Last year, the Downtown Merchants of Historic Hillsborough hatched a fun idea to draw a crowd to the quiet town to enjoy the comfortable fall weather and drop some cash at local establishments. The first Fresh Roots Festival took place at the end of October and included art shows, author discussions, restaurant specials and even a Hand Made Parade. It also sported a folk-heavy slate of local, regional and national musicians performing on the Courthouse lawn.

The festival is back this year, taking over downtown on Saturday, Sept. 28, with a similar array of charming, family-friendly diversions. They’re also upping the musical ante, teaming with Yep Roc Records, the folk and rock haven based in Hillsborough, who are providing Kim Richey and Josh Rouse, two standouts from their impressive songwriting stable, as the backbone for this year’s performance schedule.

The two nationally known singers elevate the festival’s musical standing without pushing it outside of its folk-rock wheelhouse. The country-leaning Richey has been at it for almost 20 years, netting a Grammy nomination and producing a strong catalog characterized by direct emotions and stalwart melodies. Her full and fetching 2013 LP, Thorn in My Heart, proves that she hasn’t lost her touch. Rouse’s detail-rich narratives ramble down moody pop and rock back roads, and they’ve never moved more confidently than they do on his recently released album, The Happiness Waltz.

As with last year, the free performance takes place on the Courthouse lawn. The festival goes from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. with the main musical presentation scheduled for 2 to 6 p.m. For more information, visit