ClydeFEST kicks off a season of fun in Chatham County

Posted 4/14/21

As North Carolina begins to “open up” after a long pandemic year, organizers of festivals and events in Chatham County are figuring out ways to celebrate and get people together in a safe and logical method.

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ClydeFEST kicks off a season of fun in Chatham County

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Siler City’s “Spring Chicken Day,” scheduled for May 1, was felled, for the second year in a row, by COVID-19. The year-long celebration of Chatham County’s 250th anniversary began with a muted, socially-distanced “Founding Day” on Saturday. Shakori Hills’ signature spring event has been postponed.

As North Carolina begins to “open up” after a long pandemic year, organizers of festivals and events in Chatham County are figuring out ways to celebrate and get people together in a safe and logical method. One of the major events on the local spring calendar, for example, is ClydeFEST. It’s still happening, but in a COVID-safe way in lieu of the usual 2,500-person gathering, says April Starling of the Chatham Arts Council.

So it’ll look differently.

“With COVID, we have modified ClydeFEST to ‘ClydeFEST in the Wild,’ offering five separate COVID-safe events throughout Chatham County,” she said.

The events will take place from late April to early May and will involve critter-painting — a staple at ClydeFEST — as well as musical performances.

“We know that kids love critter painting — a tried and true ClydeFEST tradition — so this year, we are holding two separate critter painting events, where participants will sign-up in advance to reserve a spot to paint a critter, ensuring safety in small groups,” Starling said.

In terms of its annual fall musical celebration, though, organizers are still unsure of what we will be able to do.

“For ClydeFEST in the Wild, we feel we have planned an event that is as safe as possible, taking into account CDC guidelines,” she said. “Should the CDC’s guidelines change, or should numbers in Chatham County take a huge turn, we may be forced to re-evaluate. Our goal is to host a safe, family-friendly event where the community can come together and enjoy some messy creativity. We all need the arts in our lives!”

Artists and arts-workers are struggling with the economic impacts of the pandemic, Starling said.

“The continued widespread cancellations of concerts, plays, events, and art shows are wreaking havoc on the livelihood of these artists. And our community is missing out. The arts provide an outlet for expression. They inspire creativity. They bring beauty into our lives. They are a vital part of this community and of our lives.”

For the fall show, Shakori Hill plans to have a long list of COVID safety protocols in place including temperature checks, health form questionnaires, hand sanitizing stations throughout the concert area, portable sinks, social distancing, and delivery service for food and drink, according to the festival’s Emily Wilhelm.

“Meaning,” she said, “no standing in lines but having amenities brought directly to your seat. It is a massive undertaking while still in a pandemic but we wanted to bring music back to the stage safely as soon as we could.”

Shakori Hills will maintain COVID safety guidelines for as long as necessary, Wilhelm said.

“Our mission remains bringing music and art education to the community,” she said. “Current times just mean less group dancing and smiles being shielded by a mask.”

Like many organizers and event producers, Wilhelm said socially-distanced events will be standard until trends change.

At Pittsboro’s Sweet Bee Theater, the month of May is usually filled up with live performances. But this year, there are no adult performances and the number of youth performances have been reduced while Sweet Bee’s Craig Witter tries to find suitable outside performance venues.

“That’s not an easy task,” says Witter, who serves as technical director

Sweet Bee Theater has been closed to the public since last March. But Witter and his partner, show director Tammy Matthews, hope to host summer camps beginning in June. They plan to use large rooms at their location in downtown Pittsboro.

“We’ll keep the windows cracked, the air-conditioning cranked and the campers in masks and social distanced,” Witter said.

PYT has six theater summer camps on its schedule this year for kids age 6 through 18. Each camp concludes with one or more live performance(s).

For more information about shows and tickets, go to or email

Pittsboro Youth Theater has been rehearsing its four spring plays online during the week and in-person on Saturdays.

“The kids love getting together in person again,” Matthews said.

PYT has reserved the amphitheater on the Green in Southern Village, Chapel Hill for most of its youth play performances in May, which begin May 1 and 2 with “Wizard of Oz,” a non-musical by PYT’s advanced young cast.

“Bottom line for us is that we have to find a place for our kids to perform — even before an audience of family and friends — one way or another not having a show is not an option,” Matthews said.

The theater plans to have some YouTube live stream performances for children actors whose parents don’t want them to get together in person. It also has a need for volunteers to help make the performances happen, including gate workers, concessions workers, ushers and prop helpers. (Sign up at

“COVID numbers in N.C. have been getting easier but that hasn’t been making it any easier for us,” Witter said. “Hopefully in fall things will be more back on track. In business, I’ve always said it takes two good months to make up for one bad month.”

He pauses.

“I can’t wait for 2024!”

Here’s a rundown of ClydeFEST and a sampling of other local upcoming festivals and events in Chatham County.


