Music and arts festivals are a relatively new concept in the mainstream. While all of them are unique in their own way, few of them offer as unique of an experience as the CukoRakko Music and Arts Festival held within the sacred grounds of Horse Pens 40 near Steele, AL, just north of Birmingham. Before you can begin to truly grasp what magical experience on the mountain this grass roots event can offer, you have to understand this sacred place called Horse Pens 40, it’s place in music history, and how it’s geography makes it as special as Colorado’s Red Rocks Amphitheatre.
Horse Pens 40
Horse Pens 40 is a natural wonderland of unique rock formations nestled atop Chandler Mountain in the foothills of the Appalachians. Located on top of the third highest mountain in Alabama, the stone formations here are said to be among the oldest naturally exposed stones in the world, dating from 600 million to 1.3 billion years old. This sacred ground has a vivid history. It’s geography has provided natural rock shelters over 15,000 years of human habitation. The park contains ancient Indian burial grounds dating from the earliest inhabitants of this area, all the way up to the time of the Cherokee removal known as the “Trail of Tears”. The Creek and Cherokee tribes at various times used the natural rock formations to trap and corral horses, as a natural fortress in times of war, and as a sheltered village area in times of peace. The site played host to the only peace treaty ever signed between the Creek and Cherokee tribes.
During The American Civil War, the site was used as a hiding place for horses and their owners wishing to avoid invaders from the north and the Confederate recruiters and ‘Bushwhackers’. Once it was discovered by Confederate forces, Horse Pens 40 was then used for the storage of supplies to be used by Confederate troops as they passed nearby.
In the late 1880s, the area was settled by The Hyatt Family of Georgia. The original deed from this era refers to “the home 40, the farming 40, and the horse pens 40”, each tract consisting of 40 acres of land. This is how Horse Pens 40 got its name. Descendants of the original Hyatt family still occupy nearby areas of the mountain.
Around 1958, a man named Warren Musgrove discovered another unique characteristic about the geography of Horse Pens 40, previously only known to ancient Native Americans who used the grounds ceremoniously. In addition to providing natural shelter, the rock formations here also form a natural amphitheater unlike anywhere else in the eastern half of the United States. Warren Musgrove recognized the acoustic quality of the natural amphitheater and developed the park as a venue for Bluegrass and Gospel music concerts. Horse Pens 40 was home to one of the first outdoor bluegrass music festivals in the country, and by the 1970s had grown to be one of the largest in the world. The park served as a venue showcasing many legends of the Bluegrass genre including Bill Monroe, Charlie Daniels, Ricky Skaggs, Lester Flatt, Ralph Stanley, Doc Watson, and Norman Blake. Emmylou Harris made her first public appearance at Horse Pens 40, “standing barefoot on a wooden door propped up on the rocks.” During this period, the park was designated by the Alabama State Legislature as “The Home of the South’s Bluegrass Music”.
Horse Pens 40 is also known internationally among the rock climbing community as a premier bouldering site in the American Southeast. It is home to one of the most concentrated boulder fields in the world. The boulders are made of “ancient erosion carved sandstone”. Horse Pens 40 sponsors several bouldering competitions per year, including the largest leg of the Triple Crown competition.
CukoRakko is the Creek Indian word for ceremonial ground, stompground, big house and dance ground. In the spirit of this word, the CukoRakko Music and Arts Festival combines all that Horse Pens 40 has to offer in it’s rich history, stunning views, camping, rock climbing and hiking, with a diverse line-up of live music, mixed media arts including glass blowing and blacksmithing, yoga, kid’s activities, food & drinks, craft vending, craft beer and more. The 2015 CukoRakko Springfest will also feature the return of their official CukoRakko PDGA Disc Golf Tournament. This Spring’s CukoRakko will be held May 1-3 featuring a diverse lineup of music ranging from Jam to Bluegrass to DJs and more. Local musician Mandy Rae kicks off this Spring’s festival Friday evening at 6:o0 PM. Music and festivities carry on throughout the weekend until Sunday afternoon. For line-up, schedule and activities, see below.
Curtis Jones & Primal Roots ft. Matt Mundy
Red Clay Revival
Little Raine Band
Natti Love Joys
Pioneer Chicken Stand
DJ Jeffrey James
Artists at Large
Kebbi Williams (Tedeschi Trucks Band)
FRIDAY – MAY 1
|Mandi Rae||6:00 – 7:00||Rakko Stage (Main)|
|Scalici-Alley Project||7:30 – 8:30||Rakko Stage (Main)|
|Little Raine Band||8:45 – 9:45||Rakko Stage (Main)|
|Sumilan||10:15 – 11:30||Rakko Stage (Main)|
|Dank||11:45 – 1:00||Rakko Stage (Main)|
|Jam||1:00 – 1:30||Rakko Stage (Main)|
SATURDAY, MAY 2
|Ashtanga Flow with Clay||10:30 – 11:45||Pavilion|
|Jim Belk||11:00 – 11:30||Rakko Stage (Main)|
|Taylor Hollingsworth||11:45 – 12:30||Rakko Stage (Main)|
|Jim Belk||12:35 – 1:05||Rakko Stage (Main)|
|Kundalini Yoga with Shannon||1:00 – 2:00||Pavilion|
|CukoRakko Players||1:15 – 2:15||Rakko Stage (Main)|
|Blackberry Possum||2:30 – 3:30||Rakko Stage (Main)|
|Drum Clinic: Mitch Caponetto & John Scalici||3:30 – 4:00||Pavilion|
|Natti Love Joys||4:00 – 5:30||Rakko Stage (Main)|
|Drum Clinic: Mitch Caponetto & John Scalici||5:30 – 6:00||Pavilion|
|Red Clay Revival||6:00 – 7:00||Rakko Stage (Main)|
|CBDB||7:30 – 8:45||Rakko Stage (Main)|
|Bit Deff||9:30 – 10:00||Rakko Stage (Main)|
|LAVA||10:00 – 11:30||Rakko Stage (Main)|
|Sons of Vulcan: Fire Demonstration
+ John Scalici Drum Circle
|11:45 – 12:45||Rakko Stage (Main)|
SUNDAY, MAY 3
|Kundalini Yoga with Shannon||7:00 – 8:00||Pavilion|
|Ashtanga Flow with Clay||9:00 – 10:15||Pavilion|
|Curtis Jones, Primal Roots ft Matt Mundy||11:00 – 12:30||Rakko Stage (Main)|
|Harkestra||12:45 – 1:45||Rakko Stage (Main)|
|Winston Ramble||2:00 – 3:15||Rakko Stage (Main)|
|Pioneer Chicken Stand ft John Kulinich||3:30 – 5:00||Rakko Stage (Main)|
by Sons of Vulcan
Daytime Kids Activities
Johnny’s BBQ Food Truck
Tica’s Tacos and Vegan Foods
Live Blown Glass Art