SPRING LAKE — The fact that it has survived into its eighth year is something of a miracle to Riverhawk Music Festival promoter Mitch Lind.
By all rights, Lind figures, the eclectic event held annually at the Sertoma Youth Ranch should have fallen by the wayside.
But then there's the difference between Lind and music presenters who have visions of turning a quick buck.
"If that's what you're looking for, this ain't the business," Lind, 56, said. "Promoting music like this requires something else. You have to have some faith."
The Riverhawk Music Festival, which began Thursday and continues through Sunday southeast of Spring Lake, has roots dating back to 1995, when Lind partnered with friend Kermit Weeks to stage an Americana music festival at Weeks' Fantasy of Flight aviation museum in Polk City.
Despite a bumpy start, the Wings and Strings festival carried on for five years, drawing fans to see some of the top names in bluegrass, zydeco and roots country music.
By 2001, Weeks had moved on to other things. Lind rechristened the event the following year as the Riverhawk Music Festival, first at a campground in Arcadia, then at the Sertoma Youth Ranch.
"It's been a fun ride," Lind said. "Seeing the smiles on the faces of our fans is what does it for me. It tells me we're doing something that's important to them."
Though music is the main focus for adults, Lind always has insisted that there be other entertainment as well. There are contests for best campsites, and instrumental workshops where professionals offer playing tips on guitar, banjo, mandolin and other instruments.
Keeping with the theme of making the festival family friendly, Lind has a staff of volunteers who organize games, hayrides, a trapeze experience, arts and crafts, and a daily costume parade through the campground.
As for the music, Lind's philosophy is that if it's got a great sound there ought to be an audience for it. From zydeco, reggae and roots rock to the melodic sounds of Celtic, bluegrass and new folk, convention is out the window, Lind said.
"A lot of the music we feature is so alternative it really can't be labeled," he said. "One of the cool things that happens is people will come to hear a band they like and they end up discovering somebody else they like, too."
With music acts performing simultaneously on four stages throughout the weekend, the chances of that happening appear to be pretty good.
Headlining the event Saturday will be the Cajun-swing band Red Stick Ramblers, plus returning favorites the Steeldrivers (Saturday), the Greencards (today and Saturday), Chubby Carrier and the Bayou Swamp Band (today), the Gibson Brothers (Saturday and Sunday), Trailer Park Troubadours (Saturday), King Wilkie (today), Mark Johnson and Emory Lester (Saturday and Sunday), and many others.
Logan Neill can be reached at [email protected] or (352) 848-1435.