In 18 years, the Mid-West Reggae Fest — the beloved creation of local reggae enthusiastic, promoter, DJ and chocolate fan Packy Malley — has grown from a single-day event to a three-day extravanganza with a lineup of some of the biggest names in the genre. The event is taking place for the third year at Nelson Ledges Quarry Park; it’s also the third year that it’s a multiple-day event, running from August 7-9. If you buy your ticket before August 1, the entire event, including camping, is only $85.
“The big thing about this year is the number of major headline bands playing at it,” says Malley. “Freddie McGregor, Beres Hammond, the Original Wailers, the Wailing Souls and Tarrus Riley are all big-time acts. Instead of one major headliner a day, I’ve got a couple. Nine of the 18 acts are from Jamaica; some of them are Grammy-winners. I wanted to step this up and make this one of the premiere reggae festivals in the country. It’s certainly the best reggae festival outside of California.”
Malley says that attendance has grown “at a good clip” since he moved the event to Nelson Ledges and made it a full weekend, and that he’s been getting inquires from around the country “asking about car rentals, how far we are from Hopkins.”
He adds that he’s tried to put together a mix of acts, from the old festival standbys to hot new acts that reggae fans may just be starting to hear about.
“One of my favorite things about reggae is that it fosters a lot of new talent all the time,” says Malley. “I have two young guys who are brand-new and they’re top-of-the-charts guys in Jamaica. The big sensation is a guy named Tarrus Riley; the other is a guy named Duane Stephenson. They’re new but they’ve had a bunch of hits in the last two or three years. There’s a new artist no one’s heard of before, a Jamaican woman named Lenya Wilkes — she will be big in a year or two. It’s not just a bunch of old reggae bands singing songs they’ve been singing for 30 years. There’s nothing wrong with that but I like having new and old acts.”
Other acts come from Washington D.C. (The Pocket Band) and Hawaii (Marty Dread). The lineup also includes regional favorites the Ark Band, the Flex Crew and steel drummer Deighton Charlemagne, all from Columbus, and Cleveland’s Outlaws I & I and Carlos Jones and the PLUS Band.
In addition, reggae historian and archivist Roger Steffens returns with all the latest dope on the reggae scene. There’ll be morning yoga sessions on Saturday and Sunday, a gospel hour Sunday morning, and, at the conclusion of Friday’s program, screening of a film of South African reggae superstar Lucky Dube’s appearance at the 2007 festival, a couple of months before he was murdered. —Anastasia Pantsios