Common Ground Roots Festival attracts generations of fans

Blues artist Guy Davis closes the 2017 Common Ground on the Hill Roots Music and Arts Festival in Westminster Saturday, July 8.

Music seemed to intertwine with the warm breeze that rolled through the hills of the Carroll County Farm Museum Saturday, as the sounds of folk and roots music from around the world wafted throughout the grounds, mixing, mingling and finding common ground with other genres.

Hundreds of guests came out Saturday for the 20th anniversary Common Ground on the Hill Roots Music and Arts Festival, featuring a mixture of traditional musicians and fine artists keeping the methods and music of the past alive.


The festival was headlined by Common Ground mainstay Guy Davis, who has been participating in Common Ground on the Hill for 23 years and taught a blues class at the event's Traditions Week that concluded on Friday. Davis is a blues musician, writer, and actor whose most recent album, "Sonny and Brownie's Last Train" was released this year.

Other performers included Professor Louie, Robin Bullock, Ken and Brad Kolodner, Frank McGuire, Radim Zenkl, and other musicians representing a diverse set of world styles from traditional Scottish folk to the music of the Czech Republic.

Musicians were split onto four different stages throughout the Farm Museum grounds. Near the festival entrance, Livia Vanaver and her group Vanaver Caravan performed a blend of songs and dances from Balkan countries and the Middle East, including an Israeli hand dance and Egyptian cane dance. Vanaver said each year, when planning what the group is going to present at the festival, she tries to bring something that no other musical or dance group is going to display.

"When I think of what to do, I think about what's not at the festival," Vanaver said. "I want to try and contrast the other performers and bring things that people here would not necessarily see."

Attendee Susan Walters, of White Hall, said it was exciting to see a crop of younger fans come out to the Roots Festival this year. She said there's something at the festival for just about everyone as long as the word can get out.

"When we got here, it was all older people like us," Walters said. "I guess they get up a little later than we do."

This was Westminster resident Colleen Newman's first time attending the festival, alongside her daughters Mollie, 8, and Claire, 12. She said she was given a free ticket to the festival, and figured since children were free, it'd be a fun family outing. She said Claire fought against coming at first, but within just a half hour of being there was enjoying the music and trying her hand at hula-hooping in the grass.

"Anytime you can convince an almost-teenager to have fun, it's a good thing," Newman said.

Kristie Masilek, of New Windsor, said years ago she used the festival as a way to broaden her daughter's musical taste. She said, at the time, all she listened to was rap, but after coming out to the Roots Festival, she started to explore other genres. Masilek said she comes to the festival every year because of how different it feels to other musical events.

"I really appreciate the calmness of it," Masilek said. "It's pretty relaxed, and it's such a beautiful location to spend a day."