On September 22, people from all across the country descended upon Hershey, Penn. for the 27 annual Farm Aid benefit concert.
The concert, originally organized by Willie Nelson, John Mellencamp and Neil Young, was created to help raise money for American family farmers who were in danger of losing their business and land because of the massive amounts of debt that come with their trade. Since the inception of the event in 1985, Farm Aid has raised over $40 million to support the family farm system that helped build the backbone of our country.
I was fortunate to be in attendance this past Saturday at Hersheypark Stadium and it will be a day that I will always cherish and remember. When I heard about the star-studded lineup for this year’s concert over the summer, I became intrigued as to where it was going to be. As soon as I saw that Nelson, Mellencamp and Young, along with Dave Matthews & Tim Reynolds, Jack Johnson, Grace Potter & the Nocturnals and Kenny Chesney were coming to Hershey, it was a done deal that I would be in attendance.
After waiting almost two months, the morning of the show seemed surreal, as if I never expected that day to actually arrive. I was concerned about the weather conditions for the day after seeing the ominous sky in Kutztown that morning, but when we arrived in sunny Hershey I knew nothing would happen to put a damper on the day.
Just from entering the stadium, the power and influence that Farm Aid has on the agricultural community in America was evident. Concession stands were occupied by home grown products, while, inside near the floor seating area fresh produce stands were set up and run by local family farmers.
The first act that I saw was Grace Potter & the Nocturnals. The lead singer, Grace Potter, is a simply breathtaking performer with a boisterous and entrancing voice that almost hypnotizes you while you watch her perform. Later, Willie Nelson came out and performed with Potter, an aspect of Farm Aid that I think makes it a one of a kind experience.
All of the artists that come to perform do it out of the sheer kindness of their hearts. Travel and lodging expenses for each act are paid for out of their own pockets, and they all perform for free, as well as usually making large donations to Farm Aid. The fact that so many artists are at one-venue gives them the chance to come on stage with one another to give the fans that come out a great show and experience that they will always remember.
After the Nocturnals wrapped up their set, it was Jack Johnson’s turn to take the stage. Playing popular songs such as “Flake,” “Better Together,” “Do You Remember,” and “Banana Pancakes” good vibes spread throughout the sold-out stadium and got the crowd ready for a fun night.
Country music superstar Kenny Chesney came on after Johnson and, to the dismay of some non-country fans in attendance, played one of the longest sets of the night.
Dave Matthews and longtime collaborator Tim Reynolds took the stage next for an intimate acoustic session. The duo played some classic Dave Matthews Band tunes, including “Crush,” “Some Devil,” and “Bartender” and even ”Mercy,” their hit from the band’s newest album Away From the World. Dave and Tim were the main reason I decided to attend the concert, and although they absolutely killed it, it definitely was one of the shortest sets of the night, due to in part because of the length of Chesney’s performance.
The concert’s original organizers, Mellencamp, Young and Nelson finished the show with individual sets that lasted well into the night. I will always cherish my experience of Farm Aid, as it opened my eyes to the reality of what family farmers are going through on a daily basis to keep their farms up and running. With the help and support of our nation’s people, they will be able to access the resources they need to increase their trade avenues, as well as get access to supplies that are vital for sustainable practices and natural disaster survival. To make a donation to Farm Aid, go to farmaid.org and start helping today.
By Dom Colarusso