The Walnut Valley Festival has come and gone, and the countdown has officially begun for next year’s festival (356 days till Winfield). What started out in 1972 as a two day, 10 act, two contest endeavor has transformed into a four day jamboree with 40 acts and eight contests.
With the festival only eight miles from Cowley’s main campus some Tigers were bound to show their orange stripes in the Bluegrass. So I searched out three different people with connections to the campus, to try and find them in their “Bluegrass” habitat.
First on the list was Janet Kennedy, assistant web master. Though Kennedy was absent at her regular campsite this year, she did give me some insight into what her camp normally entails.
“Our camp is called Camp Divided,” said Kennedy. “We named ourselves from a friendly rivalry between college teams. We have some that are strong for KU and some that are very strong for K-State.”
Kennedy said other teams like Iowa and Florida are represented.
Prior to the torrential storms the first night of the festival a banner hung from the camp displaying all of the colleges represented.
Aside from camping, Kennedy, a 20+ year attendee, said she enjoys the campground music. “The entertainers are also in the campgrounds jamming with the rest of the non-entertainers,” said Kennedy
Next on the list was Scott MacLaughlin, director of theater. Not normally a man easy to track down, at Bluegrass all I had to do was find out where the crabs go.
There in Crab Camp (2009 runner-up in the campsite contest) I found Scott with his wife Rhoda, library director and their two sons. Attending his estimated 15th festival, MacLaughlin was camping for only the second year. So far it’s done nothing but add to the experience. “I love it, it’s fantastic,” said MacLaughlin, “It’s great how there’s little groups of families, there’s Crab Camp, Flamingo Camp, Old Glory, and Carp Camp. We were just so excited to come down into this great group of families.”
MacLaughlin also enjoys the music that goes on in the campgrounds. He explained that he likes bringing his guitar out and playing with friends. His sons would even get involved in the festivities later, playing their wooden frogs.
“The music is so fun, and I like to go listen to the stages,” said MacLaughlin, “but my favorite part is to get your family and friends to sit around and just play.”
Sophomore transfer and Winfield native, Graham Donals, reached a festival milestone when he attended his 21st festival this year. Donals, who turned 21 last March, has been to every Bluegrass since he was 6 months old.
Deep in the heart of the West Fairgrounds lays the Unbroken Circle. The camp, which dates back over thirty years, features close friends and family. Donals said his favorite part of the festival is the atmosphere and people watching.
“The music is great, the atmosphere is better,” said Donals, “the unique individuals who come down, from hippies to motorcycle people, to regular individuals. Just getting to witness all the people that come down here is fun.”
Donals stressed there’s so much more to Bluegrass than just the music. “Whether you like Bluegrass music or not, there’s something down here for everyone,” said Donals, “from partying, to music, to arts and crafts, to just hanging out with friends and family, it’s a great place.”
From the mouths of those you know, Bluegrass isn’t just a place for hippies and folk music. It’s a diverse melting pot of cultures, people, new friends, and—of course—fun. So next year, if someone asks you to make plans for the third weekend in September, tell them, “I can’t, I’m going to Winfield.”