Winfield bluegrass part one: happy camper

Dear Readers,

Official ticket sale numbers have not been released for last week’s Walnut Valley Festival in Winfield, KS. I attended Bluegrass throughout my college years but always returned to my dorm at night. This year I was among the throng of “campers.” Though the number of tickets and camping permits sold will eventually quantify the WVF 50th’s attendance, when it comes to Winfield Bluegrass “campers” and how many there were, that’s a whole different ball of mathematic wax. Our tent was home to two while others housed many more, plus there were folks living out of RVs and travel trailers, cars, and vans. Before last week, I had only vague memories of camping from when I was quite young and I wasn’t sure how I’d get along or if I’d enjoy it, though I was thrilled at the prospect of seeing old friends and attending the festival again. My concerns beforehand were met with a nonplussed reply, ”There are Happy Campers…and those that don’t camp.” Which of course left me wondering “Which one am I?”

I knew I was on the side of “those that don’t camp´ if camping meant what my brother Dale and nephew Sterling do when they on Elk hunts—riding a mule up the side of a mountain and truly “roughing it” for ten days. My bivouacking would be lightweight in comparison but I wasn’t sure how pleasant a soul I’d be without indoor plumbing and air-conditioning. Or if I’d even enjoy living in a tent. But memories of my college Winfield Bluegrass days plucked my heartstrings more loudly than the camping doubts that finger-picked in my head. So off I went.

I deserve no awards for courage. It was not “glamping.” But folks, all this camper had to do was show up. First, two heroic weed-whacking, saw-wielding guys (thank you Chris and Julian) had cleared an area, nestled under a canopy of trees, with space for eight tents, a popup, cookstove, and plenty of room us to chill throughout the day. And no lie, these guys cleared that promised land of waist-high nettles and weeds, which was a wonderful surprise the day I dropped my guy (and a carload of stuff) at our site. I made another discovery that day, a relief in all ways imaginable. Not only were they nearby and plentiful, but also the porta-potties were the fanciest mobile toilets I have ever encountered. No lie. They were big and roomy and well ventilated. And before, during, and after the festival, they were kept spic-n-span clean, fully loaded with toilet paper and hand-sanitizer. Thank you WVF for employing such an exemplary sanitation company.

Any lingering camping concerns flew out of my head two days later when I returned. My very own miracle worker had transformed all our stuff into a tented combination of Home Depot and cozy carpeted home. With lights and a charging station. Our stage was set for Parts Two (Old Friends and New) and Three (The Music) and there was nothing to be but happy.

Until next week—keep your eyes on the stars and your back to the wind.