The Preserve in Hoover—a community rife with classic American architecture, walking trails, waterfalls and open space—is the ideal combination of a traditional neighborhood and a forward-thinking nature haven. On Saturday, November 6 and Sunday, November 7, The Preserve will once again host the Moss Rock Festival, an event that melds food, art, music and nature awareness among many other attractions. Admission to the event is free and festival times are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day.
“Our four pillars are nature, eco-ideas, art and design,” says Eileen Kunzman, founder and director of the festival. “Out of these four arenas we build the event. We tell everyone when they come out to get ready to relax, wander, hike, bike, eat, sit, learn, talk, listen and view—just have a good time. You’re going to discover something new. In the actual physical space, most of the tent exhibits are on hard surface around a major green center, so there’s all this grass in the middle with a raceway inside the green space. At one end is town hall and at the other end is the Preserve Parkway. On the opposite side of the parkway is the actual Moss Rock Preserve.”
Entering its fifth year of existence, the festival has seen annual crowds in excess of 10,000 and Kunzman anticipates this year’s attendance to fall between 12,000 and 16,000. I ask Kunzman how the initial idea developed for a festival in this specific community.
“My company was invited to the table by the city of Hoover, Freshwater Land Trust and The Preserve neighborhood and it was a collaborative effort among all three entities to do something big in Hoover,” she recalls. “This particular neighborhood is a new [one] and when I visited the neighborhood, I was struck by the fact that this nature preserve was there, that there were sidewalks and it was a community that really was about community and getting outside and being healthy and enjoying and knowing your neighbors. Those were influences on us when we began to design an option for everyone to think about the festival.”
Once the festival location was finalized, Kunzman and her team began to determine a focus point for the event. “From our perspective, creativity and artists are a core element,” Kunzman says. “To me and those I worked with, it was a great opportunity to talk about how creativity goes across all strata—the artists are creative as are architects, as are engineers, scientists and ecologists. Everybody is born with creative energy and possibilities, so it was a way to start merging these ideas and this energy.”
In addition to promoting green and natural awareness, Moss Rock Festival will feature healthy doses of food and drink. The “BrewHa- Ha” beer tasting, sponsored by Good People Brewing Company and Birmingham Weekly, and the “Off The Vine” wine tasting, sponsored by Whole Foods Market and Birmingham Home & Garden, will be held from 12:30 – 2 p.m. and 2:30 – 4 p.m. Tickets are $15 for each session and can be reserved by calling (205) 595-6306.
The festival’s eating village, known as “Café By The Woods,” will offer everything from American comfort food to international cuisine.
“We think eating is key to anywhere you go, so our café has really tremendous food from a vegetarian menu to fabulous desserts and everything in between,” Kunzman says.
Continuous live music will be featured on both days as well, with music beginning at 11 a.m. on Saturday and 12 p.m. on Sunday with a different act taking the stage at the top of each hour. On Saturday, the lineup includes Lolly Lee, Nettie Jane Slumpf, Wilder Atkins (Brew-Ha-Ha area), Mile Marker 7, Joel Madison Blount, The David Seale Accident and VASA. Sunday’s lineup includes Charles Tortorici, Jon Vogel, Glenn Tolbert & Company, Shinbone Ridge and the Jason Bailey Band. The musical lineup represents several genres and blends newer artists with longtime local favorites.
“We have a brilliant young woman here, Paula Boggan, who happens to know musicians, and musicians who know musicians,” Kunzman offers. “Before you know it, there are people that want to be [at Moss Rock] playing their music. Paula’s a graduate from the School of Fine Arts and we’ve known her for a long time and now she’s back making things happen.”
While worthwhile attractions, exhibits and events are key components to any successful festival, so are sponsorship, support and funding. Kunzman and her planning team have received steady and loyal support despite challenging economic times.
“We have found the sponsors to be very willing—our headlining sponsor is Princeton Baptist Medical Center,” she says. “We are taking the idea to companies and individuals that we think have a good, compatible posture with a festival like this. We’ve gotten warm and generous responses from lots of people. We’ve had sponsors that have come on board and stayed on board. The board and our group here are exquisite at keeping costs down. We have so many sponsors that are ‘In-kind’ sponsors— they’re not giving us cash, but they’re giving us the elements that a festival needs that you would pay dearly for. We have a lot of people still doing that and it is a huge asset.”
Other key elements are transportation and crowd-flow management and Kunzman’s team is accommodating festival attendees in those areas. Some sponsors and exhibits will even be available to attendees at the shuttle site.
“Everyone shuttles into the Preserve neighborhood from Regions Park, so it’s doorto-door shuttle and an easy, convenient ride over,” Kunzman says. “The shuttle buses will run continually so there’s no waiting. The big thing about the Regions Park connection is that we have two of our recyclers that are going to be there, Electronic Recycling and Secure Document Destruction. For anyone that would like to test-drive a Smart Car, that’s where it’s going to be located, too.”
While test-driving cars and tasting wine will appeal to adults, Moss Rock Festival has not forgotten about its younger festivalgoers. The “WonderKid Studios”—described by the festival as “Interactive art workshops for kids using the observation of nature as a launching point for creative projects”—is presented by From Scratch Design, Alabama State Council on the Arts and Alabama Baby & Child. In connection with the “WonderKid Studios” is “Planet Project” presented by Alagasco. This year, “Planet Project” will challenge children to create a house from recycled materials while teaching children about the green-building industry and the value of recycling. The students will construct walls created from recycled items and attach them to existing model house frames that will be present on the festival site. Participating schools include Berry Middle School, Bumpus Middle School, Greystone Elementary, Simmons Middle School and Trace Crossings Elementary School. Kunzman feels strongly about providing enjoyment and educational opportunities for the festival’s child attendees.
“One of the things I like to talk about is the area for children,” she offers. “We call it the ‘WonderKid Studios’ and the experiences that children get in that area [are] unmatched. We keep the elements of children’s education and creative outlets very strong here.”
A goal of any festival is to provide a consistent, familiar setting along with new wrinkles that keep the event fresh. An influx of new artists alongside returning artists—jewelry, clay, photography, glass, sculpture and paint among other mediums—will be abundant at this year’s Moss Rock Festival.
“There’s always something fresh,” Kunzman says. “We may have 50 to 60 returning artists and 40 that are new. In the ‘Eco-Ideas’ district, we’ve gone from 18 to 43 partners, so it’s about finding out that people are getting more serious about sustainability and their own footprint and how things are moving forward to make it better for everybody.”
When this year’s festival comes to another successful close, Kunzman and her team will immediately begin planning for the 2011 event. “We go year-round,” Kunzman says.
“When it’s over, we’re out there thanking everybody, but we’re also positioning those that we know want to stay involved and we begin to look for artists. It’s a challenge and an opportunity to keep people involved and to make it easy for people and companies to be involved. It’s all about the ease of relationships that you try to build. So, it’s about trying to be aware and respectful of peoples’ time but also involving them. All kinds of things are happening all year long.”
Brent Thompson writes about popular music and culture for Birmingham Weekly. Send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.