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Thursday, Sept. 2, 2004 10:11 am

Barnfest moves to newer, permanent digs


This weekend, 16 bands and more than 1,000 people are expected to travel to a field outside the small town of Beecher City to enjoy some of the area's finest rock music. It's the sixth year for Barnfest, a Taylorville-area tradition.

John Hicks, frontman for Pana-area rockers Hot Iron Skillet, was there at the beginning. "We had a couple of friends in [other] bands, and we wanted to start a music scene here," he says. The bands organized a party in a barn owned by Hot Iron Skillet's bass player, and 150 people showed up. "It turned out to be pretty cool," Hicks says. "We were, like, 'Let's just call it Barnfest, and we'll try it again!'" The crowd doubled the next year, and the event kept growing.

For this year's Barnfest, more than 70 bands competed for the 16 slots, allowing organizers to pick the cream of the crop, Hicks says. "We pride ourselves on having the bands that were working hardest for themselves and for the scene -- the 'good' bands from the area." This year's lineup includes Hot Iron Skillet, the Good Year Pimps, NIL8, Clone, Lidlifter, Honest Pod, Omelas, Funky Circus Fleas, the Timmys, Soulmine, Enamel, and Supagroup.

Previous Barnfests were held on farm property donated for the event, but organizers acquired a new permanent home this year. "We've found a nice piece of land that we can keep the festival at for a couple of years and hopefully expand from it there," Hicks says.

If you head to Barnfest, come prepared for the possibility of bad weather. Last year's event was drenched by rain. Staff and local public-safety agencies provide security. Food and beverage concessions are available. The price of admission includes free camping. Portable toilets, electricity, and city water will be available, but not shower or bathing facilities.

And, in case you're wondering, there's no barn.

The Barnfest 2004 gates open at 1 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 4. Performances start at 2 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. To get there, take Route 29 through Pana, then Highway 16 to Route 128 to Beecher City. Signs will be posted along the way. Tickets for the two-day event are $19.99 per person; parking is $5 per vehicle. In Springfield, tickets are available at Penny Lane, 2901 S. MacArthur Blvd. For more information, see hotiron.homestead.com/barnfest.html.

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