Nestled along a quiet country road in the rolling foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains lives one of South Carolina music scene's hidden gems, the Albino Skunk Music Festival.
Under a canopy of 200-year-old oak trees, the festival has hosted award-winning artists and internationally-touring bands such as Billy Strings, Lake Street Drive, Infamous String Dusters, Trampled by Turtles, Tim O'Brien, Darrell Scott, The Avett Brothers, New Riders of the Purple Sage, among many others.
Music lovers can come for the day, park their R.V. or pitch a tent and sleep among the trees with their fellow festival-goers known as "skunkers." Anyone is sure to get lost in the whimsical, child-like spirit of the festival where everyone gathers for the love of music and life-long friendship.
The Greer festival is celebrating its 28th year and 48th SkunkFest celebration. Nearly 5,000 people attended the three-day festival, SpringSkunk, earlier this month. The Skunk Farm will welcome thousands, again, this fall for the Albino Skunk fest in October.
Here's what we saw May 12-13 at the Skunk Farm:
Skunk Fest features diverse blend of music
This May's Albino Skunk Festival featured 19 bands hand-picked by Glynn 'Zig' Zeigler with the goal of festival-goers to end the weekend having found their new favorite band. Genres of music include bluegrass, Americana, folk, roots and rock music.
The list of performers from this year included, but was not limited to, The Nude Party, Miko Marks and the Resurrectors, Eilen Jewell, Blue Dogs, Fireside Collective, I See Hawks in L.A., Rissi Palmer, The National Reserve, The Sweet Lillies, The Jacktown Ramblers, Esther Rose and more.
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'Zig' and the Skunk Family
At age 45, Zig founded the festival in 1995 as a private event created with a few friends to celebrate their shared love for music. For the first few years, a small line-up of eight to ten bands would come to play on a makeshift plywood stage on Zig's property.
The Albino Skunk Festival, named after the (mostly) white skunks seen around Zig's property, grew organically into a ticketed event in 2000 when the event gained popularity.
There is a tight network of dedicated "skunkers", called "skunk boys" (men) and "birches" (women) on the farm, who keep the festival alive each year.
Some members of this skunk family have worked at the festival for decades. Paul Webb, who cooks in the Side Meat Cafe, the festival kitchen, has worked at the Albino Skunk Festival for 23 years.
"It's a joy to watch someone bring their teenage kid up and say he was here in a stroller, you know, he's grown up coming to Skunk Fest. It's just kind of a family deal really, and it works" Zig said.
Community of "skunks"
Tucked in between acres of trees in a sea of colorful tapestries and a quiet murmur of melodies spilling out from the festival's stage, familiar faces from years past gather to celebrate with their festival friends and family.
Each spring festival kicks off with DeTour de Skunk, a charity bike ride that begins and ends on the festival grounds. This year, event organizers raised over $3,000 to help a community member pay medical bills.
The Wildlife Rehab Group of South Carolina brings animals, like owls, skunks, raccoons and groundhogs, to the festival every year. The WRGSC comes to raise awareness and educate the public about wildlife.
Greenville brewery, Community Tap, has been a corporate sponsor of Skunk Fest for roughly 12 years. The first time Merrill Cliff attended the festival, he worked Community Tap's beer tent, which is owned by his niece and her husband.
Ansley and Merrill Cliff, both 61, of Elgin, have been coming to Skunk Fest for several years. They relish in the feeling of pulling up to the campground to their usual spot where they camp among festival friends.
"It's like you go in and you leave your troubles and your responsibilities and your problems at the gate and I can just put it behind me," Merrill said, "You're there with like-minded people, but also people who are different. Everybody there is a music fan or outdoor fan. I've got what we call festival friends...just people you see twice a year so it's like a big family reunion."
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Looking ahead to October
The 2023 Albino Skunk Festival will take place on the Skunk Farm, 4067 Jordan Road, Greer, SC, from Oct. 5-7.
Tickets will be available beginning in late May and can be purchased on the Albino Skunk website or at the gate upon arrival.
This article originally appeared on Greenville News: The Albino Skunk Festival brings thousands of music fans to Greer SC