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Third annual Addiction and Recovery Awareness MusicFest to show there is life — and fun — after addiction

The Carroll County Agriculture Center will host a music festival Saturday, of the kind many will be familiar. There will be performances by artists such as Joey Harkum, Joe Nester and Rem One, and food trucks and vendors offering everything from barbecue to coffee to snowballs.

But what there won’t be are any drugs or alcohol.

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“That’s really the key difference between our concerts and other concerts,” said Tammy Lofink, founder of the nonprofit Rising Above Addiction. “We like to promote this as a safe event, not only for the recovery community but for families. It’s a great way to come out and enjoy the day, enjoy the music Without having to worry about anybody getting out of control.”

The concert, the Addiction and Recovery Awareness MusicFest, now in its third year, will run from noon to 10 p.m. Saturday, and tickets are $20, with all proceeds going to Rising Above Addiction and its mission of helping people with substance use disorders get treatment.

“We are funding sober home living rent, we are funding money toward deductibles to insurance companies to go toward in-patient treatment, partial in-patient treatments; however we can fund people to help them on their journey of recovery,” Lofink said. “We have bought shoes for people who didn’t have shoes and were in treatment, groceries for people coming out of treatment and going into sober living.”

Last year the event raised around $13,000, according to Lofink, and she is expecting more than 1,000 people will attend this weekend.

But while the fundraising aspect is important, it is the music itself, and the sober environment in which its framed, that is the heart and soul of the event. That’s according to Brian McCall, who will perform Saturday as B-RAiN, and is a co-founder of the event.

“Music has a special healing power. It allows us to connect in ways we couldn’t have connected in any other way,” he said. “When the kids can connect with the parents and be doing something they both enjoy, it makes for a lasting memory. Something concrete for the parents to show their kids, ‘just because we might have struggled with addiction at one point in time doesn’t mean we’re horrible people forever.’”

McCall, originally from outside Washington, D.C., moved to Westminster when he entered recovery from substance use — he said he was 12 years sober as of May — and said he wanted to launch a music festival to give back to a community that embraced him.

“I moved out here and I just loved the community, the welcomeness of the community, as well as the recovery community is phenomenal out here,” McCall said. “I wanted to do something because I felt like there wasn’t anything going on that was fun. Of course there is the Drug and Violence Expo and the [overdose vigil] and stuff like that that support addicts, but something fun that not only addicts can do, but that families can do.”

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The fun, and the music have certainly grown since the first festival, McCall said, with last year’s event drawing people from six different states and one family all the way from Iceland.

“When I met her, I asked, ‘Oh, you must have just moved here, right?’ and she was like, ‘no, we took a plan last night and we fly back out tomorrow,” McCall said.

What prompted the flight?

“Joe Nester and his music,” McCall said. “He’s done six or seven nationwide tours, he’s an incredible artist, an incredible friend of mine and an incredible guy in recovery.”

Nester will return Saturday along with other artists McCall is excited to share a stage with, such as Da Kid Emm, a local McCall counts as a mentor.

McCall himself has performed with Macklemore, and will contribute to the wide array of musical styles on stage.

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“There’s acoustic, there’s punk rock bands, there’s regular rock bands,” McCall said. “There’s a girl named Rachel Stacy, she’s an incredible fiddler out of Dallas, Texas.”

There will also be Kona Ice, face painting and inflatable bounce houses for children.

And so while the festival will help raise funds to help people seek treatment for substance use disorders, McCall said he also hopes it will raise awareness of the success stories and the positivity in the lives of those in recovery.

“How about the positive, the thousands, the hundreds of thousands in the nation that are living in recovery?” he said. “There is life after addiction, there is life after alcoholism. It’s not just this boring life of sitting in my house and thinking about how I am not going to drink beer.”

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