Braving the Storm at Nebraska Folk & Roots Festival | Photo Essay

The fourth-annual Nebraska Folk & Roots Festival took place over the weekend at Branched Oak Farms, settling into its pastoral home and staging some of the best local folk, Americana and funk acts alongside talented, nationally touring ones.

In addition to the workshops and vendors and music, this year’s festival endured a giant kink in its plans in the form a sudden torrential downpour and furious winds. The storm, which produced gusts breaking 90 MPH and an apparent tornado, burst onto the property at Branched Oak Farms Friday evening and stopped it in its tracks. Thankfully, nobody was seriously injured and the festival continued unhindered the following day.

Our Lauren Farris and Emma Petersen were on hand to snap photos. Farris was caught in the gale Friday night and described the at-times scary chain of events. Read on for her account and further for photos of the weekend.

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I showed up to Branched Oak Farm at 6pm and it was pretty overcast and windy, but everybody was still pretty excited. Lots of vendors set up, a couple of different food vendors, craft vendors, beer tent, that sort of thing. The two stages were set up next to each other this year. Everything was going pretty well [early], people started to filter in more and more.

Charlie Crockett was playing at around 8pm and we kinda noticed the weather rolling through, it started getting a little worse. People were checking radar. I kept checking in with Vessel Live (the production crew) to make sure that I kinda knew what was going on. They told me it was a storm front rolling through and it should pass in about 35 minutes. I had some random guy come up to me and said “You should really think about leaving and putting that away as soon as possible.” I asked why, and he pulls out his phone and there’s this storm coming toward us.

So I go under the Vessel tent and it starts raining, but people are still having a blast, dancing in the rain and carrying on. At 8:15, it starts raining a little harder and people went underneath different vendor tents. Then instantly, this gust of wind picked up and knocked over everything — the tent started blowing over, there was a case of some sort behind us and that almost tipped me over, tipped another person over. I’m holding down the tent. [Vessel Live owner] Brenton [Neville] came over to [engineer] Mark [Wolberg] and said “You need to get the sound board out of here right now. We need to get things down.” At that point, people just started running to their cars.

It was wild because some vendor had been handing out thin plastic rain ponchos, so everyone is wearing these ponchos, running trying to find cover. The cars were parked in the lot, probably a couple blocks away. There really wasn’t anything there because the tents are starting to blow away. I didn’t know what to do because I didn’t know where to go. There was no real shelter. There were cars, but to get to the cars you had to run. It was hailing a little bit too, and so like I was getting pelted with hail and rain and it was hard to see things and figure out distances. I knocked on a random van and asked if I could come in. There was four people in the van and one of them was really, really scared. They were like “Should we let people in? There’s people out there. Should we try to let them in the van and wait it out?” We let another person in the van. People were crouched, hiding beside it.

I talked to Jake Brandt, and he said as he was trying to seek shelter, he saw a large piece of plywood frisbeeing through the air. I talked to some of the production crew afterward and they were like yeah, as soon as it started we had to cut the tarps and get as much down as possible because we knew if we didn’t get the overhead tarp down it would take the stage.

A lot of people got to their cars. It kept blowing, it was super muddy and cars were getting stuck in the parking area. I just barely got mine out. As I was driving, there were huge trees that were split, knocked down in the middle of the road. Lightning everywhere. I have never seen that much lightning in my life. I went to The Bourbon, where they first tried to move the show, and it didn’t work out there. I went to 1867 and [the festival] had been called.

The next morning, I got there a little after it was supposed to start, but it hadn’t yet because the crew was still getting some of the stage fixed up. I went with Casey [Hollingsworth] and Ian [Egenberger, both of Root Marm Chicken Farm Jug Band] and they put on a workshop about soloing and improvisation. It was fine, the mood was great. It was weird, it looked like nothing had happened. The stage was a little different but all the vendor booths were back up. It wasn’t too messy or too muddy. People were camped out in their chairs and blankets, ready for the bands to go on. Ian and Casey actually stayed that night and camped. They said once the storm blew through it was gorgeous out. A couple people went back to help get cars unstuck. But yeah, the rest of it was awesome, lot’s of people came, the mood was good. Everyone was like “Were you here last night? Where were you when it happened?” But it was a good time after that.

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See photos from the 2017 Nebraska Folk & Roots Festival below:


Emily Bass & the Near Miracle play Folk & Roots Festival | photo by Lauren Farris

Under The Big Oak Tree plays Folk & Roots | photo by Lauren Farris

The craft beer truck at Folk & Roots | photo by Lauren Farris

Dan McCarthy of McCarthy Trenching at Folk & Roots | photo by Lauren Farris

McCarthy Trenching | photo by Lauren Farris

Charlie Crockett plays Folk & Roots Festival just before a storm halts action for the evening Friday | photo by Lauren Farris

A group of fans dance during Charlie Crockett | photo by Lauren Farris

Charlie Crockett performs just before Friday’s storm hits Branched Oak Farms | photo by Lauren Farris

Stage crew hurries to cover equipment during the storm Friday night | photo by Lauren Farris


Ian Egenberger and Casey Hollingsworth lead a workshop on improvisation | photo by Lauren Farris

Handmade Moments performs at Nebraska Folk & Roots Festival | photo by Lauren Farris

Undeterred by Friday’s storm, a sizeable group gathers for live music Saturday at Branched Oak Farms | photo by Lauren Farris

A young BMX rider practices jumps onto the top of the NoWear ramp | photo by Emma Petersen

Festival go-ers engage in conversation between sets | photo by Emma Petersen

Attendees enjoy Joshua Powell and the Great Train Robbery | Photo by Emma Petersen

Joshua Powell belts out a tune alongside Adam Shuntich at Folk and Roots | Photo by Emma Petersen

CJ Mills sings alongside keyboard player Mitch Towne at the Folk and Roots Festival | Photo by Emma Petersen

CJ Mills drummer Larell Ware at Folk & Roots | photo by Emma Petersen

A rainbow flashes over Folk & Roots | photo by Emma Petersen

The Railsplitters’ Dusty Rider sings along to his band’s soulful beat | photo by Emma Petersen

The Railsplitters’ Lauren Stovall smiles as she plays for the crowd | photo by Emma Petersen

The Railsplitters | photo by Emma Petersen

High Up plays Folk & Roots | photo by Emma Petersen

High Up vocalist Christine Fink takes her performance into the crowd | photo by Emma Petersen

A Nowear BMX rider flies through the air at Folk & Roots | photo by Emma Petersen

The Cactus Blossoms’ Jack Torrey and Page Burkum sing for the crowd Saturday evening | photo by Emma Petersen

The Cactus Blossoms | photo by Emma Petersen

Festivalgo-ers warm up by a bonfire at Folk & Roots | Photo by Emma Petersen

A Ferocious Jungle Cat play Folk & Roots | photo by Emma Petersen

A Ferocious Jungle Cat’s Ian Fleming at Folk & Roots | photo by Emma Petersen