Monday, September 19, 2011

Walnut Valley Festival, Winfield Kansas

The Cherokee Strip Campground was our home for five nights while we attended the music festival. Just 3 miles north of the Kansas/Oklahoma border in Arkansas City ("Ark City to people around here) is only a twenty minute ride to the fairgrounds in Winfield, Kansas, the site of the festival. We arrived on Tuesday afternoon, but the performances didn't begin until Thursday. We used Wednesday to do our laundry and purchase a new tire for Mary Joan. We have one misaligned axle that is causing the tire on that axle to wear more quickly than normal. We also discovered that our spare tire was defective. At Rakie Oil Service in Ark City we purchased one tire to replace the one that ws wearing out and the good people at Rakie replaced the spare tire which was still under waranty by Goodyear.

My friend and colleague, Jerome who lives just omutside Kansas City, joined us Wednesday evening. Jerome is an excellent musician. He brought his fiddle and dobro. We stayed p late Wednesday catching up on current events in our lives and playing music together.

We got to the fairground at mid-morning on Thursday. I was not prepared for how the festival had changed since I was here nearly twenty years ago. There were at least three times as many people here than my last visit. There were now multiple campgrounds rather than just the one and RVs had mostly replaced tents. In addition, there were so many of them that negotiating the campgrounds was like walking in a maze.

The event still uses only four main stages. But, informal stages were set up in the campground area. As in the past, groups of friends would become divided as individuals chose to watch performances on different stages or take a break at their campsites. In the past, it was an easy matter to reconnect with friends by walking about until they were found. Now, cell phones are a necessity due to the number of people and the crowded conditions in the campgrounds. Another friend and colleague, Terri who is also from Kansas, is a regular attendee. Without our cell phones it would have been unlikely that we could have found each other.
Stage I

Beside the increased number of people, we also noted that the population had aged considerably. That should not have come as too much of a surprise, after all we have aged. However, once the weekend arrived the average age began to drop as more young people arrived.
A young cowboy

We enjoyed listening to some of the same performers that have played at Winfield for years as well as new talents brought in by the organizers. In its early years the festival was a venue for the National Flat Picking Championship where up and coming guitar players could compete for prizes and the title of the best Flat Pick Guitar player in the country. Since then, fiddle, mountain dulcimer, mandolin, autoharp, finger style guitar,hammer dulcimer and bluegrass banjo  contests have been added.I particularly enjoyed watching the mandolin contest. The competition was close, but Sarah and I correctly picked four of the five finalists and my number one choice actually took second place.

One of the wonderful features of Winfield is that many of the attendees also play one instrument of another. There are many pick up bands that form around campfires in the campgrounds. Jerry and I found a group of talented people at one campsite and played with them until midnight. By that time it had begun to get cold and we were getting tired. It had been a long day.
Second Place Mandolin Winner

The weather on Friday brought cold temperatures and drizzle. Jerry stayed until late afternoon when he had to  return home. After Jerry left, Sarah and I took a short break for dinner then returned to watch the rest of the evening's performances. We intended to return to the campground for more informal sessions at the campsites, but the cold drizzle drove us back to our warm dry trailer.

Thunderstorms arrived early Saturday morning so we didn't get to the fairgrounds until nearly noon. The parking lot was reduced to a muddy pit. We were allowed to drive in only because we had four wheel drive. Even with the all wheel drive, it was like driving on a skating rink. The weather continued to improve so that by mid-afternoon we had bright sunshine. However, by late afternoon clouds looming in the southwest overtook the fairgrounds and a tornado watch was announced. We decided to go back to the trailer and arrived there just as the storm hit. Fortunately, we didn't get much wind. But, Sarah's worst nightmare about storms came true. We got hail. The hail was about a half inch in diameter. But, because of the lack of wind and the position of the trailer under a large tree, the Tinwheeler didn't sustain any damage.

After the storm had mostly passed, although there was still lightning not too far to the north, we returned to the fairgrounds. The main stage was still closed and was not scheduled to reopen. Sarah and I decided to try to find Terry. We walked around the campground for about an hour but were unable to find her campsite and a call to her cell phone went unanswered. Sadly, we returned to Ark City.

Sunday morning we left the Cherokee Strip Campground and drove to the Mid-Content Airport in Witchita so Sarah could catch her flight back to Boston. She will be teaching a class at the Decordova Museum again this fall and needed to get home to prepare for her teaching. I continued on to Lawrence, Kansas to spend some time with yet another friend and colleague, Jim.

Stay tuned the adventure isn't over yet.

No comments:

Post a Comment

I appreciate all comments whether about content or style