Rodney Preddy Hosts Preddyfest
Rodney Preddy hosts his Preddyfest in Franklinton, NC, and I don't just mean that his name is on the website or just that he owns the nearly 100 acre property on the Tar River where camping is free with the three-day festival pass. Rodney hosts Preddyfest.
In 2009 the 12th annual festival started Thursday, May 21, but the campers were rolling in Saturday. While my husband and I lived only 20 minutes south, the rest of my family traveled from eastern North Carolina and Bluffton, South Carolina. They arrived early and set up camp for the entire week. I popped over Saturday afternoon for a visit, and while I was there, Rodney made an appearance at our campsite.
He let us know quickly he was ready for the pickin' to start and the work to slow down. Preparing for Preddyfest is no doubt a huge endeavor. My dad offered his services to help mow grass and the like, and Rodney explained he started mowing in April, and with all the rain we've had this year, he's mowed every five days.
While the camping is completely rough, the grounds are immaculate, and I've never seen such clean portable toilets in my life. We asked if Rodney had ice for sale yet, and he told us he would unlock the cooler and to just keep up with what we used and pay him Thursday. Just as we were about to hop in the golf carts and follow him up the hill to grab the ice, Rodney noticed my sister's guitar.
"Is that a Gibson?" he asked, lifting the treasure from it's stand. We explained that my grandfather, Don, left the 1958 guitar to my sister as he started to strum. Rodney shared stories about some of his own priceless, high-mileage instruments, and he played just a little "trying it out" music. Deborah winked at me, a hint of pride in her expression. She is used to fellow musicians recognizing and appreciating her family hierloom, and I think we could all sense Don smiling down on us with amusement.
I first realized I was a bluegrass fan when the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band released Will The Circle Be Unbroken, Vol. II in 1989. Between songs, I believe it is Emmylou Harris who compares the recording of the album to her family sitting around the living room making music. I think of my own childhood when I hear those words, of my grandfather playing his guitar, my dad and my uncle contributing with various instruments at different times, and my dad and my sisters' many years of trumpet playing. My only contribution is a weak attempt at singing.
Preddyfest feels the same way. After the shows on stage end, the pickin' in the campground commences. Groups gather in front of campers, strangers joining in, lurkers like me who can't make their own music providing an appreciative audience. Everyone is friendly and welcoming, and patient with the newbies as they try to strum quietly along and learn.
My husband and I have lost track of when we first joined Preddyfest - we get confused because he went the first time (Year 1 or 2?) without me. My dad joined around Year 7, then Julia, and finally in 2007, Deborah. It's definitely become something of a family reunion for us, literally, but it's felt like a family reunion all along. We renew friendships every year with fellow fans, and the sense of belonging to Preddyfest continues to grow.
Yes, Rodney Preddy hosts Preddyfest, and like any good host, he makes us all feel right at home.
Eighteen of Thirty
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