue his environmentally-conscious activities. But what started with a modest goal has resulted into a thriving organization known as the Hulsey Little River Trust (HLRT).
“The trust was founded when Shane Hulsey, who was an environmentalist and a kayaker that worked for the Cahaba River Society, died in a boating accident on the Little River in 2006,” HLRT board member Eartha McGoldrick says. “We held our first fundraiser with the intention of paying for his funeral costs and we did that and had several thousand dollars left over. We were wondering what do with all of the money, so we decided to start a non-profit in his name to honor him and honor the work that he did. We’re a land trust and our mission is to preserve and protect the Little River watershed. The Little River is up in northeast Alabama near the Fort Payne area.”
On Saturday, September 4, HLRT will host its annual Raindrop Festival & Disc Golf Tournament at George Ward Park. The event combines music, disc golf and literally all the beer you can drink for $20. In addition, sodas and pizza by the slice will be sold and complimentary water will be provided. The event marks the first time that the disc golf tournament and music festival have been melded into one single event.
“This is going to be our third music festival— it’s our big fundraiser of the year—and it’s our second disc golf tournament,” McGoldrick says. “This is the first time we’ve combined the two into one event. We did a disc golf tournament a couple of years ago and it was a big success, but if you weren’t playing in the tournament, there was no reason to attend the event. We had been wanting to do the festival outdoors ever since we started, but we wanted to get a couple under our belt first. We felt like this was the time to take it outdoors and see if we can make it a success as an outdoor festival and we think George Ward Park is a great venue for that. We decided to run the two events simultaneously.”
In addition to combining the two events, the HLRT decided to move the event to the fall to set it apart from the number of spring festivals that take place each year.
“We wanted to move the music festival close to the fall because there are so many great events going on in the spring and there is so much competition,” McGoldrick offers. “We thought we’d have less competition this time of year and it would be more open. We know it’s a holiday weekend, but we hope the folks that stay in town might want to get out and do something festive. The disc golf tournament will start earlier in the morning and will finish up by mid-afternoon. All the players get admission into the festival as part of their registration fee. The music starts in the pavilion at noon and it’s going to go until about 10:00 at night. Back Forty beer is providing refreshments, and for $20 you get to see all the bands and you get an unlimited beer cup.”
And don’t underestimate the caliber of talent that will perform on the pavilion’s stage. Followers of the local music scene will instantly recognize a number of the performers, including many that have made names for themselves on regional and national scales. Beginning with Nag Hammadi’s set at noon, a new set begins every hour with performances by The Magic Math, Delicate Cutters, Kate Taylor & The Twerps, Duquette Johnston & The Rebel Kings, Sunny So Brite, Twinside, Ferocious Bubbles, Teen Getaway and The Great Book of John. Interest from the artists in HLRT’s cause helped secure the talent for the day’s festivities.
“Two of the members of Sunny So Brite are involved with the group and so is Duquette Johnston,” McGoldrick says. “With their connections in the local music scene, they have reached out to other musicians and gotten them to come on board and play the festival. If we didn’t have those guys in our corner and passionate about our cause, it probably would have been a lot harder. They have put in tons of work and hours and have really reached out to the local music scene and gotten some great bands on board for us. Every year, I feel like we’ve had great lineups.”
Forming only four years ago, HLRT has obviously conducted its fundraising endeavors in challenging economic times. However, McGoldrick and her fellow board members are pleased by their results to this point.
“I feel like we’ve been pretty successful and we’ve gotten a good response from the community. We’ve really tried to work with local businesses and make this a community effort and we have been really fortunate to get great support,” McGoldrick says.
A consolidation of events, a new time of year and a new location are sure to bring a new feel to the festival and McGoldrick is optimistic about this year’s event. In addition, she hopes the festival doesn’t live up to its name.
“The first few years were at Bottletree, but this year we’ve taken it outdoors, which is something we’d been wanting to do,” she says. “We’re hoping that we get good weather and that’s our biggest concern because we have no control over that. We’ll roll with the punches as they come our way.”
Brent Thompson writes about popular music for Birmingham Weekly. Send your comments to email@example.com.