Meredith Walsh is a Loudoun farm girl who traveled the world, fell in love with yoga and came home to launch an increasingly popular Mid-Atlantic music and yoga festival in her backyard.
After building a career in communications and international development, Walsh shifted gears and returned to western Loudoun, where she launched the Flow Jam healing arts festival in 2014. Now in its sixth year, the festival has found a new home on a 100-acre property near Lovettsville and has grown to include dozens of local and internationally acclaimed teachers and healers, along with vendors, artists and music from local and regional favorites. Flow Jam 2019 takes place Friday, June 21 through Sunday, June 23.
“There are not enough spaces for healing outside and connecting with community. There’s a lot of research about how the brain actually changes with three days in nature. It can have transformative effects on people, and it has.” Walsh said.
The event started on Walsh’s 16-acre family farm near Bluemont as a one-night fundraiser for a school in a small village in Tanzania where Walsh had taught yoga with the Africa Yoga Project. Since then, the festival has grown to three days and welcomes teachers, musicians and participants from the DC region and beyond.
“It’s grown from there and it’s grown organically and through a lot of word of mouth. We’re super grassroots,” Walsh said. “We’ve really created a community that comes back every year.”
Walsh, 33, grew up in western Loudoun and attended the Hill School in Middleburg, Blue Ridge Middle School and Loudoun Valley High School. She first tried yoga in Leesburg as a young adult as a way to combat anxiety and continued her practice when she went to work in Sydney, Australia after college. Walsh taught yoga in Tanzania and eventually returned to DC to work in communications for the World Bank.
Her work in development helped her see a need for healing and community-building even in wealthy Loudoun County. Inspired by her travels abroad and to iconic venues in the American West like the Red Rocks Amphitheater in Colorado and the Burning Man festival in Nevada, Walsh decided the time was right to bring a festival to the DC area. This year’s event includes more than 40 yoga and healing workshops, covering everything from acroyoga to healing symptoms of anxiety to preventing ticks naturally, along with 13 bands, many of whom are Loudoun-based. There are also vendors, camping and children’s activities all weekend.
To accommodate the festival’s growing footprint, Walsh moved the event from her family’s farm to a larger space near Lovettsville last year, where local entrepreneur Josh Shores is working to create an event venue hosting everything from yoga festivals to Civil War reenactments.
This year’s Flow Jam is drawing teachers and healers from around the world, but Walsh is also heavily focused on the local yoga and music scenes.
“In general, my whole advocacy is for supporting local. There’s so much amazing talent locally that has drawn so much power from the Blue Ridge Mountains,” Walsh said.
Tiffany Coombs, also a western Loudoun native, brought yoga to Lovettsville last year when she launched Lotus Town Yoga, revamping a downtown quonset hut that had operated as the town’s beloved mini-mart for years. Coombs will be leading a workshop on therapeutic vinyasa at Flow Jam and will also have a booth with studio information and hand-designed items, including t-shirts and chakra coloring books for sale
Coombs, who returned to Lovettsville two years ago with her family after living out of the area for years, decided the time was right to open a studio in her hometown. She worked with the building’s new owners to renovate and upgrade the space to create an inviting studio that welcomes students of all ages, backgrounds and experience.
“My goal when I opened was to make it a place where people felt really comfortable. Nobody needs to care about what they’re wearing or if their toes are nice…I try to make sure that that vibe is always in place. You can really come as you are. We just want to get to know you as a person and support your wellness,” Coombs said. “A lot of people have come to the studio never having done yoga before, or it’s been 15 years since they’ve done it and they want to get back to it because it’s in their town. In that way it’s cool because a lot of us have grown together in the past year.”
For Coombs, having Flow Jam in Lovettsville taps into the same energy.
“I’m hoping that there will be a lot of locals there. It’s nice to be able to teach for a broad audience. I’m excited to see who comes from where, but I’m hoping that a lot of local people will show up and get to experience something like a yoga festival that usually just happens on the West Coast or somewhere far away,” she said.
The festival also draws music lovers for several days of great tunes from Loudoun artist Mateo Monk, who has been a featured performer since Flow Jam’s infancy. Asheville, NC-based Buddhagraph Spaceship has also been on board since the beginning, and fans turn out for local favorites like Joey and the Waitress, The Woodshedders and the Short Hill Mountain Boys.
For Walsh, seeing the festival gain critical mass and attract interest from Loudoun neighbors while drawing interest from around the world is gratifying, and she’s hoping locals will scoop up gate tickets and check it out.
“To put that much effort into something and to see the seed grow into a small tree feels really good,” she said.
The sixth annual Flow Jam festival takes place Friday, June 21, Saturday, June 22 and Sunday, June 23 at 40371 Quarter Branch Road in Lovettsville. Online tickets are $130 for a standard three-day pass, $89 for a two-day pass and $50-$60 for a single day pass. Advance tickets are available through midnight on Thursday, June 20. Tickets will be available at the gate, and prices increase by $20 for weekend passes, $10 for one-night passes and $5 for day passes. For a complete list of ticket and camping options and fees and a festival schedule, go to flowjam.org.