Chris Yoder had attended every iteration of Bonnaroo since 2006. At this summer's festival, he suffered a fatal heatstroke. Yoder's friends remember him as a remarkably loyal and driven individual. "He laid everything out on the line," says Evan Harris, a friend and fellow N.C. State graduate.
"He was one of the smartest people I'd ever met," recalls Kathryn Bowman, also an N.C. State graduate. "He was a very mechanical and mathematical person. He wanted to know the way things worked, and why they worked the way they did."
His enthusiasm for engineering, for which he received his undergraduate degree in 2010, was matched by his feverish love of music. Yoder frequented a number of festivals, but he developed a special affection for Bonnaroo, the first festival he'd ever attended and his entrée to a world of new music. "Chris told me that if he could wake up every day and have live music playing, from sunup to sundown, it would be a dream come true," says Harris. Not surprisingly, festivals were Yoder's natural habitat, the place he felt he could most be himself.
Yoder dreamed of founding a music festival of his own, and he planned to do so once he acquired the requisite land and funds to support the project. "His face would light up when he talked about it. It's safe to say that he loved music more than anything in this world; it was one of his driving forces in life. He wanted a music festival to be his imprint on this earth," says Kathryn. Since his death, Yoder's friends and family have collaborated on the organization of Yoderfest. "We wanted to pursue this dream of Chris's in his memory because we know how much it would have meant," Kathryn says. Yoderfest is a fundraiser, with the proceeds going to what Kathryn calls "the Mexican version of Habitat for Humanity." Through the organization, a house will be built in Mexico to benefit a family in need in Yoder's name.
Once & Future Kings, Supatight, Beside the Fire and African Buffalo will perform; all the bands have connections to Yoder or his friends. —Nina Rajagopalan