After a 15-year run, Clayton has enjoyed its last Millstock. The June arts and music festival is giving way to a similar event, but one with a more global view.
Like Millstock, the new Mondo Roots cultural arts festival will take place the first Saturday in June, with Town Square as its anchor.
“We have a vision that’s similar to Millstock in that it will be an arts festival with music and vendors,” said organizer Dave Brown said. “But that’s where the similarities stop.”
Brown said Clayton Visual Arts, the organizer of Millstock, offered the festival to his Earthplow Productions, which also puts on the Clayton Shindig. But Brown said he thought Clayton needed a different kind of festival.
That festival, Mondo Roots, will include blues, funk, soul, reggae, a New Orleans second line band and local musician Ivan Hampden. The art will showcase chainsaw sculptures from Princeton’s Corey Lancaster, as well as muralists, painters and sculptors. Brown also promises beer.
“In a nutshell, we’re bringing in every single walk of life, race, ethnic group and offering a platform for which to display their art, mediums and passions,” Brown said. “Beyond all that celebrating diversity and empowering everyone, we’re just going to have some amazing musical acts and artists.”
Brown said culture and heritage can be tricky things. He’s English by ancestry, but as a sixth-generation North Carolinian, the boats that got his family here have long since sailed into history. We’re all from different places but add up to one society, he said. With the new festival, Brown said he hoped to celebrate diversity that typically doesn’t make it to a Clayton stage.
“We’re all mud, right?” Brown said. “We all come from different cultures. Mondo means ‘the world,’ a great, all-encompassing collection of everyone. So with Mondo Roots, we’re surrounding the world.”
Clayton Visual Arts president Amy Beshgetoorian said Millstock was beginning to fizzle and generally attracted the same kind of people. With the new festival, she said her hopes have no limits.
“When you’d fill out the ethnic-diversity numbers for the grassroots grant we get from the Johnston County Arts Council, you’d see [Millstock] was kind of a one-note festival,” Beshgetoorian said. “Increasing the diversity of the CVA is one of my goals as president.”
She said the Mondo Roots lineup feels like a mix of soul and Mardi Gras and has helped attract new artists and vendors.
“There are lots of vendors who weren’t part of last year’s festival, so the interest is there,” Beshgetoorian said. “In some ways, we’re still kind of a segregated community, and I want to bridge that gap.”
Millstock nodded to Clayton’s mill town past and was a festival that could be held only in town. Brown said Mondo Roots is a festival that happens to be in Clayton, though he wouldn’t want to hold it anywhere else. In the quickly growing town, Brown said, he regularly sees new faces bringing new ideas to Clayton, and he thinks the new festival is the right move for this time in Johnston County’s history.
“This is not a Clayton music festival,” Brown said. “It’s a regional festival, a North Carolina festival. This should span cultures from Manteo to Durham. ... Clayton has very quickly become what we always believed it could be, kind of an Asheville of the East Coast. There’s been a coming together of diversity that’s been needed. It’s not the 1950s anymore. There’s a whole culture of people in town who needed a stage or platform or voice.”
Brown credits the Clayton Town Council for emphasizing art downtown and for creating an environment where large-scale festivals and concerts are normal.
“The current generation of Clayton leaders has made this possible,” Brown said. “Butch Lawter, Jody McLeod, James Lipscomb, they had the vision and foresight to embrace the arts. They have helped make Clayton a better place to live, attracting more and more people, making it more diverse.”
Brown said Mondo Roots has booked a few dozen vendors and artists so far. Musical acts will perform from 1 to 9 p.m. on June 4, with Main Street blocked off from O’Neil to Church Street. Like Millstock, Mondo Roots is free to attend.
Brown has high hopes for his inaugural festival, but said he sees this year as simply a jumping-off point.
“I never set out to try to fill a hole in the community; I just wanted to throw one hell of a party,” Brown said. “But like a light, it came on, and I didn’t realize I needed it until then. ... This is the seed. We’re planting it this year, and we’ll watch it grow and see what happens.”
Drew Jackson: 919-553-7234, Ext. 104; @jdrewjackson