Country music artists, including national and local acts, will perform Saturday in Coon Rapids at the second annual Rum River Music Fest, a concert benefiting a nonprofit that helps homeless youth.
The festival lineup includes headliner Charlie Worsham and Jackson Michelson, both based in Nashville, Tenn., and Shane Martin, a local favorite.
Proceeds from the event will go to HOPE 4 Youth of Anoka, which tries to counteract homelessness through a drop-in center, housing, prevention, education and more, its website states.
Says Worsham: "I believe that music truly has the power to change lives, and the Rum River Music Fest is that principle in action."
Matthew Fischer, a volunteer with HOPE 4 Youth who helped organize the event, said that, in addition to raising money, the hope is that the concert spreads the word about the organization to more people.
Last year's Music Fest showcased a variety of local classic rock artists. This time around, the planners wanted to feature country music, as a response to the area's demographics. Furthermore, it made sense to bring in "harder to see artists" who don't tend to play in this area, Fischer said.
"That's part of the learning curve, you know, figuring out what people are looking for, what's fun, what might bring money to HOPE 4 Youth," said Fischer, who lives in Blaine.
About the artists
Worsham, who has appeared alongside Taylor Swift, Miranda Lambert and Wade Bowen, has a record coming out within the year. "He had the energy we're looking for. We heard from others in the business that he puts on a quality, fun show," Fischer said.
Likewise, Michelson, who has toured nationally, has a "lively, upbeat performance," Fischer said.
Martin is another up-and-comer, he said.
Fischer said it's rare to bring nationally known artists to the north metro. "We hope it'll excite country music fans locally, give them something engaging and also benefit HOPE 4 Youth," he said. "We want the casual fan, people in the neighborhood who are looking for something to do on the weekend."
Last year the festival attracted more than 1,700 people and helped raise about $20,000. This year, the hope is for attendance to more than double that, Fischer said.
About HOPE 4 Youth
Kristan Clow, the program supervisor of HOPE 4 Youth's drop-in center, echoed Fischer in saying she hopes the event helps build awareness of the organization. "So much of the agency is run by the kindness of people's hearts in terms of time, money, food and donations," she said.
The festival is "a great way to get the word out, talk about youth homelessness, and have some fun, and maybe recruit some volunteers or bring in potential donors to keep the center up and running," Clow added.
She said the center is seeing more young people all the time. This year is already surpassing last year's numbers — HOPE 4 Youth served 325 youth in 2014 — as word about the center gets out, she said.
The center is the first point of access for homeless young people, Clow said. "Maybe someone comes in for food or a shower," she said. "We can talk about the options … it's a low-barrier, easy way to get them a little bit of help. As they get to know us and trust us, we can get the appropriate referrals."
Often because they're "couch hopping" — staying with friends, or camping out in groups, the kids don't even consider themselves to be homeless. "Teenagers aren't like the chronically homeless. They're not on the street with a sign, panhandling. They still wear designer clothes. They don't want to look homeless," she said.
Proceeds from the festival will go toward HOPE 4 Youth's operating costs and its in-progress initiative to develop permanent and supportive housing for youth in Coon Rapids.
It's a cause that headliner Worsham can get behind: "Homelessness, especially for kids, is devastating because it affects every single area of that person's life, from safety to education to health," he said via e-mail.
"If by playing music I can help the people of Minneapolis continue to reach out to kids who are desperately in need of a helping hand, then I can't imagine a better way to spend the weekend."
Anna Pratt is a Minneapolis freelance writer. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.