When HGTV host Steve Watson bursts into a town to work on a home during any given episode of “Don’t Sweat It,” the “high-octane” home improvement guru helps people quickly tackle their overwhelming projects.

When Watson returns to his hometown of Cleveland, Tenn., this month to emcee the two-day Rock the Relief Festival, he’ll be helping raise money that assists Bradley County residents who were overwhelmed by last year’s tornadoes.

Watson started the event last summer with his high school buddies after the devastating tornadoes ripped through the area on April 27.


His return home on the one-year anniversary of the spring storms marks the third Rock the Relief event held in the past year, raising thousands of dollars for short- and long-term recovery efforts. 

The Cleveland/Bradley County Long-Term Recovery Organization (LTRO) is the recipient of all the festival’s proceeds, helping residents get back on their feet after recent and future natural disasters.

Last week, the fund received a $65,000 donation from the Broad Street United Methodist Church. Church officials said this is the first of four checks they plan to turn over to the fund, with a goal of donating $250,000 to LTRO before the end of the year.

Watson said Rock the Relief’s efforts this year will be added to the growing fund.

Long-term awareness is one of the festival’s three goals.

“Most people will go back to their life as it was before April 27, 2011. But for those who lost so much, it will never be the same. We want to raise awareness of the needs of those individuals and the agencies serving those families,” said the event’s website.

The idea is to also keep money in the account each year to help with the varied and sudden personal needs of storm victims such as clothing, hotels and other unexpected expenses.

Watson said he thinks this kind of preparedness is fundamental to their purpose.

“What we are trying to do more than anything is remind people that this could happen again. We want to be prepared, and the best way to be prepared is to have the funds available to help people immediately this time rather than scramble like we did last time,” Watson said.

The festival is being hosted at Pappy’s Place in nearby Charleston, Tenn., a few miles from the Candies Creek Wildlife Management Area.

The two-day music festival takes place on April 27 and 28, the one-year anniversary of last year’s tornadoes. The event features 13 bands from around Bradley County, kids’ activities and the option to camp out. The entire schedule is available here.

Organizers said that although the purpose of Rock the Relief is to give back to the community, they have tried to make the ticket prices affordable so that everyone can give a little and enjoy the day.

Single-day tickets are $15 for noncampers and $25 for a single ticket and camping spot. An “all-access” ticket is priced at $75 and includes two days of music, overnight camping, four meals from any of the festival’s local restaurant food vendors and five nonalcoholic beverages. Beer is sold separately.

You can take the boy out of Tennessee …
Watson, who now lives in Los Angeles, spends most of his time on the road traveling from town to town for television tapings. This summer he will be working on a “completely insane” new series for the Travel Channel.

Watson said he misses the laid-back life in East Tennessee and is looking to relocate from the West Coast and start a family in Cleveland.

If there is another devastating storm, Watson said he would rather be one of the many with boots on the ground, helping in every way he can.