Music fest returns to Smithfield

Published 9:50 pm Friday, August 12, 2016


Now in its eleventh year, the Aiken and Friends Music Fest has attracted thousands to the Smithfield area.

Now in its eleventh year, the Aiken and Friends Music Fest has attracted thousands to the Smithfield area.

The Aiken and Friends Music Fest has been a staple in the Smithfield community for more than a decade.

Now in its 11th year, the fest will take place on the grounds of the Smithfield Little Theater on Sept. 23 and 24. Each year, the fest typically attracts upwards of 2,000 people.

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“This brings incredibly top-tier entertainment to the area,” said Jim Abicht, director of non-profit Smithfield Music.

“The audience loves it and even come again, even if they aren’t household names,” said Amy Aiken, co-founder of the music festival.

On the first night of the fest, a unique concert will take place inside the Smithfield Little Theater. Mike Aiken, co-founder, and Americana artists Paul Jefferson and Jack Sundrud will be the main acts for The Songwriters in the Round concert.

During the concert, the trio will perform acoustic versions of their respective songs. They will also tell the stories of how they wrote and created the songs.

The gentlemen have written their fair share of nationally recognized songs. Notably, Jefferson wrote a song for country star Keith Urban.

“They might not know the names of the songs and how we wrote them until they sit down and listen,” Aiken said.

On Saturday afternoon, several local artists will perform, including Lewis McGehee and Jim Masters. Later that evening, the two winners of Smithfield Music’s open mic showcases on Aug. 29 and Sept. 1 will open for Mike Aiken and his band.

It’s hard to believe the origin of the fest was accidental.

James Aiken and his wife, Amy, were on a boat trip from the Bahamas to Maine. During the trip, a hurricane hit, and the couple was forced to find refuge off the Pagan River in Smithfield.

Here, the couple realized the town had a very active music scene, thanks to Smithfield Music. The nonprofit was not only involved in the music scene but also in the Isle of Wight County schools. The Aikens decided to get involved with the organization and bring a music festival to the area — birthing the Aiken and Friends Music Fest.

All proceeds from the fest are directed toward the music programs at the county’s schools to purchase instruments and hire music tutors. To date, more than $70,000 has been raised.

“It was easy to get behind their cause. We all recall the music programs our schools offered growing up. These days the kids need whatever funding they can get,” the fest’s website states.

Tickets are available at One-day tickets are selling for $25, and weekend passes are $40.