Sassafras Festival offers music, food and entertainmentBy Lauren Lane | 10/21/2015 9:09pm
Photo courtesy of Sydney Smith
As midterms come to a close, Creative Campus is providing students with the opportunity to unwind and enjoy an afternoon at Sassafras Festival from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. on October 25 at the Sassafras Center for Arts and Environment.
The event is featuring two local artists, Brantley Charles and Wolf Tree, as well as an improvisational music group, Off the Top. There will also be a community storytelling segment about life in Tuscaloosa and free food for all who attend as part of a potluck meal.
“The goal for the event is to make a feeling of a community and bring awareness about the Sassafras Center,” said Sydney Smith, a senior majoring in business, who is the community arts liason for Creative Campus. “Live music is always a plus and it’s a great time to get to come and meet community members and other college students.”
Sassafras Center for Arts and Environment is an organization that supports community arts in Tuscaloosa and works on initiatives for the environmental sector of the city. They also serve to foster creativity in the community and provide the technical assistance and programming to do so. Their current projects include building a new art studio and planting fruit orchards on their grounds for the community to enjoy.
“Creative Campus is very closely linked with Sassafras,” said Francis Ittenbach, a senior majoring in English and a Creative Campus intern. “One of our directors is on the board of directors at Sassafras and many of our members work directly with them. A main reason we wanted to be a part of it is to expose people to a new type of creativity that people may not really find unless they went out of their way to find it. We want to give it to them in the form of a family-friendly, free, fall festival and thought it would be a cool experience for the audience and performers.”
Smith said one of the most creative and enjoyable parts of the Sassafras Festival each year is the improv musical performance from Off the Top, made up of several Creative Campus interns, including Ittenbach.
“Off the Top is an experimental way of thinking outside the box and brings musicians together, forcing them to think on their feet and do a piece that has no direction except where you want to take it,” Ittenbach said.
Ittenbach plays the guitar and will be joined by several other musicians including a banjo player and a didgeridoo player. They will each begin playing and work together to create an unforgettable musical piece. Attendees of the festival are invited to bring their instruments and perform alongside them during their act.
“The basis of Off the Top is to not only provide an experience of creating but to expose the audience to a different kind of a creation than they are used to,” Ittenbach said. “This is all based on the idea that art and music is collaborative and through that there are so many different ways to express creativity, specifically through the lens of improv.”
Smith said that she is excited for students to see a different side of creativity but also of Tuscaloosa. She wants students to see that it is more than just the University, the strip, or even downtown.
“I think it’s so easy when you’re at UA to just stay in the shrubbery and never venture out,” Smith said. “You may venture out to tutor in an elementary school or to work with a volunteer organization but this is an opportunity to really get to know the community on a personal level. It’s just really fulfilling to get a better sense of Tuscaloosa and grow roots in this city that are deeper than campus and the one part we all pack into.”
Smith is excited about providing her peers with the opportunity to get to learn about Sassafras and hopefully be apart of its growth. She also encourages students to attend the festival in order to grow closer with members of Tuscaloosa and the student body.
“What better way to build community than have a potluck, sit around a bonfire, share food and stories and listen to some music together?” Smith said.
Sassafras Festival will take place at 3228 Loop Road with parking at Winters Drive. Creative Campus encourages students to bring a favorite dish, instrument, story or just a picnic blanket and enjoy an afternoon building community and fostering creativity.