The classic pearl four-piece set of Slingerland drums sit silent most of the time, but once a year they are brushed off and assembled to do what they do best: make music.
The drums, which belonged to well-known county musician Joe Kirkman, were on display Saturday, creating the beat for some of the best music in the area as the Sixth Annual JoeFest once again rocked Fisher River State Park.
JoeFest is the main fundraiser for the Joseph Roy Kirkman Foundation, an organization with a singular goal: to raise money for scholarships for budding educators.
And that money is sorely needed, said Lindsay Ray, a student studying education at Appalachian State who was awarded this year’s scholarship.
Ray drove from Boone to volunteer at this year’s JoeFest, and said she wanted to help the organization that has helped her.
“Being awarded the Kirkman Teacher Scholarship last year meant so much to me because I’m going into teaching,” she said. “And I’m honored to receive a scholarship named after such a well-known teacher.”
And she said she wanted to return the favor, hence the drive down from Boone.
“I just wanted to give a little back to the foundation that helped me so much,” she said.
And while the underlying event was set to raise money for the foundation through a 50/50 drawing, silent auction and food sales, admission to JoeFest was once again free, said Kirkman’s wife Trinette, who noted that donations are always accepted.
Last year’s event raised more than $3,500, and Trinette Kirkman said she’s hoping that this year’s festival does even better.
“We have about 60 items in the silent auction this year, everything from baby bibs to a beautiful handmade etching,” she said.
Four bands were on hand for this year’s festival, covering musical genres ranging from rock to Celtic to bluegrass. Included are Men in Black, None of the Above, One String Over and Joe’s Jammin’ Band. Kirkman, who also was a drummer as well as a teacher, performed with the latter group before he died of cancer in 2005.
And when they took the stage, Men In Black made sure the crowd on hand understood that JoeFest is about anything but sadness, rather the celebration of Kirkman’s life, opening the festival with The Smithereens and closing it with The Ramones.
Kirkman served in the classroom for 32 years, mostly at Franklin Elementary School. His last assignment was at Pilot Mountain Middle School, where Kirkman taught until December 2004 as his illness worsened.
The event also featured a fireworks show that Kirkman’s wife described as “to die for.”
But it was the music that carried the day.
“Joe always loved music,” his wife said. “He was the drummer of the final band today — the last band that always plays JoeFest.”
In describing how she feels seeing another percussionist behind her husband’s kit, she smiled.
“Jeffery Lampos is taking his place these days, and it’s sometimes hard to see him behind the drums,” she said. “But he’s doing a great job and we’re glad that he’s performing with the guys.”
Daniel White, the director of the county’s parks and recreation department, was on hand for the event and said it is one of his favorite festivals.
“This is just an awesome event and the music is great every year,” he said as he looked over those in attendance. “I’d love to see it get even bigger next year.”
Those who were unable to attend this year’s festival can still aid the scholarship program by sending tax-deductible donations payable to the Joseph Roy Kirkman Foundation. Its mailing address is P.O. Box 365, Mount Airy, NC 27030.
Reach Keith Strange at firstname.lastname@example.org or 719-1929.