Music festival to honor Capt. Nicholas Whitlock
by Bradley Hartsell
Last year’s Hunter 87 Bluegrass Bash was such a success that Rick Barnes Jr., president of the Whitlock Foundation, decided to grow the event into the Live Oak Music Fest, which will feature seven musical artists on Saturday.
From 10 a.m. until 10:30 p.m., the Live Oak Music Fest at the Powers Pavilion off Georgia Highway 34 West between Newnan and Franklin will host music and food all for a good cause. All proceeds will go to the Nicholas Whitlock Leadership Scholarship, awarded to a deserving Newnan High senior, as well as the local and military charities with which the Whitlock Foundation works.
The foundation and scholarship honor the memory of Capt. Nicholas Whitlock, a Newnan High alum who was killed in an airplane accident in Africa in 2012 while serving in the U.S. Air Force. Coweta’s airport was renamed and dedicated April 20, 2013, as Newnan-Coweta County Airport, Whitlock Field, to honor Capt. Whitlock’s sacrifice, the service and sacrifice of the many young men and women who learned to fly at the airport, and the many contributions of the Whitlock family to Coweta County.
Whitlock and Barnes Jr. were friends who grew up together, going to the same middle school and playing football together at Newnan High. Last year, more than 400 people came out for the Hunter 87 Bluegrass Bash barbecue at the Coweta Veterans Club. Barnes was impressed by the turnout and decided to concretely plan a sustainable annual event.
“We wanted to do a yearly fundraiser, something we could do year-in, year-out without it getting old,” Barnes said.
Last year’s event had one musician perform for the day. This time around, Barnes knew he needed to expand the festivities.
“Being on a larger scale, it’s definitely a lot more involvement,” said Barnes. “The seven acts we have, five of them local, have been gracious enough to donate their time to help us put on a great event.”
One of those artists is Wesley Budd, now a resident of Raleigh, NC, who grew up in Newnan and still plays in Zedella, a Newnan-based rock band. Budd grew up with Whitlock as well, playing baseball with him in school. They became close friends when Budd played for Whitlock’s fraternity at Mercer. On Saturday, when Zedella takes the stage at 5 p.m., they’ll be playing for one person — Nick Whitlock.
“We’re humbled to play this show,” Budd said. “It means more to play this one more so than any other show, just to be able to honor Nick. We’re gonna leave it all on stage for him. He set the bar high for how people should live. He was a class act, as a friend, a husband and a soldier. You’ll see on Saturday what Nick meant to so many people.”
Along with Zedella, performing will be Kevn Kinney (lead singer of Atlanta’s Drivin N Cryin), Stewart & Winfield, Leonard Washington, Kris Youmans, SawDust and Table 18.
Tickets in advance are $25 (available until 12 noon the day before the event). General admission at the gate is $30. All children under the age of 6 are admitted free. VIP tickets are $100. VIP includes separate parking, festival T-shirt and private VIP area with tables and seating. The event is cash-only, but ATMs are on-site.
Joy Barnes, Rick’s mother, has helped the event behind the scenes, promoting and giving her son ideas for the day-long concert. Watching Barnes and Whitlock grow up together is something she’ll always remember, and she looks forward to celebrating Whitlock’s memory with many people who cared about him, including his wife, Ashley, who will be attending the event and stays involved in several fundraisers in Whitlock’s honor.
“Nick was a big part of our family, being best friends with Rick growing up,” Joy Barnes said. “The Music Fest is a good way to honor Nick. He was a fun-loving person and I think he’d love everybody getting together to have fun and listen to music.”
Based on the success of last year, Rick Barnes is confident they’ve assembled something even better this year and for years to come.
“It’s been something we wanted to do that everybody in the community can jot down on the calendar and look forward to every year. We’re just trying to touch as many as we can in Nick’s memory.”