Our Story


Shakori Hills Community Arts Center’s mission is to provide culturally significant arts, music and environmental-sustainability education and outreach to our local community and schools.

The Festival

In April 2003 our community pulled together, against all wet and muddy odds, the first Shakori Hills GrassRoots Festival of Music & Dance. Though the inclement weather negatively affected attendance, it did create a fast bond between attendees, volunteers, and staff, as well as building a solid base for this wonderful event. In 2004 we decided to add a fall festival, and with two GrassRoots Festivals each year, we continue to grow and have been given great support and acclaim from the diverse folks of central North Carolina.

At every moment the festival is taking place, there are many exciting and educational things to do, and we invite the whole family to participate.  There are two specific areas dedicated to the younger crowd: a Kids’ Area with games, crafts, and workshops and The Outpost, which is a space for teenagers to interact, be themselves and to learn in a fun way from multiple workshops and activities.  Interactive workshops offered for all ages include everything from how to play the fiddle, to movement classes, to seminars on current green issues affecting the world around us.  The festival also provides a great venue for local food and craft vendors to display and sell their wares.  We support our local nonprofit community by offering space to area groups to set up a booth or table and to share their mission with festival attendees.  We also partner with two local businesses,  The Pittsboro Center for Natural Medicine and the Joy of Movement Studios in the festival’s Healing Arts Area.

And, of course, there is the music…we have four stages: an intimate Cabaret Tent, a Dance Tent, and two large outdoor stages, The Meadow Stage and Carson’s Grove Stage, where artists of many genres, backgrounds, and cultures share their talents. Folks come to listen to their favorite band but nearly always leave with many new discoveries of previously unheard talents. Each fall and spring GrassRoots Festival of Music & Dance hosts at least fifty performing groups of varying genres including: Old-Time, Zydeco, Bluegrass, Salsa, African, Latin, Cajun, Reggae, Americana and more.

Building Infrastructure & Community

Over the last ten years we have built much of the infrastructure needed to support and sustain a community arts center.  There is a permanent stage, a well-kept barn (known as the Coffee Barn), campgrounds, the Nonagon, ticket booth, security booth, parking gate booth, three concessionstands, nice gravel roads, shower house, a general store, and drinking water faucets throughout the property. Planned for 2015 are permanent structure bathrooms and the conversion of our festival kitchen into a yoga and dance room.

Events at Shakori Hills have ranged from girl scout camp-outs, fundraisers for a local charter school, a camping space for college students attending an energy summit at UNC Chapel Hill, to more extensive, annual festivals and events such as Hoppin’ John Fiddlers’ Convention, Wild Goose Festival, NC Hops and Roots, Bikers for Bikers Annual Rally, and of course, GrassRoots.

Events produced by the SHCAC are almost entirely run by volunteers.  Volunteerism creates a unique opportunity for everyone to work together and to participate in hands-on activities, learn new skills and meet new people.  This involvement and participation of many folks has made Shakori Hills a valuable resource for building community.

Shakori Hills has built strong relationships with other area nonprofits like Chatham Together and the Hispanic Liaison of Siler City.  Volunteering during  GrassRoots Festival set-up is a great opportunity for Chatham Together mentors and their young friends to work together with others and then see their efforts come to fruition when they attend the festival. The Hispanic Liaison has held two of their Fiesta Latina events at Shakori Hills–each of which served as their biggest yearly fundraiser.

Mountain Aid, created by Mike O’Connell of Haw River Films, was hosted by Shakori Hills in June 2009.  After releasing his documentary film Mountain Top Removal in 2007, Mike coordinated the concert event to help create a clean energy future for North Carolina and beyond.  Mountain Aid helped generate awareness of mountain top removal, mobilize support against it, and raised money for the successful Pennies of Promise campaign to build a new school for the children of Marsh Fork Elementary located in Raleigh County, West Virginia. Until moving to the newly built school in 2011, the children attending Marsh Fork Elementary were threatened daily by a 2.8 billion gallon coal sludge impoundment in the hills above them.

Education and Cultural Preservation

In 2007, Shakori Hills launched a music-in-the-schools program in conjunction with the GrassRoots Festivals.  Our Roots in the Schools program (formerly Hopes and Dreams) is coordinated cooperatively with interns from UNC-Chapel Hill’s APPLES program.  Schools in Chatham, Orange and Durham Counties have all benefited from the program in which  artists/musicians/dancers go into the school to perform, demonstrate, and involve students in their craft. At a time when music and art departments are being cut from schools, this program continues to fill an important need for our young community.

