ITHACA, NY – Sad news as this year’s GrassRoots Festival kicks off: Leslie Puryear, one of the key organizers of the festival, died on Wednesday morning.

Puryear had been office manager for the festival earlier years. She is the mother of Jeb Puryear of Donna the Buffalo, the band that founded the festival.

Her death was announced on the Festival’s Facebook page, where Puryear is referred to as “the wisest person we’ve ever known.”

“It’s no exaggeration to say that the GrassRoots Festival wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for Leslie Puryear. She put decades of work into the event itself, and she tilled music and activism in our community for decades prior, making a fertile ground in which an event like this could grow and flourish,” the post says.

There will be a memorial at the festival where people can leave photos, art and written notes in memory of Puryear. It’s location is to be determined.

(Featured photo courtesy of GrassRoots Festival Facebook page)

Michael Smith

Michael Smith reports on politics and local news for the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached via email at, by cell at (607) 229-0885, or via Google Voice at (518) 650-3639.