Home > Around Town > Bruce Lehman and Vincent Village bring the Roots and Rhythm Festival back to Headwaters Park

Bruce Lehman and Vincent Village bring the Roots and Rhythm Festival back to Headwaters Park

By Ben Larson

Fort Wayne Reader


August 15th will bring the second annual Roots and Rhythm festival at Headwaters park, an all day music festival designed to raise money for the area’s homeless population. Specifically, the proceeds from the event will go to Vincent Village, an organization that has been dedicated to assisting homeless families for the past 20 years. I had a chance to talk to Bruce Lehman, the organizer for the event, to find out the origins behind the event, why it is important to the community, and what attendees can expect while they are there.

In term of how R&R got started, Lehman said that Vincent Village’s board of directors was looking to do a fundraiser, but wanted to try something different from the normal walks or golf outings. “They challenged to board to do something different,” Lehman told me, “so I said ‘how about this?’ I had had the Roots and Rhythm thing in my head for a while.” He then went on to say that he and his wife have been attending music festivals for years, and have always really enjoyed it. “So Vincent Village said “go for it.”’

Lehman says that the name of the festival also ties in with their philosophy. “These homeless families have lost their roots, and if you lose your roots your rhythm goes sour too. What Vincent Village tries to do is to put roots and rhythm back in people’s lives and help homeless families.” He then went on to say “what we’re trying to accomplish here is for people to recognize that we’re trying to provide for the needy, but we’re also providing something that the community doesn’t get much of, and that’s a big ol’ music festival. Fort Wayne’s a great place for music, and we just want to add to that.”

Lehman said that all of the proceeds will go directly to benefiting the homeless families in our area. He also pointed out that a staggering 70% of the homeless population is made up of children. “And it’s growing because of the way the economy has dipped, so we’re seeing more need these days,” he added. “That’s another thing that the festival does is to educate people.”

Last year’s festival raised $7,000 for Vincent Village, and Lehman stated that he hopes to double that this year.

In regards to this years’ lineup, attendees can expect a wide variety of acts, ranging from R&B to country, hot jazz, old timey music, and even some music that can’t easily be categorized. When I asked Lehman about his reasons for making it such a diverse event, he said “well, we’re a diverse community,” and followed up with “we wanted to present something to the community that just wasn’t happening anywhere else.” Lehman also hopes to use this diversity in the musical acts to mirror the diversity in out local culture. “We’re a diverse community, and some of that community doesn’t have homes.”

As far as the acts themselves, people who attend the festival will see an R&B set by local singer Ty Causey (who some of you may remember from his stellar performance at this year’s Down The Line show). Local country act Huckleberry Blue will also be bringing their unique style of rough-edged country to the stage. We will also see some swing/blues/bluegrass harmonica playing from P.T. Gazelle, who will also be putting on a harmonica workshop at noon that day. Admission to the workshop is free with the purchase of a festival ticket. The Goldmine Pickers will play a set of “newgrass” Americana. We will also see the return of the Two Man Gentlemen Band, a vaudeville-esque hot jazz duo, who will be making their third appearance in Fort Wayne in the past 12 months. After that, The Freighthoppers will take the stage with a set of “high energy old time music,” according to Lehman. Last up will be Arvel Bird and Fred Rothert. In regards to what they sound like, Lehman said “you might hear some Celtic, you might hear bluegrass, mixed in with some contemporary Native American stuff.” He then finished his rundown of the bands by saying “It’s a hell of a show, and we’re really pleased to be able to present this kind of diversity.”

I next asked Lehman what his goals were for the festival’s future, and if he saw any kind of expansion in the future. “My goal would be to own property where we could have a 3-day festival,” he said. “I have a mindset that we could continue to turn this public on its ear,” adding “my goal right now is to bring Pete Seeger here.” He quickly added that no promises are being made (Mr. Seeger is, after all, 90 years old), “but that’s the kind of dreaming we need to do.”

In addition to the music going on, there will also be several local vendors on hand to provide refreshments. Mad Anthony Brewing Co. will be on hand selling their hand-crafted beers. Albright’s Meats and Deli will be selling food. Maui Wowie smoothies will be available, as will Dawgz Dogs. And to top it all off, Old Crown Coffee Roasters will be providing coffee for the day.

Tickets are $20, and can be purchased at rootsandrhythm.org, by calling 456-7172 ext. 229, and at the North Anthony location of Wooden Nickel Music (cash only at this location). See you there!

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©2018 Fort Wayne Reader. All rights Reserved.