The Moss Rock Festival will look a lot different for its 15th year — with an alternate location and a touch of “magic.”
The “eco-creative” festival that celebrates both art and nature is moving this year from the Preserve subdivision next to the 350-acre Moss Rock Preserve nature park to the lower parking lot at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium on Nov. 7-8.
The reason for the move is the COVID-19 pandemic and the problems that come with having to shuttle people from the usual parking area at Prince of Peace Catholic Church.
Festival organizers were concerned about the shuttle buses becoming a means for transmission of the COVID-19 disease. So they decided to move the whole festival to the Met, where there is enough room for both the festival and parking nearby, said Alex Kunzman, co-director of the festival.
The “magic” being added to the Moss Rock Festival this year is dozens of artists that normally take part in the Magic City Art Connection in Birmingham’s Linn Park. That in-person event in April was canceled due to COVID-19 and turned into a virtual art experience.
Kunzman and his mother, Eileen Kunzman, run both art festivals and, given the unusual circumstances this year, decided to fuse them together. This year’s event is being called “Moss Magic.”
“We’ll definitely miss our home at The Preserve this year, but with everything that’s happening with COVID, we think this is the best way for us to proceed and be able to keep everybody safe,” Alex Kunzman said. “It definitely will be a different experience, but all the artist booths and great artwork will really transform the space [at the Hoover Met]. It’s not completely barren there. There are a lot of tree lines and skies.”
The artists are really ready to be out with people and selling their artwork again, and people who have been unable to attend art festivals are ready to experience them again, Kunzman said. “We’re happy that we can still move forward.”
There normally are about 100 artists at the Moss Rock Festival, and their artwork either depicts nature, is influenced by nature or uses natural or recycled materials.
This year, there will be about 130 artists, and about half of them will be of the “Moss Rock Festival” mold, Kunzman said. The other half will be the Magic City Art Connection artists, who will add a more diverse array of artwork, he said. The two groups of artists’ booths will be intermingled with signs designating which ones are part of which group, he said.
This year’s featured artist is Kimberly Paige, a 27-year-old watercolor artist who lives in the Irondale area. She grew up in Virginia and moved to the Birmingham area in 2015 after receiving her bachelor’s degree in studio arts and psychology from the University of Virginia.
She followed her parents here, found the love of her life and is now engaged to be married.
Art is her full-time profession. Most of her paintings mirror the beauty she sees in nature and are inspired by a host of house plants in her studio.
“I really aim to create paintings that connect me with people who enjoy being out in nature,” Paige said. “Everyone can relate to the way nature is. It makes me feel happy and warm and calm all at the same time, and that’s the way I want my paintings to feel — very comforting and like a warm embrace. I think we all need a little more of that in our lives.”
Kunzman said that’s one reason they chose Paige as the featured artist this year — to help bring a sense of calm to an otherwise tumultuous year.
Some normal parts of the Moss Rock Festival will not be there this year, such as guided hikes through the Moss Rock Preserve, but organizers are trying to find a way to do those hikes at another time. “It might be the week after,” Kunzman said.
Other activities such as a climbing wall and rope bridge will be missing, as will the Greenways and Pathways Expo, which normally features ideas for outdoor activities, travel, parks, preservation and appreciation of nature.
The festival also will not have “smart living” design exhibitors like it normally does, but the Alabama Wildlife Center will be showing off some of its rehabilitated birds, and the Hoover Historical Society will be present to foster an appreciation for historical preservation.
The big focus this year is on the expanded artist lineup, Kunzman said.
There also will be the “smart living market” — similar to a farmers market, introducing people to fresh, organic, locally made, sustainable products, including food and items for the home, body and health.
Participants expected to be there include the Ivy Brook Apiary (a bee-keeping outfit on the eastside of Birmingham), the Borth Beach Soapery (a Birmingham business that makes soaps from all-natural ingredients) and Dayspring Dairy (which makes sheep milk cheeses from a flock of 100 dairy sheep in the Gallant community in Etowah and St. Clair counties).
The annual WonderKids Studio will feature several art experiences for kids inspired by nature, science and recycling. One will be a “neon tower” that kids will participate inbuilding throughout the weekend, using individually selected and painted objects.
The Moss Rock Festival normally has a Planet Project, in which teams of students from various schools build sculptures with a selected theme related to the environment or nature, but with all the challenges schools are facing this year, festival organizers didn’t pursue that project this year.
There won’t be any live music this year, but music selected by Birmingham Mountain Radio will be played, Kunzman said.
FOOD AND DRINK
There definitely will be food at the festival. Food trucks will include the Bollywood Curry House (Indian food), Rendezvous Kitchen Co. (a plant-based food truck), Tamale Queen, Rae Rae’s Catering (classic American food and some ethnic cuisine), Catering by LaNetta (soul food), Pazzo’s Big Slice + Italian Bistro and Steel City Pops (popsicles). There also will be beer, wine and cocktails available.
However, the beer garden that has been a feature at the festival this year is turning into an off-site “beer garden trail.” People can purchase a trail ticket for $35 and get three tastes of beer at at least 15 pubs or breweries across the Birmingham area between Oct. 15 and Nov. 30. The beer garden trail ticket also is good for admission to the Moss Magic festival. A 13-ounce Belgian commemorative glass is available through the Whole Foods Market in Mountain Brook.
Safety is at the forefront of festival organizers’ minds, so numerous protocols are being put in place this year, including more space between artist booths, wider pedestrian paths, contactless ticket purchase options, mask requirements for vendors and attendees and socially distanced eating and lounging spaces.
“We’re really being cognizant of the protocols so it’s a safe and fun and inspiring experience for all,” Kunzman said.
For more details and to order tickets, go to mossrockfestival.com.