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Gardenstock takes its 'cool factor' to film

Documentary about festival to raise money for youth gardening program

DIXON – What started out as a pipe dream for the organizers of Gardenstock is now reality.

It started in 2011, a few months after that year’s Gardenstock art and music festival. Bud LeFevre and Lisa Higby-LeFevre were on vacation and talking about how cool it would be to do a documentary about the festival and its impact on the community and local artists.

Then, in February of last year, they were talking with some people about how to prepare for the 2013 festival when Higby-LeFevre just happened to mention the idea of a documentary. In that group was Gary Smoot, of Smoot Productions Inc.

Smoot had the video production experience needed to put it all together.

“Gardenstock Art & Music Festival: For Community” is now on sale at Distinctive Gardens, 2020 Lowell Park Road. Its official release will be Saturday, the day of the sixth annual festival.

It took about 18 months to go from organizing to filming and interviews to production and release.

“What was eye-opening to me was what Gardenstock meant to the people and to the community,” LeFevre said. “... I had no idea the importance that this event held in some people’s lives. It was very humbling watching all the interviews and it coming together like that. I had no idea.”

Three dozen people who had been involved in the festival as an artist, musician or volunteer were interviewed for the documentary.

Higby-LeFevre said they always encouraged the musicians to play original music, and not the cover songs of popular hits they often play to get booked for other gigs.

“This was a place that we really tried to promote local musicians and artists,” she said. “And they valued that. ... It’s more of an integrated part of the community than we thought.”

Proceeds from the sale of the documentary, as well as money raised from the festival, will go to the Sinnissippi Center’s Youth Garden Program, which donates vegetables it grows to the Dixon Food Pantry.

The at-risk youths in the program work with LeFevre to start, maintain and harvest a garden. He said it can teach them responsibility and teamwork and creates an environment where they can discuss what’s going on in their lives.

“There’s a sense of great satisfaction, too, when you can actually grow your own food,” Higby-LeFevre said. “There’s that production that actually happens with the land – the connection with the land or being outside or working together.”

Andy Jackson is a marketing coordinator at Sinnissippi. He said the documentary highlights the way the community supports the program, which means a lot to the youths involved.

“It kind of is a way to help them in a different way,” he said. “It opens lines of communication and gives them a chance to give back to the community.”

The gardening program gives the youth a chance to do something they may never have had the chance to do otherwise, Jackson said, and some find out that it’s something they like doing.

The full circle that comes about as a result of the program – the festival supporting the program, which supports at-risk youths that in turn grow food for the food pantry – is all about the community, LeFevre said, which is part of the reason the documentary carries the name “For Community.”

“That’s exactly what this whole thing is for,” he said.

Gardenstock has grown significantly in its first 6 years. The first festival had about 440 people. Last year saw 2,257 attendees, and it took about 200 volunteers to pull the whole thing off.

Just as the size of the festival has grown from a loyal base, so have the volunteers, who, the organizers say, care deeply about the festival.

“One year we had terrible trauma – which we have every year – with parking,” Higby-LeFevre said. “Somebody who was at the festival just jumped in and started helping out for the whole rest of the day. And now 2 years later he’s turned into one of our two lead parking guys.”

While some of the festivalgoers have ideas for an expanded festival that lasts several days, the event likely will be held to a single day and an attendance the organizers can count on every year.

“I think if it gets too large, it’s going to be really hard to navigate and it loses that ambiance,” Higby-LeFevre said. “One of the things that’s cool about it is that you can bring your own cooler and your chair – you can set up your own little camp.

“And if you’re wall-to-wall people, like it is at other festivals or events, then you kind of lose that cool factor.”

About the festival

Gardenstock will be held from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday at Distinctive Gardens, 2020 Lowell Park Road in Dixon. Admission is a minimum $5 donation for festivalgoers 13 and older and $1 for 12 and younger.

There will be music throughout the festival with local artists displaying art from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and food will be sold from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.

For more information, go to or and search for "Gardenstock."

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