Fans find community, new music at 2023 Nelsonville Music Festival

From July 21 to July 23, the Nelsonville Music Festival brought fans closer to their communities and to the music they didn’t know they loved. 

Photos by Abigael Miles

BUCHTEL, Ohio — From July 21 to July 23, the Nelsonville Music Festival brought fans closer to their communities and to the music they didn’t know they loved. 

The festival was first held in the Nelsonville Historic Arts District (aka Nelsonville Public Square) in 2005. From 2008 to 2019, the event was held at Hocking College. After a two-year hiatus due to COVID-19, the festival moved to the Snow Fork Event Center outside Buchtel.


The festival was started with the hopes that it would attract more people to come to Nelsonville and help local businesses flourish, according to Stuart’s Opera House, which organizes the event. The festival serves as a fundraiser for Stuart’s Opera House, with all proceeds benefiting musical education in southeast Ohio for children with limited access. 

Today the festival has blossomed into a live event with 50+ performances across three different stages. This year’s headliners were Kurt Vile, Alex G and Big Thief.

First-time attendees Jacob Bauer and Paula Martin traveled from Colorado to attend the festival and to sell handmade clothing made from fabrics donated by businesses. They were impressed by the festival’s scale and the quality of the musicians.

“I think the festival in general (was the biggest surprise) in terms of its size and the caliber of musicians and artists that come here,” Bauer said.

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“Sierra Ferrell was incredible,” Martin added.

Ferrell also made a huge impression on vendor Jeanna Fox, from Logan. The main line of Fox Designs Jewelry is made from recycled guitar strings. The Logan resident looked forward to seeing Ferrell on the main stage.

Sierra Ferrell performs at the 2023 Nelsonville Music Festival. Photos by Abigael Miles

“I’m so glad I did because she’s going to send me some strings, and I’m going to make her some jewelry out of her strings,” Fox said.

Emily and Alison Winnard of Columbus, who also sold jewelry at the festival, caught Ferrell’s secret live performance at the secluded Creekside stage.

“The Creekside stage is a magical place,” said Winnard. “I love it so much over there.”

Logan Schmitt, an illustrator from Wheeling, West Virginia, attended the festival for the fourth time. In addition to enjoying a plethora of musicians from the festival, Schmitt appreciated the event’s atmosphere.

“Saturday is always really fun,” said Schmitt. “There’s always really good energy, and there’s always the most people on Saturday, so it’s good.”

Although festival-goers loved seeking out musicians they already enjoyed, an important part of the festival for many is discovering new music.

“We actually discovered a lot of new musicians that we weren’t familiar with,” Bauer said. “The music here has been amazing.”

Fox agreed.

“I always discover new music here at this festival,” said Fox. “And so my new favorites are Ferd. I was so impressed with their music that I went straight to the merch table afterwards.”

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