Every town needs a little Hart, Aarin Hartwell that is. We met Aarin at the Southwest Regional Folk Alliance (aka SWRFA) in Sept. We noticed her immediately as she literally floated around the conference from room to room with a huge smile and a welcoming spirit. She came to our midnight showcase and danced the whole set. Afterwards we sat with her for a moment and were impressed by her sense of engagement and her excitement for community. She gave us information on The Island Folk Festival in South Padre Island and made note that she’d love to have us come down for it. We were delighted but our assumption was that she was an intern or on staff with the festival, and so we weren’t really sure how concert the offer was. It wasn’t until after the conference that we struck up a conversation online about a possible Hollands concert with her production company Hartwell Talent and Production, that we realized that this little darling was the founder and operator of the whole big festival. And so, we set a date to perform for her Island Folk Concert Series on Feb 13 and she arranged for us to come down a little early to enjoy her hometown.
We arrived with a welcome text, making sure we were all settled in and the next day she popped by to grab Graciana for a day of Kiteboarding and exploring, while the rest of us went to visit the Turtle Rescue and the secluded north shore. Later, we met up for a meal to talk over logistics before our show.
Through the course of our time on the island, Aarin shared her story of growing up in Brownsville, just down the road, surfing South Padre Island (which the locals call SPI) and was committed to SPI as her home. She is involved in city counsel and chamber meetings, and working towards getting her brain child of a festival up and running. Aarin is a self-appointed ambassador of the island and she is most certainly a visionary. If you just sit down with her for five minutes you’ll feel inspired to dream with her, hoping on board and lending a helping hand.
South Padre Island is a barrier island in the U.S. state of Texas. It’s 1.9 miles long and has a population of 2800. South Padre is a beach resort town and every year experiences a large influx of winter Texans, mostly from the mid-west and spring breakers from universities all over the country. The island also attracts a large international population. At its core, its economic focus is on the outsider. So, Aarin’s vision to make it home for folkies all over the country is on par with the ethos of the island. However, her vision goes beyond the tourist to the heart of those 2k plus inhabitants, of whom she knows almost everyone. Her vision is to bring art and music to the island, as well as, give a cultural voice to those local folkies who meet regularly for jams and community gatherings.
Aarin created the Island Folk Concerts to showcase some of the artists that she hopes to bring back for the Festival. We kicked off her spring season at the SPI Birding Center and had about 40 kinfolk in attendance. It was chilly winter night at about 52 degrees but everyone seemed ready for the chill and brought sweaters. We did two solid sets offering our original Folk/Americana sound, including a few new songs that our daughter, Graciana, wrote. She also debut her Nord keyboard on one of the songs. After the show folks were generous in supporting our music by purchasing CD’s and our son, Banjo scored a big profit with his handmade “bottle cap” percussion instruments.
We finished out our last day on the island biking up and down gulf road. We explored the local shops and in the afternoon, Aarin taught us to make a proper sand castle. We had a blast learning the tricks of the sand art trade. That evening we rode our bikes to the bayside to enjoy the sunset. Aarin and Graciana had some fun doing a little modeling shoot for Graci’s blog, Dutchy Gazelle and then we finished off the night with a bbq at Aarin’s and Valentines Fireworks. The next morning we went to a little Baptist church with Aarin, that was chalk full of Winter Texans. We sang a few songs, shook a few hands and heard a bit of classic fire and brimstone. For lunch we stopped by the local farmers market and met Aarin’s dad and fellow musician, Jack Hartwell. He invited us to sit in for a song or two and we couldn’t pass it up. We sang a few songs, got a few veggies for the road, fired up the bus and said goodbye for now.
We enjoyed our week of Hartwell love. If you’re a beach combing, folk music lover and are looking for the next hot ticket, think about adding The Island Folk Festival, Sept 4-6 to your calendar. You’ll be glad you did!