The Northwood Jazz Band from Northwood High School, as well as a group of young string musicians, The Walker Street Fiddlers from Greensboro, North Carolina perform annually at the GrassRoots Festival. Young musicians are also given the opportunity to perform during the festival at the area for teenagers, The Outpost, and in the festival’s band and instrument contests. Providing opportunities for young people to learn and to participate in new and healthy experiences is very important to SHCAC and our partner, the Finger Lakes GrassRoots Festival Organization.

In September 2007 another annual event came to life produced by Shakori Hills CAC, the Hoppin’ John Old-Time & Bluegrass Fiddlers’ Convention. Originally a two-day event grown to three in 2011, musicians, dancers and music lovers come together to celebrate the traditions of bluegrass and old-time music.  They enjoy dance, instrument and band contests, square dances and many unscheduled special musical moments.  The convention helps keep traditional music alive and also provides an invaluable opportunity for young people to play on stage, regardless of their age or skill level.  North Carolina is renowned for its fiddlers’ conventions and attendees herald Hoppin’ John as a new favorite in the state.

Sustainable Communities

The GrassRoots Festival sponsors an on-site Sustainability Fair during the festival in which local earth-conscious organizations, green businesses and individuals participate and share their experience and knowledge of sustainable living.  In an interactive area, experts give talks and demonstrations and festival-goers dialogue with one another on  specific issues. Examples of participating organizations are: Central Carolina Community College’s Green Building Program, Chatham Marketplace, Solar Tech South, LLC, Chandler Design-Build, Piedmont Biofuels, Chatham Transit and Sol Food Mobile Farm.

Each year Shakori Hills events use approximately 10,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity. In an effort to increase sustainable practices, Shakori Hills partnered with the Abundance Foundation and began the Solarize Shakori project in the fall of 2008. To offset our usage we are building a permanent grid inter-tied solar electric system located on-site. We invite our community to be part of the project by donating solar cells at $10 per cell.  Festival-goers and community members have already donated more than $7000 towards this goal and the first solar array is in place.

With the help of instructors from Central Carolina Community College, a Community Garden was planted at Shakroi Hills in 2010. The garden now occupies approximately 8800 square feet, with three crop rotation areas, utilizing organic farming methods of cover crops and hog raising. Everyone who wishes to be part of the crop decisions, planting, maintenance and harvest is welcome to contribute, and share in the garden harvest. Excess produce is donated to CORA, and we are proud to announce that 293 pounds of carrots, beets, greens, cucumbers, beans, tomatoes and other produce was donated in 2014. By 2016, we plan to sponsor a pilot program (we’ve been dreaming of for years) of sustainable food education in conjunction with local schools. This will quite literally be part of our Roots in the Schools program!

Where We Are Now

shakori hills bridge to meadow field

We hope you have enjoyed reflecting on where we’ve been and where we are; we wanted to paint a picture of what we’ve been working on the last several years and help you to have a realistic understanding of what you, the community, have helped create. Shakori Hills only exists because or your support. Going forward, Shakori Hills only plans to grow and continue to have a positive impact through music and arts. Plans are in the works for monthly green lecture series, craft fairs, 2015 summer concerts and children’s summer camps by 2016.

As a joint venture Shakori Hills Community Arts Center (local non-profit benefiting NC that hosts the Shakori Hills GrassRoots Festival) and Fingerlakes GrassRoots Festival (Trumansburg, NY based non-profit that produces the four seasons of GrassRoots Festivals series) organizations are excited to announce that the property known as Shakori Hills has been purchased!

Our down payment goal was reached in 2013 (THANK YOU!), and thanks to many wonderful folks like yourself who invested in the community-owned mortgage, the purchase closing happened on December 10th, 2013.

Here are a few articles about the land purchase: News &ObserverThe Indy & The Herald Sun

A great big shout out of gratitude goes out to Carol Hewitt of Slow Money NC for all the work and help in putting the community mortgage together!

This brings us to the financial picture of the organization.  During the first four years (2003-2006), the Shakori Hills GrassRoots Festival had common start-up obstacles for a new outdoor festival – inclement weather being the biggest. In the Spring of 2007, weather cooperated, the festival had a real name in the central North Carolina area and a profit was made.  Since then the GrassRoots Festivals have continued with a steady growth in attendance. The rainy weather at the last three festivals have slowed this rate somewhat, but as you can see from the 2013 financial reports, the organization is still grossing more than $700,000 each year and continues to grow. And while the GrassRoots Festival provides the bulk of our income, with each year, the organization’s finances are bolstered more and more by other Community Arts Center activities.


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