2012-05-23 / Front Page

Music festival will benefit class for autistic children

By SALLY BARTO

An all-day music festival will be held this Saturday in Whitesburg with proceeds benefiting the Letcher County structured classroom for autistic children.

The Agrestic Music and Arts Festival will begin at 11 a.m. on May 26 at River Park in Whitesburg. Admission is $10 at the gate and $8 if purchased in advance.

Whitesburg physician Van Breeding, who has helped organize the event, said the name for the festival was chosen because agrestic, which means rural and rustic, is a good name for a festival in Whitesburg, which he says is a small, rural, rustic mountain town.

The festival committee hopes to raise enough money to fully equip the structured classroom for autistic children, which located at West Whitesburg Elementary School and was formerly located at Fleming-Neon Elementary School.

Six children are enrolled in the structured classroom, which has a capacity of eight. Chasity Craft is the new structured learning instructor.

Autism affects one in 80 female births and one in 53 male births, Breeding said.

Carrie Hall, a parent of an autistic child, said she is amazed by how much her son has progressed since being involved with the structured classroom at Neon.

“This classroom opened the doors for autistic children to become normal and live normal lives,” said Hall. “My child was nonverbal when he started into a class at age three. At age six, he is reading. He has progressed tremendously. He has begun to act socially with his classmates, friends and family.”

Hall said the goal of the structured classroom is for autistic children to eventually transition into a regular classroom setting. She said that if the structured classroom did not exist in Letcher County, her family would have to move somewhere that had a structured classroom for autistic children.

Hall, other parents of autistic children and community members make up the festival committee.

The Letcher Fiscal Court, the Letcher County Tourism Commission and local businesses are also supporting the festival.

“As a parent, I am overwhelmed by the community support,” said Hall.

The festival, which will be headlined by David Tolliver of Knott County, a member of the country music duo Halfway to Hazard, was created by A.C.A.M. Productions, a non-profit organization created by Ashley Sexton, her husband Cody Sexton, Cody Sexton’s brother Adam Sexton and Adam Sexton’s girlfriend Malinda Hull.

In addition to raising autism awareness, Breeding wants to help bring a wide range of musical entertainment to Letcher County.

“This is a great opportunity to provide local entertainment that the youth of our area doesn’t have to travel far to go to,” said Breeding.

In addition to Tolliver, the event will feature at least 14 other diverse musical acts from here and elsewhere.

Alternative rock bands Amend the Broken and We Killed Vegas will take the stage as well as Bakto Bak, a soul/Southern rock group. Idletime, a ‘70s rock group, Southern rock band Pure and Simple, and Atomic Solace, an indie rock group, will also perform.

The rest of the lineup includes heavy metal band Kender and metal band Down Trend, bluegrass musician Brett Ratliff, and Americana musicians Wayne Graham and Neal Spears. Scratch Fever Telegraphy, a folk/soul rock group, Aftershock, a classic rock band, country band Black Bottom Road, and the acoustic rock duo of Kori Breeding and Dusty Adams will also appear.

Tolliver, who is also a songwriter for country singer Tim McGraw, will perform at 8 p.m.

Pine Creek resident Verlin Short from Animal Planet’s reality television show “Snake Man of Appalachia” will also appear.

The Letcher County Central High School Lady Cougars basketball team will sell concessions.

Agrestic Music and Arts Festival T-shirts will be for sale. Vendors and a silent auction will also be at the event. Xtreme Fun Inflatables will have some inflatables at the park.

Breeding, who enjoys attending concerts and music festivals, plans to expand the festival for next year.

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