A little bird told me: Yellowhammer Festival to showcase music and art

A little bird told me: Yellowhammer Festival to showcase music and art

The Yellowhammer Festival will be this Sudan, April 3 from 2-8:30 p.m. at the Tuscaloosa River Market. Photo courtesy of Creative Campus interns

Late in the evening on Easter Sunday, Brandon Izor, a junior majoring in computer science, stood in the middle of the Creative Campus offices in Maxwell Hall and checked his mathematics work one last time. 

He and Francis Ittenbach, a senior majoring in English, stared at the table saw and PVC pipes in front of them and worried, not for the first time, if they miscalculated something along the way and if their careful plans would work. They lifted the saw and started cutting as their fellow interns continued their own frantic work around them. 

Within minutes, the two interns were surrounded by shavings and pieces of pipe, but they ignored the mess and grinned as they tested their creation: a huge xylophone made entirely of PVC pipes of various lengths. They hit the tops of the pipes, playing a unique note with each blow. 

This larger-than-life xylophone was constructed for an experimental music booth at this weekend’s Yellowhammer Festival, an event designed to promote sustainability, health-conscious activities and innovative forms of art and music.

“There’s a lot of different components to this [event]," said Rachel Raimist, co-director of Creative Campus and UA faculty member. "There’s lots of folks working on individual pieces, so when you come it’s not just a concert. It really is a festival experience, a festival vibe, and there’s things for you to do. Make art, learn about sustainability, make music, listen to music – there’s something for everyone.” 

Creative Campus with University Programs and Student Government Association will host Yellowhammer Festival this Sunday, April 3, from 2-8:30 p.m. at the Tuscaloosa River Market, which is also sponsoring the event. The event is free to the public and kicks off when the first notes are played at 2:15 p.m. 

For the interns at Creative Campus, this festival has been a long time coming. The original Yellowhammer Festival, set to take place last spring at the University of Alabama Arboretum, was canceled due to days of torrential rain ruining the festival grounds area.

Raimist said this setback did not deter the interns. 

“As soon as we came back this year, the first thing everyone asked was, ‘Are we doing Yellowhammer? Are we doing Yellowhammer?’ ” Raimist said. 

Tiana Raimist-Carter, Alyx Chandler and Hannah MacInnis served as project directors called key communicators and led a team of over 30 interns to organize a re-vamped, larger version of the original Yellowhammer Festival. The new Yellowhammer still has the core values of sustainability, collaboration, local arts and music, but with an extra year to plan, the interns upgraded almost everything else. 

Creative Campus was able to create this upgraded version of Yellowhammer largely due to their partnerships with the Tuscaloosa River Market, University Programs and the Student Government Association, who made the scale and size of the festival possible. Senior business management major and SGA President Elliot Spillers spoke fondly of his time spent working closely with Creative Campus for the past two semesters.

“SGA has been very hands-on with Yellowhammer," Spillers said. "Literally every Monday at 1 p.m. we have our meeting with the Yellowhammer team and our SGA team. I’m very proud of my team for delving into this and taking it on. SGA’s hand is all over it, to support Creative Campus and help the partnership. I’ll definitely be there Sunday, pedaling on the bike. I’ll have my headphones on, my sweatband on, to make sure we’re giving power to the events.”

Michael Day, a junior management information system major and SGA’s Yellowhammer team leader, said his time spent working with Creative Campus is proof of the power of multiple groups working in tandem to raise funds and implement the larger vision. 

“Both organizations put on events regularly, and I think this one is unique in that it's got a taste of what we both do," Day said. "In order to appeal to a large, diverse crowd, you have to brainstorm with a large crowd. It's really cool to see so many individual ideas come together. You'll see it out at the River Market Sunday. This is a multi-year, ongoing effort but nonetheless we expect this Sunday to be a great example of what we can accomplish as a team.”

Raimist-Carter, a sophomore majoring in New College and public relations, credited the huge, diverse team for their effort and work over the last seven months. Raimist-Carter herself has spent almost her entire time as a Creative Campus intern working with Yellowhammer. 

“I came into the internship knowing I wanted to work on Yellowhammer,” Raimist-Carter said. “And coming in with the general things pinned down, like Rock the Bike and the local artists and the focus on sustainability, gave us space in the room to focus on specifics and everything we needed to do to make this festival as incredible as possible.”

The festival itself will have several key components: a large collaborative art piece, an experimental music booth, a beer garden, food vendors, a kids area, a small outdoor stage and a large indoor stage, where headliner Sister Hazel and local music acts Looksy, Wray, The Doctors and the Lawyers and Shaheed and DJ Supreme will play. This larger stage will be partially powered by bicycles using technology from Rock the Bike, a company based in Oakland, California, that strives to promote bike culture and sustainability. 

Since 2007, Rock the Bike has rented “pedal-power” bikes out for a variety of events, such as make-your-own smoothie booths, neon-lit spin classes and concerts, and they are teaming up with Creative Campus this weekend to present a music festival powered by its own attendees. Twenty-two bikes will be set up around the main stage, and festival goers are encouraged to sign up for 15-minute time slots to pedal and keep the music going.

“Really, as Creative Campus we wanted to bring something new, something that hasn’t been here before," said Trent Carlson, a junior majoring in journalism and political science and a communicator for Rock the Bike. "We thought Rock the Bike was such a cool addition for this festival. It’s a completely green energy source."

Rock the Bike is a crucial element of the festival as a sustainable, eco-friendly activity that attendees can observe and participate in. Chandler, a senior majoring in journalism and marketing, expressed her excitement that Creative Campus and its partners were able to marry their value of sustainability with the overall vision of the festival.

"This festival is all about combining the recent hype of music festivals and combining it with a passion to make Tuscaloosa more sustainable as a community," Chandler said. "We want to show that being more eco-friendly can be exciting, not this hassle that people sometimes think it is."

Attendees are encouraged to engage in activities throughout the festival, such as adding to a large collaborative mural constructed with bottle caps collected from individuals throughout Tuscaloosa and bins placed in clubs, bars and on-campus greek facilities. The mural will be on display at the festival then moved to the Sassafras Center for Arts and the Environment. 

Another spot to get involved is the Flux tent, where people will be able to try out experimental instruments and non-traditional musical scores. 

“We wanted a way to introduce people to that world without scaring them, because experimental music can get a little weird,” said Ittenbach, one of the co-communicators for this booth and the outdoor stage. “We came up with the idea for this booth to allow people to have a hands-on experience with these instruments, make noise with them. We want to show people these things can be used in totally different ways than you normally expect.”

Many hands have worked to produce this final Yellowhammer product, and Creative Campus’ collaborative process has created a diverse festival almost unimaginable by the interns who began working in August. 

“We’ve had so many different versions of Yellowhammer in the past year before we finally said, this is what we want,” said MacInnis, a senior majoring in public relations.  “I think it’s so interesting, because I’ve never seen anything like this. There are so many people between the University and the campus that can affect this place for the positive. And because of the amount of diversity and different things that we do, this complements that all so well.”

Additional details, bike time slot sign-ups and volunteer forms for the festival can all be found on their Facebook page at  www.facebook.com/yellowhammerfestival/.

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