GRINDfest is back! Come Get Your Grind On - TribPapers
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GRINDfest is back! Come Get Your Grind On

J. Hackett and Bruce Waller, co-founders of Grindfest. Photo submitted.

Asheville – Grindfest is a block-party style event taking place at 8 River Arts Place during the weekend of May 27-30.

This festival’s long weekend of fun and excitement promises music & games, live performances, food, local vendors, learning, and employment and partnership opportunities. The festival highlights the progress made by people of color while also bringing together local folks in the community. 

Last year, the event drew over 4000 attendees from 19 states. This year, because of key partnerships they hope drawing an even bigger crowd of nearly 7,000 people. These recent partnerships include the NC IDEA Foundation, Explore Asheville, First Horizon Bank, Buncombe Pre-K and the National Brewers Association. The event is hosted in collaboration with AVL Beer Week and Lifting Lucy. “We are honored to collaborate with GRINDfest and look forward to a long-lasting partnership with such an incredible organization,” says Katie Smith of Asheville Brewers Alliance. The epicenter will be the City-Owned property leased to Black Wall Street for $1/year servicing as a hub for Black businesses and tourism.

Grindfest is the brainchild of J. Hackett and Bruce Waller, co-owners of Grind Coffee Shop. Asheville’s first black owned coffee shop. Grind AVL is so much more than just a coffee shop. According to J. Hackett, “Coffee is our unifier. We are not the experts in coffee, but we are the unifiers. We intend for people to come together and Grind serves as a home base for businesses to come and connect. This is what gave rise to Black Wall Street, that we would have a place to start, grow, and expand black businesses, and help revitalize Black Wall Street. Grind is more an office and meeting place for entrepreneurs that are black, indigenous, and people of color to meet and collaborate.” Grind even provides a printer/fax/copier, and a mailbox. Hackett continued, “We are most excited about our pop-up shops that happen every two weeks, helping black businesses.” Hackett laughingly added, “But the coffee is good too. We pride ourselves on providing organic, high-quality coffee products. We work with local dairy suppliers and bakeries to source the freshest, highest quality offerings.” 

Over 30 sponsors will join together to celebrate this amazingly diverse and entertaining event. 

Hackett and Waller laughed when asked how Grindfest got started, “We didn’t plan this as a festival. The purpose of Grindfest when we started it, we were in the middle of the pandemic and were trying to get outside, and we needed a way to boost sales in black owned businesses. These were businesses that were not incorporated at the time, they really had an idea and we needed them to benefit from the tourists that were coming.” Hackett explained, “Bruce and I sat down in one of the booths at Grind and said what can we do to push sales? So we decided to take the tables outside and put them on the sidewalks, in the grass, and the parking lot. And then let’s have some music, and then let’s see if somebody can bring some food, and let’s do something for kids, and all of a sudden AVL Today picked it up and said, ‘It’s a festival.’ We said, ‘Oh lawd, is it? We didn’t know. It was a festival by accident, and we had 4,000 people from 19 states show up at Grindfest last year. This year, based on the number of advanced reservations, we’ve already exceeded last years numbers.”

The excitement was palpable when Hackett and Waller were asked about highlights of the festival. “GRINDfest will kick off with a ribbon cutting with the Chamber of Commerce and Brian Hamilton, founder of Sageworks, Brian Hamilton Foundation and Inmates to Entrepreneurs. Brian Hamilton is an entrepreneur, philanthropist, and the leading voice on the power of ownership to transform lives.” Hackett commenced with a list of the fun activities planned for attendees, “Friday night we’ve got Poetry Slam. Saturday morning we’ve got the marketplace opening at 10 a.m.. We’ve got hip hop aerobics, line dancing led by the city’s own Brenda Mills, and we have Opportunity Tent for if people need grants, partnerships, loans, jobs, etcetera. We’ve got over 45 vendors including the World-renowned Slutty Vegan, a black, woman-owned vegan food truck recently featured in Essence Magazine.” 

According to Waller and Hackett the “foods from around the world” will be available from food trucks and tents. There will be all sorts of flavors: East African, Mexican, Soul, Fusion, Caribbean, and the old classics like hot dogs, ice cream.

Kicking things up a notch, Grindfest will also feature a drag show, sponsored by Blue Ridge Pride, On the Greenway, and the Hillcrest Majorette Dolls will be dancing. As if that wasn’t enough, there will also be a Beer Garden curated by Highland Brewing, a DJ Battle, Outdoor Games in the greenspace, card games, and the Greater Asheville Cookoff showcasing wings, chili, and BBQ varieties.

Culturally significant events include Storytime With the Elders, where local elders tell stories about how Asheville used to be, and Roots Reveal, where people discover their ancestry together. 

Hackett and Waller are looking for more volunteers to help. To volunteer, for a schedule of events, a site map, or more information go to grindfestavl.com.

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