Growing LEAF expecting most artists ever in 2023
Set aside March 24-26 for a weekend of rock stacking, river lounging, and far-out fun during the 2023 Llano Earth Art Festival. The one-of-a-kind get-together features incredible works of art using natural materials, live music, eclectic vendors, and the World Rock Stacking Championships.
LEAF is mostly held on the banks of the Llano River in Grenwelge Park but spills out into nearby downtown Llano. Acclaimed earth artists and stone stackers come from around the world to mold their creations from the sand, rocks, and plant life found in the riverbed. Dancers, musicians, artisans, and performers converge on the festival, too, offering unique products and entertainment. Visitors can swing by for a short stroll or spend the weekend camping at the river fully immersed in the festivities.
The Llano Earth Art Festival began in 2015 and has grown in popularity since. Forty-five artists are lined up for the 2023 event, more than ever before.
“The first year, people thought we were crazy,” LEAF co-founder Binky Morgan told 101Highlandlakes.com.
Morgan dreamed up LEAF after her father passed away in June 2014 and she found a beautiful photo of a rock stack in a shallow stream while scrolling Pinterest. She thought something similar would be a terrific memorial for her father and pitched the idea to friends of making her own and turning it into a party.
The idea quickly took on a life of its own. Musicians were booked, international rock stackers were invited, and vendors were brought in. Over 1,000 people showed up for the first festival.
“We really thought this was just going to be some local thing,” she said.
LEAF gained momentum each year but ran into a roadblock in 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. In those uncertain times, the festival struggled but ultimately adapted. Organizers came up with an online-only event in 2021.
“(The virtual festival) was a worldwide success,” Morgan said. “We had participants from every continent online, Antarctica included.”
The artists and rock stackers that descend on Llano each year are an eclectic group, traveling from across the United States and around the globe. Michael Grab of Colorado is widely regarded as one of the best rock stackers in the world. Laurence Winram is a Scottish rock stacker who also organizes the European Land Art Festival. Earth artist Ana Castilho comes all the way from Portugal.
“Most of the stuff that these artists do is very short-lived because nature claims it back,” Morgan explained. “It's meant to be that way. That's part of the attraction to it.”
The driftwood structures, stone thrones, innumerable rock stacks, and intricate patterns left behind are usually washed away by the river, covered by sand, or reclaimed by encroaching vines before the next LEAF rolls around. Artists start with a fresh canvas each spring.
Whether you’re curious about the festival, want to try your hand at rock stacking, or are a hardcore nature nut longing to camp out for the weekend, LEAF is an exceptional experience that you shouldn’t pass up.
KNOW BEFORE YOU GO
WHEN: March 24-26, 2023
WHERE: Grenwelge Park, 199 E. Haynie St. in Llano
ADMISSION: $25, which includes music, workshops, and art viewing; free for ages 17 and younger if accompanied by an adult. No pets allowed. You can purchase tickets online or at the gates.
CAMPING: Tent is $50 and car is $100 in Grenwelge Park (does not include LEAF admission).
ROCK STACKING COMPETITION: Individuals pay $5 per entry in height, balance, arches, and artistic categories; teams pay $10 per category in height and arches.
ROCK SKIPPING COMPETITION: $5
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