More than a month in advance people gathered. 

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A Walnut Valley Festival employee attempts to pull a camper out of the mud at the Cowley County Fairgrounds on Saturday during the 7 a.m. Land Rush. The festival begins today and it marks the 38th year of the festival. Twenty-nine bands are to perform on six different stages during the five day festival.

The annual Walnut Valley Festival starts today, yet campers from all over the country have been lined up outside the campgrounds since early August. Many of the campers have been coming to the festival for more than 20 years or more. This level of dedication is based on the experiences musicians and music lovers alike have shared together. “We always come back for our ‘Winfield family’,” said Heidi McClure, Colorado, a 21-year festival attendee. McClure and her family have only missed one festival since 1988.

Other campers had similar views as well. “We’re on vacation, having a good time, hardly ever finding grumpy people,” said Kathy Tolles, a Arkansas City 10-year participant. The laid back comfortable “everyone is a friend” attitude is a favorite aspect of the festival.

With all of the concerts, campsite jam sessions and vacation atmosphere, campers said the ticket price is a true bargain. “Totally worth it for four and a half days of music and weeks of camping,” said Sherry Morgan, Oklahoma, a 24-year festival camper.

Morgan and her family created shirts depicting last year’s flood mishap for the festival. The river  flooded last year, so camping moved to other places around town. The inconvenience didn’t stop most campers from enjoying the festivities. Shirt slogans read, “Through hell and high water.” The campers willing to battle high water said that the festival was worth the cost and invested time.

Twenty-nine performers are scheduled to play multiple times in multiple venues. The six stages include a grandstand, a grassy slope, an amphitheatre, an indoor building, a truck stage for walk-ons, and a circus tent.

Campsites on the grounds are constant jam sessions. The campers spend a majority of their time in what McClure and Morgan called “camp picking.” Most of the campsites are friendly and accept people from every playing level, from people who have been playing their whole lives, to people who have played only a few months.

The First camper in line is Bill Hasley, Arkansas City. He said “I look forward to it every year.” The campers said they would definitely recommend the festival to their friends.

Chris Fry, Wichita 15-year veteran, in addition said, “Yeah, and I do and most of them come.” 

The festival is in its 38th year. “We expect a good year this year,” said Rex Flottman, Winfield festival media coordinator.

 Tysana Speer is a freshman majoring in speech and theater education. You may e-mail her at tysana.speer@sckans.edu.