PeteFest uses music to fight the stigma surrounding mental health issues

“Stomp the stigma” is the motto of PeteFest, an annual music festival started in Louisville three years ago to foster the mission of the Pete Foundation for Depression Prevention. Named for 23-year-old percussionist Pete Jones, who died by suicide in 2016, PeteFest combines music, art and community engagement with the ultimate vision to fight the stigma surrounding mental health issues. This year’s PeteFest is happening this weekend, featuring 27 bands, with headliners Luthi, Marbin, MojoFlo on Friday; Rebirth Brass Band, Joan Shelley and GRLwood on Saturday; and Mama Said String Band, The Tillers and Horseshoes & Hand Grenades on Sunday.

“The main of goal of PeteFest is to have fun, celebrate our community and raise awareness about the topic in a positive setting,” said one of the festival’s organizers, Michelle Jones, who founded the Pete Foundation with her family. “We’re like a convener. We keep the conversation going about mental health, so that we can fight the stigma that’s around that topic.”

“But also, it’s a good party,” added Shannon Vetter, PeteFest music director. “Dancing is therapy, singing is therapy and coming together is therapy.”

In its third year, PeteFest continues its residence at the beautiful Jones Fields nature preserve, boasting 90-acres of rolling hills and Kentucky bluegrass, where guests have the option to camp. Daily activities such as morning yoga sessions and a suicide prevention workshop on Sunday (also known as QPR: Question, Persuade, Refer) are among those options. But Vetter said having supportive musicians on the bill is equally important, noting one of Saturday’s performers, Joan Shelley.

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“[She] for me is the most calming, healing music. She just puts me in a good mood,” Vetter said.

For more information about PeteFest and opportunities to volunteer, visit PeteFest.com.

PeteFest takes place Sept. 6–8 at Jones Fields, 8401 Dawson Hill Road. Ticket prices vary.



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