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Sleepy Fest brings together local musicians, attendees for a relaxing day

A crowd gathers at Sleepy Fest, a music festival hosted by Sleepy Cat Records in Hillsborough on Saturday, Oct. 28, 2023.

At the end of several long, winding roads, with an ideal view of the fall foliage, sits Down Yonder Farm in Hillsborough. On Saturday, this was the setting for Sleepy Fest, a music festival organized by Carrboro's local record label, Sleepy Cat Records. 

The festival brought together food, art and musicians for a day of outdoor fun and relaxation. 

Attendees could bring lawn chairs or blankets and sprawl around a large field that featured two outdoor stages. They could also stroll past booths selling handmade art, food and drinks, or go to the Neptune Room to listen to poetry readings. 

The Nightblooms perform on the sun stage at Sleepy Fest in Hillsborough on Saturday Oct. 28, 2023.

Founded in June 2019, Sleepy Cat Records produces music across a variety of genres with the goal of nurturing local creative community, according to their website. They held the first Sleepy Fest last year.  

Attendees Zeke Graves and Katrina Martin, who have come to Sleepy Fest both years, said they thought the all-ages festival was fun event to bring their child to.

Martin said they heard about the event through social media and the local music scene, and went because they loved Down Yonder Farm. Last year, they found that many of their friends also attended. 

This year, they have friends that performed at the festival.

“It feels pretty local, it feels like a lot of people who might have some kind of connection to either one of the musicians, or it feels like close tendrils,” Martin said. 

Kelly Noble, Steve Guarino and Sarah Smolen, first-time attendees at Sleepy Fest, said they came to see the band Dante High. They saw the band two years ago around Halloween and wanted to catch another show, but said they showed up early to explore what else the festival had to offer. 

According to the co-founder of Sleepy Cat Records, Saman Khoujinian, the event is a way to bring the record label’s friends together to play and give them a platform. 

This year’s lineup included Chessa Rich, Nightblooms, Kamara Thomas and more. The Sleepy House Band, which Khoujinian said is a collection of some of the label's artists and employees playing each others' songs, also played at the festival. 

Khoujinian and Sleepy Cat Records' co-founder Gabe Anderson are both musicians and played backup with almost every band during the first festival in 2022. This year they only performed with the Sleepy House Band and Kamara Thomas.

The event ran more smoothly this year than last, Khoujinian said.

A father and his children walk through the crowd at Sleepy Fest in Hillsborough on Saturday, Oct. 28, 2023.

Attendees were not left hungry as they listened. Several restaurants catered the event, including Vimala’s Curryblossom Cafe on Franklin Street. 

Chef and founder of the cafe, Vimala Rajendran, heard about Sleepy Fest through a Facebook post asking for vendors, and decided to respond even though she had missed the deadline. She said food is an important part of events like Sleepy Fest, and that people should be fed at any gathering. 

After eating and catching a couple of sets, attendees still had another thing they could do — shop. 

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Caroline Smith, artist and owner of Studio Adeline, sold handmade stained glass at the festival for the second year.

Smith said that even though the festival was small, she loved that it was easy to navigate as a vendor and that attendees were interested in the handmade products. She said she got involved with the festival through Carrboro's tight-knit creative community, which she joined during college. 

“We all just kind of know each other, so when someone does a project, other people jump in and join, so it’s really a joy to be part of that community,” Smith said. 


@dthlifestyle |