Westerville News & Public Opinion

Festival musician happy to return to 'second home'

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At this weekend's annual Westerville Music & Arts Festival, visitors will see some familiar faces on the event's two stages.

Whereas some festivals like to attract nationally touring acts, organizers at the Westerville Area Chamber of Commerce -- hosting the event for the 41st year -- say they prefer to stay local.

"We do favor as much as we can local acts, but they're not all local," said Bob Gibson, who was in charge of booking the musical acts at this year's festival. "We look to local acts first and then try to work around those, and it's what we like."

One of those local performers is Sarah Overdier, who graduated in 2012 from Otterbein University. A Michigan native, Overdier has largely played in Columbus since her college years, and spent time with the female group The Salty Caramels, among other projects.

Overdier is scheduled to open the festival's Heartland Bank Stage from 10:30 a.m. to noon Sunday, July 13. She said she's happy to return to the festival for her fourth time.

"Westerville is sort of a second home," Overdier said. "I went to the festival when I went to school at Otterbein. The first year I played, it was with a band I was in from Otterbein during my sophomore year.

"It's fun to return every year and see families and faces of people I've met at the festival who come back each year."

She's been rained out multiple times during her Music & Arts Festival performances, but Overdier still says she likes to play in a festival atmosphere.

"Festivals have always been a strong point with me. My audience tends to be over 40 and under 10," she laughed. "It's more family-friendly, it's more down-to-earth. It's more fun to connect with people at a festival than a bar or somewhere else. It's always a great time, and there's a really good atmosphere here."

And while the festival has juried art shows, a heritage artisan area and a smorgasbord of other things going on, Overdier said she likes the crowd's focus on the musical performers.

"People come up to me and get to know who I am and what my story is and where I'm from," she said. "They comment on words in my songs, and they come to hear music and pay attention to lyrics and songwriting.

"They come to focus on the music. It's the difference between people coming to see you and coming to hear background music."

Gibson said that after he had seen Overdier play, he knew he needed to bring her back to the festival.

"I remembered her," he said. "She has a tremendous voice; she's really good. The first year that I started booking the music, I ran across her name and brought her back."

When she comes back, Overdier said she still talks to professors and even Otterbein President Kathy Krendl. And while she has grown into a bigger name in Columbus, she remembers the days when most of her fans were in Westerville.

"It's always good; I always see one or two professors from the Otterbein community and people who kind of discovered me when I was playing at Java Central and other Westerville businesses," she said. "I didn't really branch out into the Columbus community then, I was still in that Westerville bubble. But they were extremely supportive."

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