Photographs by Josh Miller
At the Forecastle Foundation party on Mary Lee and George Fischer’s rooftop June 23, J.K. McKnight, its founder, pinned the origins of Forecastle Festival to a National Geographic article he read about third world poverty and the inequities among those who consume and those who produce. He sent letters to the White House to learn who he should partner with “to permanently preserve land in the third world” for generations to come, he said.
McKnight was 14 years-old.
Thomas Shannon, the former Ambassador to Brazil, answered McKnight’s letters with what he believed could make his dream come true. Money, and lots of it, McKnight said. Undaunted, yet, without sufficient funds to make his ship sail, McKnight let the preservation idea float for a bit and returned to it 15 years later, with a mission not only to keep the land safe from further deforestation and industrialization and extinction, but to teach people about preservation. “Because long term,” he said, “That’s the only way that change is going to be sustained.”
And so the Forecastle Foundation, the education and activism components of the Forecastle Festival, was born. At the party, McKnight invited guests to join the Traveler’s Program to enable the Foundation to carry out the Board’s energy and ideas, including “community events and institutions like the Forecastle Festival to get our message out.” “We don’t want to hand pamphlets to people,” McKnight said. “We want to show people.” The Foundation will donate to a few hotpots projects each year to preserve “these final critical life zones”, he said.
McKnight’s goal, according to his sister, Mo McKnight Howe, is for the Foundation to be flush enough to save the most critical hotspots all over the world to ensure a supply of future oxygen for its inhabitants. Has he always been this focused? “Yeah, he’s always been a man on a mission,” Howe said.
Official Festival photographer since she was 16, Howe said Forecastle Festival and Foundation is a family affair. Kelly McKnight, their father, will head up security this year and Ellen McKnight, their mother, is in charge of catering and hospitality, a k a making sure the bands are fed, Howe said. While most of the band requests are predictable, she said her mom was confounded when GZA (pron. Jee-za) from the Wu Tang clan asked for Hennessey and Cristal. She had no idea, like a lot of moms, what Cristal is, according to Howe. One local band’s request for nothing but condoms and gum didn’t faze her though.
This is one solid family. The McKnights prove that a family who plays together, or in this case, runs, a music and environmental extravaganza, stays together. That they are not egoists seeking the spotlight (J.K. seems to shy away from it sending requests instead to his girlfriend, the lovely and talented Holly Weyler) could be the key to their success and that of the Foundation Board as well.
To be sure, Forecastle Foundation is a tight ship, in sync with McKnight’s vision and how to achieve it. This is not a crew who needs to be almost famous, but is pleased as pirate’s punch to protect the planet and coincidentally to be a part of what Rolling Stone hailed as a not to miss music festival this year.
The rooftop Foundation fundraiser, another don’t miss event, was dotted with VIPs, and literally overlooked the waterfront in what could have evoked the High Line in Manhattan at the Hudson River, take or leave a few million people True to its grassroots form, the Board proudly announced the party cost it about $100 to pull off leaving that much more money to benefit the Foundation.
Mayan Café donated the seviche and salmon empanadas for the evening while music lovers, artists, people who love Louisville, and some philanthropists mixed it up to aid Festival Captain and Foundation Founder J.K. McKnight in his quest to access what he couldn’t at 14 and should be rolling in now – money. Fifty cents from every ticket sold to Forecastle Festival benefits the Forecastle Foundation. To donate or to learn more about hotspots visit www.forecastlefest.com.
- Holly Houston