Annual punk rock music festival gives back to the community

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After a year of hiatus, a familiar sound returned to downtown Gainesville: punk rock music. 

‘Fest’ is a 19-year-old punk rock music festival held annually in Gainesville. In 2020, the underground event was called off due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  This year, Fest 19 curator and owner Tony Weinbender said he was confident about being able to put on the punk festival this year.

“We surveyed our attendees and found out that people who were holding tickets, about 96.5% of them, were already vaccinated, and that was one of the motivating factors of us going through with the festival,” Weinbender said. “Knowing that, I think made everybody a little bit more comfortable with doing a music festival.”

 The festival also returned with its longstanding tradition of giving back. Fest provides donations from ticket sales to organizations such as We Are Neutral, a non-profit entity whose goal is to increase awareness of carbon emissions, and GRACE Marketplace, a local homeless center. These donations usually total $3,000 a year.

GRACE is a frequent recipient of donations from Fest. The homeless center receives $1 from each ticket sold. Since the pandemic put last year’s event on hold, funds that would have been made over a two year period were condensed into one, said Weinbender.

This year, funds reached an estimated $4,000. While many people refunded their ticket when the event was cancelled, they kept their $1 donation to GRACE.

In addition to ticket sales, Fest organizers created roughly 900 copies of an LP record with the Pittsburgh based label A-F Records. The LP contains tracks from bands who performed at the festival, and bands from previous years.

Records were on sale for $20 each. If all records were sold, GRACE would receive an additional $18,000 donation.

Jon DeCarmine, the executive director at GRACE, said he was grateful to be a part of punk culture’s long standing history of giving back.

“There are a lot of different festivals that come through town,” DeCarmine said. “There are a lot of things that happen and I’m really amazed at the way that Tony and the crew at the Fest and the crew at Anthem have really committed to making sure that it’s not just a festival, but it’s also a way to give back to the community.”

About Julia Cooper

Julia is a reporter for WUFT News who can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.

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