I never thought I would see people walking through mud and puddles in plastic bag covered New Balances to get just a few feet closer to their favorite artists.
Then I went to the Walnut Valley Festival.
Better known as Bluegrass by locals, this four-day long music festival brings people from all around the country to Winfield to enjoy the sights and sounds. Fans from as far as Utah and Tennessee made the trip to this incredible gathering of family, friends, food and the biggest f word of them all, folk music.
Former Cowley student Hayley Merz and her family have been going to Bluegrass for four years now. “I really like going to the shows,” says Merz, “the bands are not stuck up and are willing to talk to anyone and everyone after their shows.”
Some fans go to extremes to make sure that they do not miss the awe of Bluegrass.
Danny Baker, from Wichita, has been to the Walnut Valley Festival 35 out of the 45 years it has gone on. His wife Sarah was scheduled to have a heart valve replaced last year in the middle of September. Mrs. Baker was sure to tell the doctor that it would have to wait till after Bluegrass.
I was lucky enough to witness the National Mandolin Championship and talk to one of the many performers. Nate Baker has played the mandolin for four years. He picked it up after practicing and studying guitar at Northern Illinois University. Baker confirmed what I had already come to understand, “there are so many talented musicians here and they all put on such a great show.”
There are many great vendors to select from at Bluegrass. Big Cock Ranch, located in Lexington, Texas made the eight-hour journey to sell premium chicken and bull shit…seasoning that is. These spice blends can go on everything from popcorn to New York strip steaks.
Another excellent vendor is Flinthills Aromatherapy, which specializes in making the finest pure essential oils. My personal favorite was the peppermint spray made from distilled water, apple cider vinegar, and peppermint essential oil which helps to keep the bugs away and keep cool under the hot Kansas sun.
The Walnut Valley Festival wouldn’t be where it is today without the help from some incredible musical artists. Barry “Bones” Patton who performed with the Byron Berline Band is a one of the world’s best bones players.
Not sure what the bones are? Check out the link below to learn more about Barry and his unbelievable talent.
Freshman Sam Myatt has some advice for anyone unsure if Bluegrass is for them. “(Make sure) to come with an open mind. Bluegrass is different than a lot of other kinds of music and the whole atmosphere is unique.”
These fans are die hard and it is not hard to see why once you come out and witness the beauty of Bluegrass for yourself. I urge all Cowley students and Ark City residents to check out this wonderful music festival as often as they can. I look forward to next September and so should you!
Be sure to pick up a copy of the next paper issue of the Cowley Press coming out October 20th.