There may be few things in life that beat a blend of live music and the quirky, carefree brand of impromptu dance found in Carrboro.
Damp wood chips and dirt were the venue floor for that blend in front of Weaver Street Market on Sunday, but dampness didn't hamper the dance or the sounds of the small town's annual music showcase.
The Carrboro Music Festival returned to the streets and back alleys of downtown Carrboro for its 14th year with more than 180 acts at 25 venues across town. Local groups played music all afternoon and into the night on stages indoors and out, for free.
Thousands of people poured down sidewalks and into downtown's crevices listening to bands play selections from a wide spectrum including country, rock, rockabilly, swing, bluegrass, jazz and folk from stages built in and around some of the town's restaurants, bars and music venues.
The festival, which started as a celebration of the summer solstice, has doubled in size since it began, said organizer Gerry Williams. It's a reflection of the town's values and the dedication of its residents to nurture an arts scene that spans far beyond its town limits.
"It's a community that seriously supports all aspects of the arts and that's tough for a small community to do these days," he said. "It's a good reflection of what Carrboro is all about. Plus, for new folks ... this is a good way to hear some of the bands who play around on a regular basis."
Performers audition to play for free and a choice of a meal voucher or a festival T-shirt. Now, so many apply that some are turned away because there's not enough space, Williams said. The festival gets 250 applications and can only accept about 180, he said.
"Most of them can't find a place to play on a regular basis because there's so many bands and not enough venues," he said.
'Our annual party'
Carol Edenton of Carrboro twisted and kicked and jumped and twirled in front of a stage built out the back of Tyler's Taproom restaurant on Main Street downtown.
On the stage, which featured an American flag motif, the Straight 8's played rockabilly.
Edenton and her family come to the festivalevery year.
"It's just our annual party, I love it," she said. "The music is awesome - this is my favorite band."
As the flute and guitars and drums and cellos sang their Americana songs in the Puritan Rodeo band, Bruce Thomas of Chapel Hill danced for onlookers, a crowd of about 100.
He did waltzes with tweens and boogied with toddlers. Rhythmically moving around the Weaver Street lawn, he beckoned onlookers to stand up and move with him.
The man has danced and listened to music at the festival for the past 12 years. No matter where you're from or who you are, music can unite; it can bring peace, he said.
"Music connects with us all on some level," he said. "All of life is music and all of life dances."
The indoor venues Sunday were as packed as the outdoor ones. The CarrBros played their folk rock music to a jammed bar floor in The Station on East Main Street.
Alison Weiner of Carrboro played the melodica, a small keyboard with a flutelike mouthpiece, with the band. It was one of three gigs for her Sunday, a day that's the highlight of her year.
"It just celebrates music here," she said. "This is really Carrboro's best day. ... The power of music brings people together and we need more of that."