In various Chatham County locations: ClydeFEST

Tuesday, April 20, 4-6 p.m.: Chatham Artists-in-Schools artist Diali Cissokho will kick it off with a live performance, truck-and-trailer style, traveling through the neighborhoods of Loves’ Creek and Pony Farm Road in western Chatham sharing the music of West Senegal — with beloved ClydeFEST performers joining in the mini-parade.

Saturday, April 24 at The Park at Briar Chapel, 9:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m.: Families and kids will have the opportunity to schedule outdoor time at the mobile Critterville to paint and embellish one of those well-known and beloved critter cut-outs, while jamming to some family-friendly live music from ClydeFEST performers.

Tuesday, April 27, 4-6:30 p.m.: Cissokho and ClydeFEST roving performers will travel through the Briar Chapel and Nature Trail Community neighborhoods in eastern Chatham sharing their arts magic.

Saturday, May 1, at Bray Park, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.: Critter Kits (a critter cut-out, plus paint and glue) will be handed out at Chatham County Partnership for Children’s drive-through Day of the Book/Dia de los Libros. Families can grab a kit and adorn their critter cut-out at home.

Sunday, May 2 at Southwest District Park, 1-5 p.m.: One more ClydeFEST in the Wild celebration takes place in southwestern Chatham. Families and kids can schedule outdoor critter-paintin’ time and hear some ClydeFEST tunes during this Sunday afternoon event.

Chatham's Festival Schedule


Shakori Hills, Pittsboro: GrassRoots Live!

GrassRoots Live! is a pod-based, socially-distanced, limited capacity series of one-night concerts on the Meadow Stage that will begin on April 17 with Keller Williams and end June 11 & 12 with Donna The Buffalo.

Pittsboro: Think Again: Soil

In June, Abundance NC will bring back its “Think Again” series. This year’s focus: Soil.

Think Again: Soil will take place June 5th at The Plant. All speakers will revolve around the outdoor main stage. The workshops: clay pinch pot, seed bombs, natural dying will all be held outdoors. The event will end with a soil-themed Fashion Show.

The tickets will start at the basic price of $20 and depending on which workshops you’d like to participate in, you will add those fees to your price.

Abundance NC is offering a new ticket free of charge for an attendee who has never been to one of its events and the friend of family member (who has purchased a ticket) has convinced them to come along to enjoy a new experience and possibly learn something new by coming to the event.


Siler City: Friday Night Flicks

Siler City offers a movie in the park series each year on the 4th Fridays during August, September and October. Families bring their lawn chairs and blankets to Bray Park for a free movie under the stars on the big screen. The anticipated 2021 Friday Night Flicks schedule is August 27, September 24, and October 22. These events are free to the public through generous sponsors and movies begin at dusk. Typically, fun activities and music begins prior to the movie premier. While future COVID-19 guidelines are unknown, the Siler City Parks and Recreation Department will continue to monitor guidelines and will reevaluate operations as the event series approaches.


Pittsboro: PepperFest

Abundance NC pioneered last year in hosting a covid-friendly PepperFest event. Instead of hosting a 3,000 attendee event, like the 2019 event held in the streets of Pittsboro, the organization created a much smaller event at The Plant, bringing it back home.

The 2021 event is scheduled for Sept. 19 and will be designed similar to last year’s event. Then, organizers marked circles around the campus to keep people in their pods/parties and masks were required unless actively eating or drinking.

The event was designed as a picnic-styled farmers market in which attendees who purchased a ticket would receive a basket with the pepper-themed samples in mason jars rather than having the chefs on site giving out samples. These baskets included goodies from some of Pepperfest’s sponsors sponsors, a magazine that had the recipes of the chef creations and a mask made from previous PepperFest t-shirts.

The keynote speaker’s talk was amplified throughout the campus so whoever didn’t feel comfortable sitting inside a building with others could sit back outside in their circle, looking at the sky or eating while listening to the talk. About 10 different farmers, of diverse backgrounds, participated in a farmers’ market.


Shakori Hills, Pittsboro: GrassRoots Festival

Shakori Hills’ signature spring event has been postponed until the fall. The festival is tentatively scheduled for Oct. 7-10. All previously purchased tickets will be honored there or at the next Shakori Hills GrassRoots Music Festival of your choice.

Siler City: Fall-O-Ween Trunk R’ Treat Carnival

The annual Fall-O-Ween Trunk R’ Treat Carnival will be hosted on the last Friday night before Halloween at Bray Park. Children and families come out to the event for fun games, activities and trunk r’ treating. Local businesses, organizations and merchants register to set-up a booth at the event to distribute treats and promotional materials. The 5th Annual Fall-O-Ween Trunk R’ Treat Carnival is anticipated for Oct. 29 and is a free event hosted at Bray Park. Operations and activities are subject to change to adhere to COVID-19 guidelines in the Fall.


Pittsboro: Death Faire

The location will be announced, but the 2021 Death Faire is scheduled for Nov. 6.


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