Written by Elise Olmstead
It’s always so refreshing to see a new small festival pop up – and the positive vision of Yonderville’s organizer Max Stone makes it even more exciting. Coming at a time when the festival calendar is starting to slim down, it is an interesting time to introduce a new event, but I think this timing is putting Yonderville on the leading edge. The musical lineup for Yonderville features many up-and-coming bands and local flavors to discover, as well as a community-centered vibe and an intention to foster creative self-expression in arts and music. So basically, it’s everything we love about the best small festivals.
Only in its second year, Yonderville plans to pave the way for events of its kind in the Culpeper area and grow an audience of dreamers who love to discover new music and art. Talking to Max Stone is always a pleasure; hearing the excitement about his vision really re-ignites the music-loving fire within me. We asked him a few questions about how Yonderville came to be and how he has come against the odds to make this event a reality.
Yonderville Music & Arts Festival is coming up soon. What’s a typical day like for you in preparation?
From 5:30am – 7:00am I manage to get out of bed and commute to work. 7:00am – 2:30pm I work for my dad’s sheet metal fabrication company in NOVA. 2:30pm – 4:00pm commute home. 4:00pm – 5:00pm clean up and eat something. 5:00pm – 12:00am respond to emails, work on graphic design projects, marketing, network and then fall asleep to Beethoven. Just kidding, I don’t really listen to Beethoven.
Why did you decide to start throwing a festival, and what other events inspire your vision for Yonderville?
It all started back in 2010 when my best friend Alana Hester died in a car accident. After that I found live music to be therapeutic and the entire act of orchestrating a show exciting and inspiring. I spent years throwing club shows in Richmond and after moving back to my home town I reconnected with old friends. During this time I met a friend of a friend named Boby Satre. We connected and quickly became close through the small DJ events I was hosting in the Culpeper area. Bobby was suffering with opiate addiction and eventually died from an overdose. Bobby was a great person and always thought of his friends and others first. After Bobby’s death his mother Moria started a non-profit to help addicts called CAYA: Come As You Are. Through CAYA’s 5k I met Verdun’s management and they expressed interest in hosting a music festival. In the months following I pitched a plan of attack to Verdun’s board of supervisors and they agreed to help fund the first event. Since then I’ve decided to continue pushing the event and give the community something to be proud of and excited about.
What are some major challenges you face?
If I hadn’t grown up in the Culpeper area or had the support of Verdun I would say the festival permit would have been a major challenge to obtain. I’m truly blessed to have this opportunity and very grateful the county has allowed the event to happen. I have to say the biggest challenge I have right now is growing the live music community in the area. 99% of people don’t regularly attend these types of events and don’t understand the positive benefits they posses. My goal is to not solely compete for the existing ticket sales but rather grow the community at large. They say it’s significantly more expensive to bring in new customers than retain existing ones and in the world of music you’re talking about certain bankruptcy. But where there is a will…there is a way…and I don’t have anything else better to do. So lezzgo!
What’s your favorite moment during this process?
When the festival was approved. Yonderville is the first music and arts festival to apply for a permit in the county. When enough hands were raised in support I wanted to cry out of happiness. I had everything riding on the board’s approval and I’m still thanking my lucky stars for the way it worked out.
What is your favorite moment during the festival itself?
Last year (first Yonderville) my main stage sound engineer handed me the aux cable and told me to put on something that bumps…I proceeded to throw on Audialist – Square One, a 2-step garage track, and I smiled from ear to ear. It was the culmination of over 8 years of hard work, blood, sweat, tears, angst, depression, happiness and about every other feeling someone could have. Everything really started to sink in.
When the festival is happening, what are you doing?
The festival is happening on July 5th – 8th, 2018. Right now we’re ironing out the details. We really want to create an interactive experience that ties into our theme and the details are where the whole event makes or breaks itself. So focusing on everything outside of the obvious is important. Everyone knows you need a stage, deco, side attractions etc., but tying that into our theme is important. We don’t expect to accomplish 10 years of goals overnight but we’re trying (lol).
What are you most excited for on this year’s Yonderville fest?
This year I’m all about our community. We’re bringing in a lot of new faces and I couldn’t be more excited. Yonderville is the crossroads of culture, ethnicities, beliefs, taste and inspiration in the immediate area. It’s something I wish every town in America had its own version of and I love being that guy to make it happen for Culpeper. I think that when you strike the right nerve in a wide enough group of people, amazing things will happen. I can’t wait to see what it feels like this year.