Serving the Southern Illinois University community since 1916.

The Daily Egyptian

Serving the Southern Illinois University community since 1916.

The Daily Egyptian

Serving the Southern Illinois University community since 1916.

The Daily Egyptian

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Hidden gem of Southern Illinois hosts 2nd annual Little Grassy Get Down

Jeremy+Todd+%28left%29+sings+and+plays+guitar+on+the+Main+Stage+while+being+backed+up+by+his+bass+player+Oct.+7%2C+2023+at+the+Little+Grassy+Get+Down+in+Makanda%2C+Illinois.
Dominique Martinez-Powell
Jeremy Todd (left) sings and plays guitar on the Main Stage while being backed up by his bass player Oct. 7, 2023 at the Little Grassy Get Down in Makanda, Illinois.

With concert goers traveling from all over the country, Touch of Nature kicked off its second annual Little Grassy Get Down this past weekend. Vendors, good food and three stages with all sorts of music made up the weekend for attendees.

As campers unpacked Friday afternoon, southern Illinois native Issac Biver performed the first show of the weekend.

Following Biver’s opening act on Friday was a long list of performers with their music ranging from Americana and folk to a little bit of rock and bluegrass that continued until Sunday afternoon.

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The venue set up three different stages to capture the nature of Little Grassy. The main stage of the event was in a large field in the camping facility. The lake stage, a fan favorite, where many of the more intimate and acoustic artists performed, overlooked Little Grassy Lake. The back stage, right next to the dining hall, was where the late night performers played.

One act that manager of operations Brian Croft said a lot of people looked forward to was the Woodbox Gang, which performed Saturday.

“They’re sort of this southern Illinois, sort of famous band, and they don’t get together often to play anymore and so Little Grassy has kind of become their once a year show where they are, because all of the members of the band kind of live in various places now; they don’t all live in southern Illinois,” Croft said.

After the concerts came to a close, during the nights of the festival, many concert goers and vendors utilized the housing offered by Touch of Nature. From their 18-room hotel to traditional summer camp cabins and tent spaces, there was housing for everyone.

The music didn’t stop when campers went back to their tents. Little Grassy Get Down attracts a lot of musicians from all over the country, so when they head in for the night there are impromptu “jam circles” that Croft said pop up everywhere around the event.

“What’s fun is that although you have music going on, you’ll also have people just sitting in the dining hall with their guitars in kind of these jam circles come in. So you can see the official acts and you can see these impromptu jam circles that are happening everywhere,” Croft said.

Besides all sorts of music and vendors that sold a little bit of everything, the festival was a very family friendly event.

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“There are a lot of festivals that I would not bring my wife to let alone my kids, and so we were out to kind of create that perfect kind of festival where it’s like, hey, if you want to come hang out with your friends, this is the place to go,” Croft said.

Saturday morning, the festival had a kids show where music was played specifically for children. There were also plenty of activities for kids, including the swings and playgrounds around the festival grounds, face painting, rock wall climbing and a “Kids Zone.”

Children 15 and under got into the festival for free.

“Not only are we saying that it is a family friendly event, but we’re actually promoting it and we’re trying to make that [family friendly environment] a thing, which is really exciting,” Croft said.

This event is a fundraiser for Touch of Nature; the proceeds go to things like sending kids to summer camp or buying adaptive paddling equipment, so the center can accommodate everyone that uses their facilities.

“I think it’s this blend of showing off, and then also like the money we raise, what we’re able to do to the region, or for the region I think is so cool,” Croft said.

Not only did the festival have great food and an abundance of great performers; it also had vendors selling everything from plants and tye-dye shirts to crystals and handmade jewelry.

Vendor Layah Jones and her partner are a part of the Geo Natural Art Collective.

“I always say that we’re a glorified rock shop,” Jones said. “We sell rocks, crystals, higher end minerals, rock carvings, rock slabs, and I also now do watercolor on the side so we have some watercolor mushrooms and my partners getting into wood carving, so we have some wands and wooden mushrooms.”

While Jones and her partner have had their business since 2020, this was the shop’s first time at Little Grassy.

“He [Jones’s partner] really likes the music, I really like the vendors, I get really excited to see the new art and new products. We also get to camp here, and I’m really excited about that,” she said.

The shop sources many of their crystals from sellers across the country and Jones mines for the shop’s fossils around southern Illinois and geodes from her hometown, Louisville, Kentucky.

Another vendor, Molly Hug, the owner of Molly Flower Designs, was spending her second year at the event.

“I make handmade, ethically-sourced, nature-inspired jewelry with real butterfly wings, flowers, ferns, gemstones and feathers,” Hug said.

The festival ended the weekend with a performance by the Vince Herman Band as campers began to pack up their sites.

“It [the culture of Little Grassy Get Down] is about fulfilling our mission of providing an opportunity for families to experience southern Illinois in what I think is arguably one of the most beautiful times of the year, right,” Croft said.

Staff Reporter Joei Younker can be reached at [email protected].

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