Rock Farm | The story behind the Wampus Cat Music Festival – THE RANT

Thompson Square will headline the country music scene on Friday night.

A 200-acre empty pasture along the Lee-Harnett County line will be transformed into a concert hall for nearly 100 rock and country bands, including some big names with huge followings. The story of how the Wampus Cat Music Festival came to:

By Gordon Anderson and Billy Liggett

AAs of this writing, the Gross Farms II facility is a largely empty 200-acre field off Rosser-Pittman Road, just above the Lee-Harnett county line. The rolling property, formerly a working farm, has a few dirt roads and one hell of a view, but not much else.

By May 13, at least for the weekend, everything will change.

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During these three days, Gross Farms II (owned by the same family that operates the Gross Farms Corn Maze and Pumpkin Patch off NC 87 in southern Lee County) will become a concert hall for up to 15,000 people from across North Carolina and beyond to watch performances by nearly 100 artists ranging from 90s hitmakers like Everclear, Lit and Sister Hazel, to current country superstars like Thompson Square, and artists emerging independents like Nitro Nitra, Hanging Cities, Hope Darling and many more.

In short, it’s a list of deeds from your past, your present, and hopefully your future. There is something for every taste.

This first-year event, known as the Wampus Cat Music Festival (the name comes from a North Carolina folk tale about a mystical creature said to have inhabited the state since colonial times) is a collaboration between Gross Farms and Indie on Air Records.

If Indie on Air sounds familiar, it’s because the organization has already hosted a successful music festival, the Carolina Indie Fest, which was first held in downtown Sanford in September 2021 and attracted more than 6,000 people in the city center over two days.

Jeff Popka, CEO of Indie on Air Records, said the Sanford area is a target for the company’s goal to “help make Sanford and area a musical destination.” In addition to the Carolina Indie Fest, Indie on Air has hosted multi-day music festivals in Texas, Colorado, Pennsylvania, and elsewhere.

“People will travel from all over for a music festival experience,” Popka said. “The economic benefits for the business community can be substantial.”

But while Carolina Indie Fest was a free event centered in downtown Sanford, live music fans should expect Wampus Cat to be a little different in several important ways. First of all, the entrance is paying. Second, because it takes place on the Gross Farms II property at 3345 Rosser Pittman Road in West Harnett County, attendees are encouraged to stay for part of or even the entire weekend, with campsites available for a fee. additional charges.

Nearly 20 food trucks will be on site throughout the weekend, along with an array of breweries, distilleries and even hard cider vendors to keep spectators from drying out.

For Popka and his team, who have been working on Wampus Cat since it was first announced in the fall, the first two weeks of May will be all about “working out all the loose ends.”

“All the big issues have been resolved,” he said. “There are administrative logistics to go through. We hadn’t done the wifi deal before (mid-April), for example, and that was quite stressful.

Tickets and the full lineup are available at, and Popka said based on early sales, Indie on Air is already expecting strong attendance, with the possibility of a sold-out Friday night sale. .

Tractors and other grading and digging equipment are all you can find at Gross Farms II – a 200-acre farm off Rosser-Pittman Road, just over the Lee County line. Harnett. But in a few weeks, the ground will be transformed into a three-story concert hall intended to accommodate more than 90 bands and thousands of fans over a three-day period. Photo by Billy Liggett

“For the first year, we are capping attendance at 15,000 people,” he said. “We really have room for 30,000 people, but a lot of first-year festivals are overwhelmed with people and we don’t want that to happen. We want to be able to serve everyone and make sure we can make this event a success and then figure out how to make it bigger next year.

Popka said Indie on Air is working closely with area officials like the Harnett County Sheriff’s Office to ensure a safe event for everyone.

“Everyone is of course welcome, but our market will be people in their 30s, 40s and 50s,” he said. “We don’t want to be Woodstock. We went over our contingency plans with Harnett County, and now it’s just about executing what we know how to do.

In late April, Popka said about 1,500 tickets had been sold in advance, many to people from outside the region or even other states. Tickets went on sale in late 2021, and the pace picked up considerably as the event approached.

