Athens Messenger reports on controversy surrounding Nelsonville, Black Diamond music fests

The road to creating two festivals in Southeast Ohio was a bumpy one

Joel Oliphint
Columbus Alive
George Clinton and Parliment Funkadelic perform on the Main Stage during the Nelsonville Music Festival at Hocking College in Nelsonville, Ohio on June 2, 2018.
[Photograph by Joel Prince]

For a time, it looked like the Nelsonville Music Festival would return to its regularly scheduled programming this June at Hocking College after going virtual in 2020 and joining forces with Duck Creek Log Jam in 2021 for a separate fall fest (Hocking Hills Music Festival). 

Instead, 2022 will see two separate music festivals in Nelsonville: In June, the new Black Diamond Music & Arts Festival will take place at Hocking College, which is producing the event, and the Nelsonville Music Festival, a production of the nonprofit Stuart's Opera House, will return in a new location in September.

The road leading to that point, though, proved to be a bumpy one, as reported today in the Athens Messenger. "On Aug. 9, 2021, NMF announced that it would leave the Hocking College campus for its 2022 event," Dani Kington and Keri Johnson write. "Later, in October 2021, NMF announced that it would be holding its 2022 festival June 10–11. However, weeks later on Dec. 6, 2021, NMF changed its dates to Labor Day weekend, Sept. 2–4."

That shuffle came about because Hocking College decided to build athletic fields that would make most of the previous site of the Nelsonville Music Festival unusable, according to Stuart's Opera House Artistic Director Tim Peacock. (Peacock told Alive the college offered NMF two alternate sites, a blacktop area and a horse pasture, but both were deemed to be less than ideal for the fest.)

Initially, NMF aimed to hold its event as planned on June 10-11 at a new location, but when Hocking College announced that its own new fest, Black Diamond Music & Arts Festival, would be held that same weekend, Stuart's opted to move NMF to Labor Day Weekend.

"Having a little more breathing room to develop a new site is helpful, but the deciding factor was when we learned that they were actually doing their festival on the exact same dates as ours. I was like, 'We need to push. This is insane,'" Peacock told Alive. "It's hard right now with the pandemic. Securing tech crew and things like that related to festivals, everything is stretched thin. So two festivals in Nelsonville on the same weekend was going to be a mess.” 

Hocking College Dean of Workforce Development and Community Engagement Sean Terrell told the Messenger the school chose the June weekend because it best fit the schedules of students and the school. In separate interviews with Alive, Terrell and Hocking marketing director Joshua Moore gave similar reasons for the date selection.

The Messenger story also reports on the involvement of Bret Adams, who helped produce the Fashion Meets Music Festival in Columbus.

More:The inside story of R. Kelly's removal from FMMF

"Adams Partners Ltd. registered Black Diamond Development LLC, a Dublin-based development company, in April 2020, according to Ohio Secretary of State records. In May 2020, Black Diamond Development LLC registered the Black Diamond Music & Arts Festival, according to state records," Kington and Johnson wrote. "Terrell said he wasn’t aware of Black Diamond Development LLC’s registration of BDMF’s name; in a follow-up email he said Adams had relinquished the name of the festival to Hocking College in September. ... Terrell confirmed that Adams is working with the college as an 'external consultant' and is 'helping us put it together.'"

The story also quotes from a statement released by RJ Kaltenbach, president of Klein's Entertainment, which is booking the Black Diamond fest. The statement sought to clear up any confusion regarding the two festivals. "We have never used the Nelsonville Music Festival name or stated it was the same event. ... The festival name is completely different for this event and has been all along," the statement reads, in part.

In the end, reps from each festival expressed support for the other, noting that both fests could benefit Southeast Ohio. Elle King and Elvie Shane are slated to headline Black Diamond in June. Nelsonville has yet to announce the lineup or new location for its Labor Day weekend festival.