By Nick Hofmeister
The third week of September is a significant time for Winfield. The Walnut Valley Festival draws several thousand attendees to the Winfield fairgrounds each year. “Lots of people go for lots of different reasons,” said Anthony Gropper, music senior. “There are so many ways to experience the festival.”
With four official stages simultaneously booked with performers, as well as unofficial stages in the campgrounds, there are plenty of opportunities to hear music. “I’ve been to 19 or 20 festivals. I can’t remember if I went to the one when I was a month old or not. I never get tired of it though,” said Gropper.
The festival is in its 39th year. “Bluegrass,” as it’s referred to by some, attracts more than 10,000 attendees every year. “I go to Bluegrass each year because I have so many friends that I only see at the festival. It’s a huge community of people. Groups camp in the same spot year after year, and there are a lot of traditions that everyone follows,” said Gropper.
“It’s cool,” said Colton Siler, psychology junior. “Walking through different campsites is a lot of fun.”
There are many different ways that one can experience the festival. There are four national contests and two international contests which judge players on their abilities. These contests take up a majority of the weekend. There are also several concerts happening simultaneously on different stages throughout the day.
Some people prefer to spend all their time at concerts. Others choose to socialize in the campgrounds. Many like watching campers perform on one of the many unofficial stages in the campground area.
Gropper has several suggestions for those new to the festival. “Get a huge plate of biscuits and gravy from a food stand, walk through all the shops,” he said. “It takes a while, but they’re full of merchandise you won’t see anywhere else. Try and find someone you know who has been there before. They’ll be able to show you around the campgrounds and take you to some places that you might not find otherwise.”
Gropper also recommends seeing the headlining performers on Friday and Saturday night.
If buying a ticket isn’t an option, there are still some ways to experience Bluegrass culture. “During the weekend of the festival, several of the houses in Winfield will have garage sales. It’s a great way to pick up something weird for your dorm room and get a chance to meet some of the people who are at the festival,” said Gropper.
Driving west on Ninth Street past the fairgrounds or taking a trip to any business in town is another way to observe how many more people are in town this week.
The Walnut Valley Festival is a glimpse into a culture that many students might not have had a chance to experience. It gives its attendees a chance to socialize, and listen to lots of intricate music. “It’s really great,” said Gropper, “The festival could go on for weeks instead of a couple days and I think everyone would still have a great time.”
Additional information about the festival, as well as ticket pricing information can be found at www.wvfest.com.
Nick Hofmeister is a junior majoring in new media. You may email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.