“We know the last two weeks are when most of the action happens, so it’s a good idea to get tickets as soon as possible,” he said. “Tickets and parking at the gate will cost more, so everyone should buy early.”

And once year one of Wampus Cat is over, Popka and Indie on Air will turn their attention to September and year two of the Carolina Indie Fest in downtown Sanford, which they expect to be bigger and better.

“Sanford is so perfectly suited for events like this,” he said. “We are so excited for the future.”

The sign at the entrance to Gross Farms II on Rosser Pittman Road is up for the upcoming Wampus Cat Music Festival, scheduled for May 13-15. The 200-acre farm will host nearly 100 groups for three days.


  • What: The Wampus Cat Music Festival, sponsored by Indie On Air Records and Gross Farms
  • When: May 13-15 with times to be determined
  • Or: 3345 Rosser Pittman Road, just south of US 421 and the town of Broadway. Entrances will be marked with signs.
  • who: Big names in rock (Everclear, Lit, Sister Hazel), indie and country music (Thompson Square, the Swon Brothers) will join nearly 100 groups on three different stages during the three days of the event.
  • Cost: Three-day passes (including parking) are $128.40. Day passes (parking not included) cost $52.43 and can be purchased on the website.
  • Approvals: There will be camping, food, drum circles, costume contests and more.
  • Why Wampus Cat?: The name of this festival comes from the North Carolina folk tale of the Wampus Cat, a mystical cat-like creature said to have been sighted in the area since colonial times.
  • Learn more: has a full list of bands, updates, and links to buy tickets.

Questions and Answers | JEFF POPKA

The ritual : Let’s pretend people don’t know anything about the Wampus Cat Music Festival. What do you tell them?

Jeff Popka: It’s an outdoor music festival. It will be held on just under 200 acres of festival ground at Gross Farms II, which is technically on Broadway, although Gross Farms itself is in Sanford. But it’s a nice place.

There will be more than three days, there will be camping on site, parking on site, more than 90 groups approximately. [and an indie stage]. We feature national headliners as well as independent artists from across the country. And when we talk about independent actors, we’re not talking about those who play in their garage or in our backyard. We’re talking about emerging indie acts that are bursting on the road and working and doing what it takes to get noticed. And that’s our way of helping them.

And it’s also our way of building the music community in the Sanford area as we’ve been talking about for the past few years.

And finally, it’s a partnership between Gross Farms and Indie On Air Records. And we think it’s going to be a lot of fun.

The ritual : Tell us about some of the biggest names to come.

Jeff Popka: On the country side, we have Thompson Square. Stephanie Quayle. We just announced Maggie Rose. The Swon Brothers. Tyler Reese Tritt. Of course, the Cliff Wheeler Band – although you might consider them regional because they’re from Lemon Springs, but they’ve also toured across the country. On the rock side, we find Everclear, Lit and Sister Hazel. JR Richards, who is the former leader of Dishwalla.

Nitro Nitra and Hope Darling, we are thrilled with them. And then we had other national bands that toured the world like the Steepwater Band.

The ritual : The Carolina Indie fest was held in downtown Sanford last year. Did you see this as a sort of test for something bigger like this? How do you think Indie Fest went?

Jeff Popka: I think it went well for a freshman festival to draw 12,000 people over two days. I thought that was fantastic. And we got great feedback. Not just from our artists, but from the city itself. We are therefore very satisfied. The Wampus Cat is Carolina Indie Fest on steroids. That’s how I see it.

The ritual : Wampus Cat is more ambitious and on a much larger scale. Why are you sure it will work?

Jeff Popka: The booming region you are in is one of the fastest growing regions in the country. And we put our footprint right there. We just think it’s a fantastic fit. You are close to the highway so it is easy for everyone along the east coast to get there. We have lots of groups from places like Philadelphia, Delaware, Baltimore, Washington DC, Virginia and South Carolina – these are all easy drives to Sanford. We think we can tap into this whole region.

We plan to do well in Winston-Salem and Greensboro, which is another market and is only an hour away. A big draw from Raleigh-Durham is also expected. We advertise it everywhere – and we’re not expensive. So we are quite confident that it will work well.

Listen to the full interview with Jeff Popka on

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