Wartrace Music Fest 2023
The Wartrace Music Fest returns on Saturday, June 3, 2023. Musicians will be performing from 4:00 - 10:00 p.m. in downtown Wartrace. Stay tuned for more information as it becomes available!
For information about the Music Fest, contact WartraceChamber@gmail.com:
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A History of the
Wartrace Music Fest
The first music festival in Wartrace was the brainchild of a local guitar maker Don Gallagher after he and his dad, J.W., attended the 1968 Union grove Fiddlers Convention in North Carolina. Mr. Gallagher, along with two of his friends, Wendel Hartman and Jimmy Atkins, pooled their money to incorporate and produce the Wartrace Pickin' and Fiddlers Convention to be held on August 17 and 18, 1979. J.W. passed away in June of that year so the festival was dedicated to him.
Good weather, combined with the attendance of fans of the many acoustic musicians who performed lifted attendance to approximately 2,000 at the Wartrace Horse Show grounds that first year. Mr. Gallagher rigged lights along the north side of the field and built a pavilion for the 40 craft vendors who came. The first stage was on a flat-bed truck trailer in the middle of the field. Musicians participated in a Friday night jam session and an all day competition with ten different categories on Saturday.
With so many national guitar picking champions in attendance, Mr. Gallagher thought the event should be proclaimed the official Tennessee State Championship. He contacted former State Representative Pete Philips who presented a resolution on the floor of the State Legislature. It was approved. Philips came to the next year's festival to officially make the proclamation.
As it always is, weather was a concern for Mr. Gallagher and the producers of the early festivals. "One year there were thunderstorms all around us," he said. "You could stand in the middle of the field and see lightning in every direction you looked, but not a drop fell on the festival." He further relates that the final year was a total washout. "Fortunately, because of the program ads and sponsorships, we showed a small profit of $300, which we donated to the Child Development Center."
Mr. Gallagher remained involved in the festival's revival under the Wartrace MusicFest banner in the early 2000's serving as chairman of the MusicFest Committee, as well as Wartrace's mayor. Now retired from Gallagher Guitars, he attends MusicFest as a fan and affirms, "The event remains dear to my heart."