By AMANDA KIMBLE
Bart VanKranenberg had an infectious attitude. He loved life. He had many friends.
“He was such a happy-go-lucky person,” Madison Mobley, a classmate, said. “He was always smiling, and he was always singing in class. Music was one of his favorite things.”
Less than two years after his death, Bart’s love of music is taking flight. The Fly High Fest, a family-friendly Texas Music festival and silent auction, is set for Sunday, June 5, at Melody Mountain Ranch. The venue, Larry Joe Taylor’s Huckabay-area ranch, plays hosts to tens of thousands of music lovers each year.
VanKranenberg’s life was cut short December 21, 2014. He died four days before Christmas, at the young age of 16.
His memory lives in the tight-knight community of Lingleville and across Erath County. Anita Welch sees love for her son everywhere she goes. When she goes shopping, Anita always sees someone wearing a Fly High t-shirt, imprinted with a logo of a winged basketball, his jersey number, 35, and the hashtag #BVK35lovealways. The shirts were created just after her son’s passing to raise money for the family.
And now, Anita is surrounded by the excitement of the upcoming music festival. The logo is being recreated, replacing the basketball with a winged guitar.
“He loved music, that’s very true and the perfect way to honor his life,” a tearful Anita said, adding she never expected the event to be held at Melody Mountain Ranch or to include artists from outside of the community.
Madison got the idea from a similar event in Huntsville that raises money for scholarships. After getting Anita’s blessing last fall, Madison didn’t know what to do with the idea. But she knew somebody who would.
“Madison and her sister, Lynzee, asked me to organize the event,” Amber Parks, fellow music lover and Lingleville resident, said.
Bart was a junior at Lingleville High School when he last walked across the campus. He played basketball and football for the Cardinals. Just days before the music festival, Bart’s graduating class – the 11 students who make up the Class of 2016 – will cross the stage into the next phase of their lives.
“You can imagine how tough it must be, the sadness surrounding what should be a happy time of year,” Amber said. “I want to do this for his mother and siblings, to give them a chance to smile and enjoy the day with fond memories.”
For Madison, it’s also about making memories – and plans. She hopes to see the Fly High Fest grow into an annual event.
“I would be great for our classmates to reunite each year for the festival,” Madison said, adding that she would also like to see it bring in more artists and attendees annually, allowing Bart’s memory and the foundation to soar into the future.
About the Bart VanKranenberg Foundation
Lingleville is a community built on farming, dairies and a rural way of life. It’s only fitting that a livestock show could give birth to a legacy.
Bart put a lot of work into caring for his heifer. He was excited about showing it at the Erath County Junior Livestock Show. He never got the chance to walk into the arena with that final animal at his side, but in Janary 2015, his friend and classmate, Marley Wood, showed the heifer in memory of Bart.
“His brothers asked what we would do with the money if the heifer made it to auction,” Anita recalled. “It was going to be Bart’s money, so I decided we would use it to do good for other people since they had been so good to us. I never knew until he was gone how many lives he touched, but the support we received was – and still is – overwhelming.”
The family expected the heifer to raise about $3,000. Anita decided the money would be used for small gestures, acts of kindness like sending flowers to families who lost a loved one.
But a loving community once again exceeded her expectations. The heifer sold for $30,000, and Anita decided a foundation should be formed.
The Bart VanKranenberg Foundation awarded its first scholarship to the Class of 2015. This year, one of Bart’s classmates will be the recipient.
But the foundation isn’t only helping college-bound students.
“The idea is to help the people who were a part of Bart’s community, his family or others who in someway touched his life or the lives of those he loved,” Anita said.
The foundation serves another purpose.
“I want to do everything I can to make sure people never forget my son, and the foundation keeps his memory alive,” Anita said.
Honoring her son’s memory has given Anita an opportunity to put her undying love to work.
“Before the foundation took off, I was only grieving, just surviving,” Anita said. “Every day is still so hard, it’s always a struggle, but it keeps me busy and focused on doing good things.”
About the Fly High Fest
The Fly High Fest will begin at 12 p.m. (noon) on Sunday, June 5.
The music lineup includes Bart Crow, Parker McCollum, Rehme Sutton, Gilbert Grant, Kerri Lick and Garrett Thompson. Parks said a few other acts could be added to the list.
Admission is $20 per person, and event bracelets can be purchased at various locations across the county, including Texas Homegrown Radio, Saddle Rags The Western Store, Quality Printing, Dublin Cleaners, Lingleville School and Lingleville Country Store.
A silent auction will include items like autographed memorabilia including a guitar signed by performers at the Larry Joe Taylor Texas Music Fest, as well as gift baskets, rounds of golf, water park passes, tickets to see the Dallas Cowboys and more.
Silent auction donations can be made by calling Parks at (940) 507-1544 or Madison Mobley at (254) 485-6470.
More information about the festival can be found on the official Facebook page, facebook.com/BartVanKranenburgFlyHighFest/?fref=ts