Once unassuming, the Nelsonville Music Festival now has a reputation for booking big-name headliners like The Flaming Lips. You know the music, now meet Tim Peacock-the man who transformed this small-town street fair into a must-stop on the summer festival circuit.

Once unassuming, the Nelsonville Music Festival now has a reputation for booking big-name headliners like The Flaming Lips. You know the music, now meet Tim Peacock-the man who transformed this small-town street fair into a must-stop on the summer festival circuit.

It's quiet in the hills of southeast Ohio, but for the sounds of spring, not far from the small town of Nelsonville below. Chickens peck the earth outside an abandoned barn. Insects buzz with frenzy in the sun's heat. Beneath just-budding trees, a grassy field is dotted with preserved pioneer cabins, as still as the timeless village they represent.

In a month, this undisturbed bit of land known as Robbins Crossing will be swarmed by thousands of music lovers, gathering from across the nation for a weekend of continuous concerts. Live tunes-from gypsy punk to soul-will blast through the woods from a stage standing prominently before the grounds. A lucky 50 people will cram inside an old village schoolhouse to hear acoustic performances.

The man behind these quiet-shattering sounds sits at a wooden table by a weathered log cabin. Tim Peacock, the executive director of Stuart's Opera House, leans on his elbows, relaxed in a worn T-shirt. Wisps of gray in his full black beard hint at his 43 years, but the bright eyes behind his thick-rimmed glasses grow wide with excitement as he talks about the Nelsonville Music Festival. He smiles with awe as he recounts its successes.

Peacock has nurtured the event from a one-day street fair in 2005 to one of the region's most notable music festivals. Now it spans four days (May 30 to June 2 this year), has drawn as many as 4,000 fans and attracts headlining talent such as Willie Nelson, The Flaming Lips and the late George Jones. A musician at heart, Peacock has spent the last decade channeling his love for music into the nonprofit Stuart's and the festival that raises the money to keep it going strong.

Since it moved in 2008 from downtown Nelsonville to its current 8-acre site, the music celebration better categorized by talent than genre has earned a place on the national festival circuit, a trend Peacock notices when he books bands. Whereas in years past he has actively recruited artists, he finds lately he needs to do so less rigorously.

"Now we're inundated with agents from across the country," he says. "Even bigger bands, they know about us now. They want to play."

Proof is reflected in this year's lineup. Wilco tops a list of headliners that includes John Prine and Gogol Bordello. Ticket sales are on track to meet, if not exceed, the best-selling weekend in 2011, when psychedelic rock band The Flaming Lips took the stage and helped earn $75,000 for Stuart's.

In numbers, at least, it is a far cry from the original Nelsonville Art and Music Festival. With performances from small-time bands and local artwork on display, the fair celebrated the city's arts community while raising money for the theater, the epicenter of culture in Nelsonville that hosts more than 75 performances and concerts each year and provides art education to local and regional schoolchildren.

While it has grown in size and impact-attendance hovered around 1,000 patrons before Willie Nelson headlined in 2009, and as little as $5,000 was raised in early years-the festival is still created in the same vein. About 40 local and regional artisans sell crafts from cabin porches and children participate in art projects in a barn across from the main stage.

It's Nelsonville's way of showing "we're not just some Podunk little town," Peacock says. "There's actually world-class art being created here."

A second stage and cabin, dubbed the "no-fi cabin" for unplugged acoustic sets, are venues where listeners might discover new talent. Bluegrass-folk quartet The Avett Brothers played here in 2008, just before they exploded on the music scene.

Music by those not-yet-discovered bands is the kind Peacock listens to and, though he admits the headliners sell the tickets, they are the bands he likes to book. The festival's style is defined by his taste-"[independent] music that is creative and original, that is saying something relevant or new." He also admires the legends, dreaming of one day booking Neil Young and Tom Waits.

The Toledo-born Peacock, who attended Ohio University and Hocking College, realized his penchant for booking music acts in his early 20s. He discovered folk singer Michael Hurley, loving his goofy style, and persuaded him to play at an Athens bar for $250. The only problem was Peacock didn't have the cash.

So he hung posters at gas stations, asked local papers for a plug. At the end of the night, he had raised roughly $450. He gave it all to Hurley.

"I went home that night feeling very satisfied," Peacock recalls. "It wasn't until later I realized, 'Hey, that was my money! I could have kept that.' But I didn't do it because I wanted the money; I did it because I wanted this guy to come play Athens."

That mentality steers his direction of the 400-seat Stuart's Opera House. When the historic theater reopened after a devastating 1980 electrical fire and renovations that spanned nearly two decades, it was lacking management and often sat empty. Still promoting music and looking for new places to book, Peacock heard about the space from friends. Immediately struck by the theater's character, he began renting it out for concerts he wanted to see.

Shows sold out and board members took notice: They appointed Peacock executive director in 2002. Since then, the annual budget has spiked from $90,000 to nearly $1.2 million.

It's a major transformation that undoubtedly is owed to Peacock's direction, says board of trustees member Bob Garbo. Stuart's has grown because Peacock takes risks in booking lesser-known artists and develops a rapport with agents. The theater and its festival put Nelsonville on the map, he says.

Robbins Crossing could accommodate up to 7,000 festival patrons-a fraction of the numbers seen at corporate music festivals like Lollapalooza and Bonnaroo that draw anywhere from 60,000 to 270,000 people-and Peacock doesn't want to expand beyond that. The small setup is part of the event's appeal, a draw for both fans and bands.

The vibe is one reason Columbus rock-and-soul band Nick Tolford and Company returns this year for their second time since 2011. The frontman notes the quality treatment performers receive from Peacock and his team.

"They take such awesome care of you," says Tolford, describing a tent with food and drinks set aside for performers as well as private parking for band crews. The small venue encourages more one-on-one interaction between staff and performers.

Peacock, too, appreciates intimacy in live music. The bass player in Hex Net, a rock band that frequents Athens bars and occasionally plays in Columbus, Peacock prefers seeing bands at small clubs.

"That's where I think music is most alive, where I think that creative process in music is still happening," he says.

And, among the hills of southeast Ohio, beneath trees and between log cabins, it continues to happen in Nelsonville.