There's a lengthy list of things that make the Festival for the Eno a unique gathering, so let's start with two: the home-cooked meals that women from the community prepare for the musicians, and the wooden stages that are built anew each year. That combination of civic pride, attention to detail and desire to do things the right way says all you really need to know about the festival.
But Greg Bell, coordinator of the 28th Festival for the Eno, understandably wants to say more. He's just finished helping build the last of the stages on one of the hottest days of 2007 so far. "We could hire a staging company to come in and set up aluminum stages," he says. "And then we'd have shiny stages that ring like a hammer when the cloggers are on them."
Right down to the sound and even the smell (don't you love that new pine?) of the stages, details matter to Bell. There's also the matter of the name: Members of the Eno River Association go out of their way to use the proper name, the Festival for the Eno, instead of the shorthand Eno Festival (it's not a preemptive strike against Brian or Roger, either). Yes, it's a traditional arts and culture festival, but one with an undeniable environmental message—it's for the Eno River. Fun is well and good, but Bell insists the ultimate goal is to "create conservationists."
And what better way to hook would-be conservationists than music, right? Across the festival's three days, those five newly constructed stages will host more than 100 acts, ranging from the very definition of well-established (Orange County bluesman John Dee Holeman; original Ramblers Craver, Watson and Hicks; roots rock native son Phil Lee) to relative upstarts (Midtown Dickens, Girlyman). Oh, and cloggers. Plenty of well-fed, non-ringing cloggers.
The Festival for the Eno is July 4 and July 7-8, running 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day. For a daily stage-by-stage schedule, see www.enoriver.org/Festival/Schedule/07scheduleweb.html. For ticket information, see www.enoriver.org/Festival/info.html.