A Call To Action
In the year 1990, as we headed into the last decade of the 20th century, the world faced a new crisis: AIDS. Mysterious, unheard of and deadly; people were scared and dying! Donna the Buffalo and friends, The Horse Flies and Neon Baptist, responded with a sold out benefit show at the State Theatre raising over $10,000 for AIDS Work of Tompkins County. I remember so clearly the feeling of peeking out from the door of the dressing rooms beneath the stage and seeing the packed house of heroic Ithacans, also responding to the call to be there and support a community that a Government was appearing blind to, a joyful mob! To create joy in the midst of crisis is a powerful thing and brings magic to the table. The wonderful event and its success led to the creation of GrassRoots and 25 years of raising consciousness and funds for organizations that support Arts, Education and the fight against AIDs, both locally and globally.
a festival is born
A friend and fellow musician suggested the band name of "Dawn of the Buffalo," which was misheard as "Donna the Buffalo." The name stuck, and a couple years later in 1991, Jeb Puryear started the GrasssRoots Festival along with Donna the Buffalo, his family, and everyone else that he knew.
Now almost 30 years later, Donna the Buffalo tours regularly and hosts four GrassRoots festivals. Their devoted fans, The Herd, are a self-organized "tribe" of people who met at the group's shows and travel to see them.
Leslie Puryear was one of the creators and a longtime director of the Finger Lakes GrassRoots Festival. She was present when the idea for GrassRoots was conceived and was involved every year since. It is no exaggeration to say that the GrassRoots Festival wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for her. Leslie put decades of work into the event itself, and she tilled music and activism in our community for decades prior, making a fertile ground in which an event like this could grow and flourish.