Rooster Walk recieved $146K Harvest grant

December 7, 2014

The Harvest Foundation has awarded a $146,450 grant to Rooster Walk Inc. to buy a portable stage for use at the Rooster Walk Music & Arts Festival and its Turn 5 Concert Series. 

Rooster Walk’s mission is to promote music, arts and education in Martinsville/Henry County. It produces live music events that support charities and worthwhile causes in the area.

“By owning our own portable stage, we will save thousands of dollars each year in rental fees, which in turn will be donated to local charities, such as the Penn-Shank Memorial Scholarship Fund at Martinsville High School. And, we will be able to rent the stage out to other event producers in the region, creating a new revenue stream to increase our charitable giving even more,” said Johnny Buck, Rooster Walk executive director. 

Rooster Walk has been renting a stage for about $3,500 per event. Buck explained that if it had not had to rent the stage for the Turn 5 Concert Series, Rooster Walk could have given $13,500 to charity instead of $10,000.

Also, local partnering nonprofits will be able to rent the stage, if available, at cost, Buck said. Cost will include transportation fees and labor, he said. New revenue would be generated if nonpartnering groups from outside the area were to rent it, he added. 

“More than just a portable stage, we will be supporting the infusion of tourism dollars into the local economy,” said Nancy Cox, Harvest Foundation senior program officer.

In 2014, the Rooster Walk Music & Arts Festival was named one of the top 10 festivals in the Southeast by Blue Ridge Outdoors Magazine. The Turn 5 Concert Series is held in conjunction with races at the Martinsville Speedway. 

According to Buck, more than 3,500 people attended Rooster Walk this year, and attendance has grown each year.

“Our move in 2015 from Franklin County to Henry County will increase our capacity, (potentially) increasing local tourism dollars even more,” he said. 

Using a formula provided by the Martinsville-Henry County Economic Development Corp. and data from a survey of patrons at Rooster Walk 6, the annual economic impact of the festival was estimated at half a million dollars, Buck said.

Rooster Walk has been held at the Blue Mountain Festival Grounds near Figsboro. For the May 21-24 festival, it will be held at its new location at 675 Hobson Road, Axton. Rooster Walk has a 20-year lease on the property, Buck said. 

The Axton site has 151 acres, including about 80 acres or more of usable land, Buck said. By comparison, Blue Mountain has about 100 acres, about 25 of which were usable, he said, adding that parking was done on an adjacent property.

He could not say how many people the new site will be able to accommodate but said it will be larger than in the past with 55 more acres of usable land. 

Rooster Walk is conducting a capital campaign to raise more than $1 million for the Axton site. It has raised close to $300,000 in private funds so far for the first phase of the campaign, and the Harvest grant is part of that, Buck said.

The initial funds have been used to install infrastructure at the new venue — roads, underground electric lines, upgraded transformers around poles to get power to the stages, water and so on, Buck said, calling them “things that had to be done to host the festival.” 

The new stage will be used for the May festival, and a second stage probably will be rented, he said. Construction of a second, permanent stage at the Axton site is in the second phase of the capital campaign, he added.

Rooster Walk Inc. was created in 2008 in memory of two members of Martinsville High School’s Class of 2000, Walker Shank and Edwin Penn IV. For the first four years, it was operated entirely by volunteer labor. 

“More than just a portable stage, we are supporting the epitome of a nonprofit, adding paid staff only when they could cover expenses, keeping charitable donations as the priority,” said Cox. “It was created based on passion, always remaining true to their mission. Playing a vital role in the vitality and quality of life in our community, we are excited to partner with Rooster Walk.”

The paid staff members are Buck and William Baptist, vice president. They were not paid during the first few years of Rooster Walk events so all proceeds could go toward charities, Buck said. 

The majority of Rooster Walk’s charitable giving since 2008 totals $72,927:

• $40,152 to the Penn-Shank Memorial Endowment Scholarship Fund for seniors at Martinsville High School. (Of that, $1,000 scholarships have been awarded to five students. Beginning in 2015, Penn-Shank Memorial Scholars will receive a total of $4,000 over a four-year period.) 

• $9,000, Virginia Wounded Warriors Project

• $8,000, Martinsville Speedway Children’s Foundation 

• $4,500, Jimmie Johnson Foundation

• $4,500, Carlisle School 

• $3,425, instrument donation/repair program at Martinsville City Schools

• $2,000, PHCC’s Student Motorsports Association 

• $1,350, local Boy Scouts of America 

The Harvest Foundation was established in 2002 from the sale of the Memorial Hospital of Martinsville & Henry County. It researches and invests in programs and initiatives in the areas of health, education and community vitality. 

The Rooster Walk grant fell under community vitality, Buck said. 


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