The 16th annual Blackberry Jam, set for 10 a.m-10 p.m. Saturday, has become a symbol of community and music coming together for a greater cause.
In this case, the cause is to raise money for Franklin’s Hard Bargain Association, the community organization that seeks to preserve the historic Hard Bargain neighborhood in downtown Franklin. Formalized in the early 2000s, the organization is focused on renovating existing homes, building high-quality affordable housing and enriching the lives of its neighbors.
Just like the sixth man in basketball or the 12th man in football, Jam fans are the final piece of the puzzle that brings together a day of music, food, fun and charity. It is the fans who bring their generosity and enthusiasm, kick back in their lawn chairs or dance on the green grass to help support what the Jam is all about.
William Covington was one such longtime fan.
“William loved music and Hard Bargain, and volunteered each year for the Blackberry Jam,” said Jam founder Carol Warren about Covington, who died in April. “The last few years, he served as co-host of the festival. Starting this year, we will be recognizing a volunteer (individual or group) each year ... with the Col. William Covington Award in his honor.”
Fans such as Lori de los Santos have been coming for years and plan on continuing the tradition.
“We’ve been to five in a row, so far. Starting with Ashley Cleveland,” she says.
Other fans, such as Heather Gentry Peters, a Hendersonville veterinarian, have attended every Blackberry Jam since the beginning. She’s brought her husband, David, along with son Griffin to enjoy his favorite band: M.S.G. Acoustic Blues Trio, which will bring its Piedmont Blues stylings to center stage again this weekend.
“I have been at all of the Blackberry Jams through the years, and wouldn’t miss it!” Peters said, “I pack my car with chairs, cooler and family, and drive an hour to the farm to enjoy an entire day of relaxation and music. The warmth of spirit and quality of music is outstanding. There is nothing like it.
“The proceeds go to a very good cause, but what really keeps me coming back is the pure joy and peace I find listening to fantastic musicians in such a beautiful environment.”
Each summer, Carol Warren and Dale Whitehead's Boyd Mill blackberry farm comes to life with the sounds of Americana, soul, bluegrass, folk and other music for one magical event. This year’s gathering will showcase multi-faceted Texas soul man, Lee Roy Parnell.
As a previous attendee of the Jam, Parnell can also be counted among those who have been affected by the experience as a fan.
“I’m really looking forward to kicking off the berry-picking season and helping raise funds and awareness for Hard Bargain,” he said. “This is such a rare slice of Americana.”
Carol Warren said she remembers seeing Parnell sitting in the field, just enjoying the Jam while supporting other musicians and the community.
This year, it will come full circle as he closes the festival with what is guaranteed to be a highlight for fans and volunteers alike.
Also performing at this year’s festival will be youth bluegrass/acoustic duo Giri and Uma Peters, country/bluegrass musician Lockwood Barr, ’80s acoustic country roots stars Baillie & The Boys, modern folk band Freddy and Francine, M.S.G. Acoustic Blues Trio and much more.
The gate will open at 9:30 a.m. and festivities will kick off at 10, with radio show Viva! NashVegas broadcasting from the Puckett’s stage. There will be a children’s concert from noon to 2 p.m. with music continuing until 10 p.m. Visitors are welcome to bring chairs, blankets, beverages in ice chests and well-mannered dogs on leashes.
The event is presented by Franklin’s Downtown and Noon Rotary Clubs. Tickets are $10 in advance (plus $1.09 service fee) or $15 at the gate, with ages 12 and younger admitted for free. For a full lineup and further information, visit www.theblackberryjam.com.