Arts & Culture

Saxapahaw needs a little help to keep the music coming

John Howie and his Rosewood Bluff band are on the schedule for this summer’s Saturdays in Saxapahaw music series.
John Howie and his Rosewood Bluff band are on the schedule for this summer’s Saturdays in Saxapahaw music series. Courtesy John Howie

Organizers of the popular summer series Saturdays in Saxapahaw have found it costs a lot of money to hold free events, and they’re asking for help to pay for the 2017 season.

Saturdays in Saxapahaw is billed as a 17-week festival that features live music, a farmers’ market, food trucks, arts and crafts and children’s activities. It’s held every Saturday evening in the former mill town on the banks of the Haw River, about 45 miles northwest of Raleigh . It runs this year from May 6 to Aug. 26 with performers such as Sarah Shook and the Disarmers, Dex Romweber and John Howie Jr.

About 1,000 people attend each weekend, most of them bringing picnics and blankets or folding chairs, which they spread out along the sloping riverbank that makes a natural amphitheater for the haywagon stage.

With no admission charged, the event’s only income is from local business sponsors and fees paid by vendors who set up at the market.

“We don’t want to raise the fees,” said Heather LaGarde, who started the series with her husband, Tom. The couple first tried crowdfunding last year, in a joint fundraiser with Saturdays in Sax and “Trust the Bus,” a traveling art project of the non-profit Culture Mill.

This year, LaGarde said, Saturdays in Sax is holding its own, smaller fundraiser with a goal of $5,000 to offset the costs of insurance, car-parking guides, rental toilets and other expenses. By Monday afternoon, the group’s site on Indiegogo had raised $4,445 toward a flexible goal of $5,000, and LaGarde said if donations exceeded the goal, the extra money would go toward a dedicated sound system for the outdoor event.

Presently, the Saturday evening performers borrow the sound system from the Haw River Ballroom, the venue inside the old textile mill the LaGardes renovated and use to host ticketed music performances and other events.

Donors to the crowdfunding effort are offered special perks at different gift levels, starting with the non-toxic recipe for the famed bubble sauce that festival-goers dip into to make huge floating orbs. Larger gifts entitle donors to such things as having the band of the week thank them from onstage; a goat farm tour; and annual passes to the ballroom.

For information about the fundraiser, go to . To learn about Saturdays in Saxapahaw and to see the 2017 band lineup, go to

Martha Quillin: 919-829-8989, @MarthaQuillin