Six years ago, Becky Ramey and Terry Frady started a little festival in the parking lot of their Maggie Valley restaurant: the Hillbilly Jam festival. There was only one keg of beer, and performers were standing on the back of a flatbed truck. Today that same festival attracts thousands of people to the Maggie Valley Festival Grounds to see 20 local and regional bands playing. Now there is no shortage of beer, as many North Carolina craft breweries are present.
The festival had some problems with their name though.
For the first three years, the festival was called the Popcorn Sutton Jam, but a falling out between the promoters Ramey, Frady and Sutton forced them to find a different name.
And then, Hillbilly Woodstock was born. The North Carolina couple spent all year planning the two-day festival, which features live music, car shows, food and arts vendors and a mechanical bull.
But then the trademark hammer hit them again: the received a cease and desist letter from Woodstock Venture, nine days before the event. The producer of the world-famous Woodstock Musical Festival, that started with the 1969 iconic event in New York, was not amused about the festival’s name.
“Only Woodstock Ventures and its authorized licensees are permitted to use the WOODSTOCK trademark as the name for concerts, music festivals and related events,” the letter read. “Hillbilly Woodstock is not authorized, and will cause consumers to mistakenly believe that Woodstock Ventures has approved, or is connected with, your activities.”
“We thought it was a joke at first,” Frady said. After consulting with their trademark attorney, Ramey said they offered to change the festival name to Hillbilly Woodfest, but that wasn’t satisfactory.
So there they were a week from the event with banners they couldn’t use, T-shirts they couldn’t sell — everything labeled with Hillbilly Woodstock had to go. Under the gun, promoters went with Hillbilly Jam and rushed to get banners reprinted and T-shirts redone. Even the drumkit on stage had to have new lettering to reflect the new name.
“I don’t know how they heard of us, but we sure didn’t have the money to fight them,” Ramey said.
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