Photo courtesy of Jars of Clay
By BROOKE WANSER
Dickens of a Christmas, the Heritage Foundation of Williamson County’s signature, two-day holiday event, will attract tens of thousands of visitors and residents as dozens of characters from Charles Dickens’ classics step onto the streets of downtown Franklin this weekend.
But for Franklin resident Dan Haseltine, this weekend will be special: He and his Grammy award-winning band Jars of Clay will perform at the event for the first time.
Haseltine, along with pianist Charlie Lowell, moved to Franklin 25 years ago after coming to Nashville for their music careers.
“A lot of labels were interested in the music we were making,” Haseltine said of the group, which also includes Nashville residents Stephen Mason and Matt Odmark. “We came down; we thought we’d spend a summer, and we never left.”
Haseltine said the attraction to Franklin was natural.
“It was kind of the cool place to go and be,” he said. “There were a lot of meetings and stuff down at Meridee’s.”
Haseltine said some of the band’s first gigs were at the old Caffe Milano and the Franklin Theatre. The band will return to its roots on Saturday at 4 p.m., as they take the stage for a Christmas performance.
Haseltine first heard of the event in the 1990s, from an aunt living in Franklin who would craft and sell Santa Claus figurines. About 10 years after moving to Franklin, he finally got to attend.
“This is one of only two performances this year,” said Teryl O’Connor, festival director for the Heritage Foundation, who asked the band to perform. “Both are in Franklin, but very different shows. We are so honored that Franklin is getting so much love from this magnificent band,” she said in a written release.
“I was just happy to be able to do it,” Haseltine said. “It really feels like I’ve been able to be a beneficiary of the community of Franklin.”
Haseltine also said the band’s nonprofit, Blood:Water Mission, has benefited from the area after he and Jars of Clay founded it from the basement of Christ Community Church in 2004.
The nonprofit organization, which now has an office on Cannery Row in Nashville, focuses on providing aid for the water and HIV/AIDS crises in Africa.
The organization, Haseltine said, was born out of his visits to Africa and interactions with friends who had AIDS and HIV.
“This is not just a disease, it’s the struggle of my friend,” he said.
As a Christian, Haseltine said he felt a responsibility to serve an under served community and cause.
“In Africa, it looks very different,” he said of HIV, an autoimmune disorder that is contracted through the spread of bodily fluids.
“Ultimately, it doesn’t matter how they contracted it,” Haseltine said. “What matters is how we are going to compassionately serve people who are dealing with it.”
The band performed its only other show this year last weekend at Liberty Hall inside the Factory at Franklin. The show Saturday at 4 p.m. is on the town square.