Nelsonville Music Fest Gets Comfortable at New Site

NELSONVILLE, Ohio – Expect more changes at the Nelsonville Music Festival this year as it settles into its new home.

The homegrown indie rock and Americana celebration is among the best in its genre – on par with Chicago’s Pitchfork and Philadelphia’s Xponential festivals. It’s not the Buckeye State’s biggest music fest, but it’s certainly among its most respected.

But it’s not in a big city or backed by deep pockets. It takes place in the forested hills of southeastern Ohio, not far from Athens.

NMF was forced to find a new location for its 2022 iteration, moving to the ambitiously named Snow Fork Event Center. The remote location – really, just a clearing in the woods – posed a set of fresh challenges, but the team pulled it off and without much lead time.

All previous NMFs took place on the campus of Hocking College in Nelsonville, where basic infrastructure – electricity, running water, internet, cellphone signal, roads, parking – were already in place.

All of those things have to be brought in to the new site, which was formerly a golf course.

The festival had to rush to find a new site last year because a construction project at Hocking College made that site unavailable.

If there were glitches in last year’s event, they didn’t rise to the level that the typical guest would notice.

But this year, the NMF braintrust is making changes so the festival runs better. The biggest change is the shift to off-site parking for most patrons. Guests will now park at the Nelsonville-York campus, less than a mile away, and be bused in.

One thing that hasn’t changed is the quality of the lineup. With Big Thief, Alvvays, Kurt Vile and the Violators, Alex G, Lucinda Williams, Margo Price and Sierra Farrell, Nelsonville is stacked. 

Tim Peacock, the longtime director of Nelsonville Music Festival, is geared up for this year’s event, which will take place July 21-23. He’s confident the tweaks being made will improve the guest experience.

“The list of what we could have done better [in 2022] is long,” he said, because time was in short supply. “We learned for certain that we lost our previous venue in August [2021], and we had to find a new place.”

A side stage at the Nelsonville Music Festival is nestled into a clearing in the woods, near a stream.

Despite the short lead time and an undeveloped new site, Peacock and the staff overcame the obstacles.

This year they will build on that success.

“I’m so inspired and excited by the new place,” he said. “I see its potential. It’s going to offer a long-term home for our music festival and other events.”

A fleet of buses at the Nelsonville-York parking lot will shuttle festival-goers to and from the event, leaving every few minutes at peak times. The school is off state Route 78 in Buchtel. Signs will be posted.

“The campus is maybe a half-mile away and has parking for 600 cars,” Peacock said. There will still be some parking available at the festival, but the grassy “roads” and potential for mud will not be a problem this year.

The camping areas will also be in new locations at Snow Fork.

The staff has also improved drainage, adding culverts to keep the festival area dryer if it rains. 

The site is also being electrified with the addition of permanent lines. “Last year, the festival ran on seven giant generators,” Peacock said.

There will be only three stages this year, although the number of bands will be the same. There will be over 50 performances.

“We removed the Pond Stage, and are putting the performance times closer together,” Peacock said. The Main Stage, Back Porch Stage and Creekside Stage – which is in a wooded area – will remain.

In the future, NMF plans to construct a permanent main stage.

One thing that won’t change is the rural flavor and woodsy charm. “I heard a lot of the artists backstage say the place is so gorgeous,” Peacock said. “I believe it will be one of the most lovely outdoor venues in Ohio.”

Last year’s fest took place over Labor Day weekend, and previous ones were in late May or early June. Moving it to the middle of July means hot days. To keep it cool, more water and misting stations will be brought in.

Peacock noted that there are also plenty of shady areas on the grounds.

Tickets for NMF start at $189 (tax and fees included) for a three-day pass and can be purchased at nelsonvillefest.org. A one-day ticket is $100. Camping passes are sold separately at the website. Off-site parking and shuttle passes are $25. On-site parking is $100.

Pictured at top: The Nelsonville Music Festival takes place July 21-23 on the remote Snow Fork Event Center in southeastern Ohio.

Copyright 2023 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.