Farm Aid returns to Burgettstown Saturday

September 14, 2017
Willie Nelson performs at Farm Aid 30 in Chicago in 2015. Nelson, Neil Young, John Mellencamp, Dave Matthews and others will be performing Saturday when Farm Aid comes to KeyBank Pavilion. - Associated Press

Is there anything from the pop culture universe circa 1985 that has aged gracefully?

Big hair and shoulder pads in one MTV video after another? Phil Collins’ echoey drums that sound like they were recorded in a cavern? Bill Cosby’s multihued sweaters? “The Goonies”?

No matter how nostalgia-drenched it all is for graying Generation X-ers, much of what poured out of our radios and television sets, and was on the screens at mallplexes in those days, has not traveled well across the decades.

There is one thing from 1985, though, that has shown more durability than “Rambo” or Frankie Goes to Hollywood – the annual Farm Aid benefit concert.

Launched 32 years ago after an offhand remark by Bob Dylan during Live Aid that, maybe, some of the money raised to help famine-striken Ethiopians should be diverted to help America’s farmers, Farm Aid has since raised more than $50 million to assist family farmers, whether it’s providing a lifeline after a natural disaster or helping them adopt sustainable farming methods.

Farm Aid is returning to the region Saturday, with a marathon concert stretching from a little after noon to close to midnight at KeyBank Pavilion just outside Burgettstown. The headliners will be Farm Aid mainstays Willie Nelson, Neil Young, John Mellencamp and Dave Matthews. They will be joined by Jamey Johnson, the Avett Brothers, Sheryl Crow and others.

It’s the second time Farm Aid has been at the venue. The first was in 2002, when the lineup included Nelson, Mellencamp, Young and Matthews, as well as Keith Urban, Lee Ann Womack and Kid Rock.

When the concert was announced in June, Nelson characterized family farm agriculture as “the heart of Pennsylvania.” He continued: “What’s happening in Western Pennsylvania and the region shows us that we can count on family farmers to strengthen our communities and connect people. Whether we live in rural or urban places, food – and music – brings us all together.”

The concert sold out shortly after tickets went on sale. However, it will be streamed live in HD at Farm Aid’s website, www.farmaid.org, starting at 3 p.m. It will also be streaming live on YouTube, and AXS TV will offer live coverage beginning at 7 p.m. Nelson’s SiriusXM channel, Willie’s Roadhouse, will broadcast the event beginning at noon.

Nonperishable food items for the Greater Washington County Food Bank will be collected at the entrances of KeyBank Pavilion, with the greatest need being for items needed in school lunch sacks and for after-school programs. The items should be brought in cans, boxes or plastic bottles, and not glass.

Farm Aid also will be operating what they call a “Homegrown Village,” from noon to 5 p.m., with farmers on hand and lessons on some of the things farmers do other than just grow food, such as protect water, learn masonry skills and find out about microbes in organic soil. Chefs at the concert will be serving delicacies such as organic soba noodles, hot dogs with local sauerkraut and pork sausages that have been certified as humane and topped with local produce.

Brad Hundt came to the Observer-Reporter in 1998 after stints at newspapers in Georgia and Michigan. Brad holds a bachelor’s degree in communications from George State University in Atlanta, Ga., and a master’s in popular culture studies from Bowling Green (Ohio) State University. He has covered the arts and entertainment for the O-R, and also worked as a municipal beat reporter. He now serves as editorial page editor.

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