Saying goodbye to the Foothills Blues & Arts Festival isn’t keeping Meigs County from
singing and dancing their hearts out at the Sheets family farm.
by Kayla Blanton
Barefoot children scurry gleefully along rolling hills and hungry families gather at picnic tables, while roars of applause, singing and whistling celebrate a fiery bluegrass guitarist inside. A structure that was once home to 2,000 hay bales (and long before that, prohibition bootleggers)on Jared Sheets’ fifth-generation family farm in Meigs County is now Charlie’s Red Star Barn,the namesake of Sheets’ grandfather. “[He] was actually born in the house,” Sheets says, gesturing across the gravel lane to the family’s restored farmhouse. “And now [myself], my kids and my wife live here on the farm.”
In 2006, the Sheets family established the Foothills Music Foundation “with a goal of promoting music and the arts in Southeast Ohio,” Sheets says. During that same year, they utilized their 700-plus acres of land to host the Foothills Blues & Arts Festival. The first festival saw 300 to 400 people and was relatively manageable. By 2011, upwards of 5,000 people were in attendance, and the fields were littered with RVs, campers, vendors, and production equipment as far as the eye could see. The Sheets then realized that this project had grown too complex fort hem to handle independently.
“When it’s not fun, that’s when it’s tough to keep it going,” Sheets says. Following the 2011festival, the Sheets decided to take a year off to reevaluate the use of their land. After time to prioritize, they made the decision to renovate their circa 1830 Pennsylvania Dutch bank-barn and make it a place for smaller scale, sustainable events: “something we don’t get tired of, something we still enjoy, something the community enjoys,” Sheets says.
The family stays busy by hosting two music events per year at Charlie’s Place, where guests can bring dinner and a growler filled to the brim. And if all of his kids happen to be home, Sheets may be spotted on stage with them, strumming the guitar in their family band and singing “GoCharlie Go,” a song they wrote and dedicated to his grandfather. “The most memorable thing is playing with my kids,” he says. “That’s the most special thing to me.”