DADE CITY – Along wide open fields, a part of Central Florida not spoiled by over-development, Mitch Lind sees something truly wonderful: a slice of Americana.
He also envisions something else: a guaranteed opportunity to boogie.
“This Americana movement is becoming more popular throughout the United States,” Lind said, “because it is pulling people away from mainstream music and showing them they can make their choices in terms of what they listen to, and not just turn on their radio and have it fed to them.”
Lind, the president of Lind Entertainment Corp. of Polk City, is the founder, organizer and driving force behind the RiverHawk Music Festival, which will be held from Thursday through Sunday at the Sertoma Youth Ranch near Dade City. It’s a weekend of food, camping, vendors, youth programs – and music.
So much, he said, that it’s possible to find any kind of music you like on one stage or another.
“You can explore musical avenues here at this show,” he said. “These bands are not hokey bands. They get with it, man. You’re going to hear great music and camp with your family. It rocks at night.”
As Lind noted, diversity will be the key word here. RiverHawk features something for everyone — alternative country, Rockabilly, Cajun, bluegrass, roots rock and more. The festival is offering more than 25 national touring bands on four stages, and the lineup includes Dave Alvin & the Guilty Ones, Searson, Steve Riley & the Mamou Playboys, Claire Lynch Band, Grand Slambovians, and Carolyn Wonderland — for starters.
The guitar licks start at 6 p.m. on Thursday, and continue daily from 10 a.m. until midnight – a constant stream of melodic sounds all throughout the ranch, Lind noted.
“The 90-acre Sertoma Youth Ranch is a beautiful wooded campground with a stream lining through it,” Lind said. “We started the show in 1995 in November, and it’s always been on that weekend. We’re at the point now where folks put it on their calendar and recognize it as a holiday as much as Thanksgiving. I think what they’re seeing and what they’re enjoying about it is it’s not a mainstream commercial festival. The music is diverse and unknown to most of the newcomers.”
That’s a key reason why Lind organized the festival 17 years ago: to provide a platform for a wide selection of music and talented performers that audiences might not be familiar with if they rarely stray beyond FM radio or MTV videos.
“Our statement normally is that 90 percent of the people only hear 10 percent of their available music in the world,” Lind said. “We have bands from Australia, Canada, New Zealand, England, Ireland and all over the United States, and these festivals are gaining popularity in that they’re showing people that there is a way to go to a music festival without the bombardment of big industry.”
If the music is diverse, so is the mood, and ambiance, that the bands conjure up at any one time during the day, he added.
“The atmosphere could be anywhere from relaxed to absolute boogie, because as the day increases, the music gets more intense and it grows with the day,” he said. “We have four stages of music at any given time. If you don’t like what you hear on one stage, take a walk and you’ll hear something else. We have great audience participation, and we have workshops that include playing on the banjo and guitar.”
What’s also important to keep in mind, Lind said, is that music isn’t the only thing happening at the festival.
“We have a lot of contests,” he said. “We play adult musical chairs set to a live band on Sunday. You’ve got to see a couple of hundred people doing musical chairs, it’s just crazy. Many of our acts are very theatrical and gaining a lot of crowd participation. We have tons of good quality cuisine, not just the junk food you’d normally get at a fair. We have gourmet chefs in our festival kitchen and festival vendors, and it’s really good food. We’re very particular about who we bring in for the food. And it’s a great place to do your Christmas shopping, because we have vendors who bring in their own soap and jewelry and stuff, and it’s all hand-made.”
This event started out in 1995 as the Wings and Strings Music Festival at Fantasy of Flight in Polk City, but eventually got moved to Sertoma Youth Ranch, where the name was changed to RiverHawk Music Festival.
“We just parted ways with Fantasy of Flight and it was either have a chicken wing festival or re-name it because we didn’t have any airplanes,” Lind said.
Since then, the event has grown in size, and “the average attendance is around 30,000 people,” Lind said. “It’s a big family event. We have grandparents and their kids and their kids’ kids. The whole family is out there for four days.”
It’s also done for a good cause, he added.
“A large portion of the proceeds go to the Sertoma Youth Ranch,” he said. “Kids can go in there at the youth ranch and camp for free. These events support the camp for the year so kids can utilize the camp at no cost, and we have a total full schedule of events for the kids.”
Attendees are encouraged to bring lawn chairs, but no coolers. Advance tickets range in cost from $10 to $45 daily, although on Sunday there’s a $30 carload special.
Tickets for all four days are $115. Kids ages 13-18 get in for $15 a day, and kids ages 12 and under get in free.
The camp is at 85 Myers Road in Dade City. To learn more, call 863-984-8445, log on to www.riverhawkmusic.com, or email Riverhawk1@lindentertainment.com.
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