With Willie’s Nelson’s Whiskey River still flowing through our ears, we’re settling back into the rhythm here at Jeni’s headquarters.
In our first-ever capacity as an official sponsor of Farm Aid, we traveled this past weekend from Columbus, Ohio, to Hershey, Penn., site of this year’s Farm Aid concert starring Farm Aid President Willie, Farm Aid board members John Mellencamp, Dave Matthews, and Neil Young, and guests Jack Johnson, Kenny Chesney, Grace Potter & the Nocturnals, and more.
Our caravan to Hersheypark Stadium included 20 members of Team Jeni’s in one 12-passenger and one 15-passenger van, two box trucks, and one chase car (Jeni’s VW). With provisions and supplies that included lots of ice cream, tents, sleeping bags, music, and granola bars, we left Columbus with high hopes to personally fill Willie’s tour bus ice box with Whiskey & Pecans ice cream, tune Neil Young’s guitar, and light John Mellencamp’s cigarette.
Those hopes didn’t materialize, but we left Hershey very happy just to have had the opportunity to bring the good stuff to 30,000 concertgoers (and scores of musicians)—and to have played a part in such a great long-running event that blends good music and good food in an effort to bolster American farmers.
On the morning of the concert, with Dave Matthews on stage playing through his 10 a.m. sound check, we set up a station in the rear of the stadium (see photo above), in the concourse under the bleachers, and in catering.
During the afternoon, with Dale Watson, Jamey Johnson, Willie’s son Lukas Nelson, and others doing their things on stage, Jeni and assistants brought the good stuff to the side-stage V.I.P. tent filled with local farmers and Farm Aid 2012 donors.
And all afternoon and evening, while audience members enjoyed scoops of Salty Caramel, Whiskey & Pecans, and Roasted Strawberry Buttermilk, we made many a musician’s day in the catering tent, with managers and handlers and family members loading up tour buses with Salty Caramel, Ugandan Vanilla Bean, Dark Chocolate, Sweet Corn & Black Raspberries, and The Buckeye State ice creams.
We also sent a few people home with pics of their favorite ice cream cookbook author (below), made friends with dudes in sweet vintage T-shirts, met two sets of twins, and in general had a blast.
Until next year, here are few beyond-the-stage shots from Farm Aid 2012:
We used our Farm Aid 2012 sponsor status to put as much ice cream into as many hands as we could in Hersheypark Stadium. Our crew arrived at 10 a.m. Saturday and didn’t stop serving 30,000 fans and scores several hundred musicians, roadies, and stadium crew until Willie Nelson & Friends took the stage to cap the show at 11 p.m. or so.
The calm before the storm. Team Jeni’s Matthew McGraw en route to replenish his stock for the masses—an increasingly challenging event as fans filled the seats to catch the evening’s headline acts. For the record the majority of the crowd pledged allegiance to Kenny Chesney and Dave Matthews.
Jeni, with East Nashville shopkeeper Jacob Winger, spreading the gospel of good food to open ears in the V.I.P. tent, where farmers and Farm Aid donors took shelter from the sun before the evening’s headline acts played for the people.
Team Jeni’s Stephanie McBride doling out the good stuff to a woman next to a fellow in a Neil Young & Crazy Horse T-shirt—a killer T to be sure, but not as killer as the next Crazy Horse T you’ll see in a moment.
Us: “Great shirt.”
Him: “Still fits.”
You bet it does, man. You bet it does.
Our sign in front of our ice cream cart in catering was the beacon for a very popular spot all day and evening. While headliners Willie Nelson, Dave Matthews, John Mellencamp, Neil Young, Kenny Chesney, Jamey Johnson, Jack Johnson, or Grace Potter, took their meals in a private compound, we made many a great day an even better one for grateful and very appreciate roadies, concert production staff, and band members.
The Watson Twins, back-up singers for Pegi Young (Neil’s wife), with a post-performance treat. Leigh and Chandra, based in L.A. but often in Nashville, said they always make it a point to swing by the East Nashville shop for their Jeni’s fix.
More action in catering. As John Mellencamp could be heard from the stage wrapping up his set, another duo appeared. The Calhoun Twins, back-up singers for Willie Nelson, sauntered over to our ice cream cart and greeted Jeni with a few bars of Only Fools Rush In. Jeni greeted them with a pint of Sweet Corn & Black Raspberries, which the twins dug into with gusto.
Said Jack (or was it Jerry?): “Maybe we could trade one of Willie’s brownies for some more of this, Jeni. What do you say?”
This past Saturday’s concert, the 27th since the birth of Farm Aid birth in 1985 in Champaign, Ill., once again served as the crown jewel of Farm Aid’s year-long efforts to support American farmers.
Seventy-nine-year-old Willie Nelson, during a pre-show press conference, lamented that Farm Aid still has to exist at all, given that nearly 30 years have passed since the Farm Aid began.
But thankfully he remains steadfast in his belief that farmers connected to agriculture rather than agribusiness always yields good food. It’s a belief we can get behind as much as we can the statement on the man’s shirt.