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Monday, July 18, 2011

Woody Fest

I loved the Woody Guthrie Folk Festival! It was great fun to drive into an event not knowing one soul or even much about the performers and the venues. I had been listening to Jimmie LaFave for years and had seen his Ribbon of Highway tribute show to Woody twice and I knew that Jimmie had been with the festival since the beginning. I knew that the Guthrie family was involved and that there would be grandchildren of Woody performing. I knew that it might be hot.

I was most nervous about the camping spot. It was out at the rodeo grounds and there were already a lot of tents and RV's when I arrived Thursday afternoon. I pretty much randomly stopped the car to walk around and ended up finding a spot with shade and next to good people. Bruce, who had a pop-up trailer, moved his car so I could get my tent as close to the trees as possible. P.C. helped me stake my tent when the wind started up and offered me a cold one right away. Rebecca had her guitar out and sang like an angel. We did not find out that we were both music teachers until later. In short, serendipity kissed me once again.

I almost passed out from the heat after I got the tent up, though. I managed to get the cot up and find my chairs and then I just sat for quite a long time. Maybe it was 107 that day. It was 108 the next two. I probably would have heard a lot more music if it had been cooler. The daytime venues were in town, one on the main street and one 4 blocks up the hill at the middle school. The walk between could wipe you out. There was also an open mike in the patio behind the saloon on the same street but, the second day, when I went to check it out, I discovered that the AC in the bar itself felt so good that I would just hang there for an hour and visit with the locals.
                                          Butch Hancock performing at Pastures of Plenty stage

The evening stage area is called Pastures of Plenty. I needed a sun umbrella for the first set or two but, once the sun went down, it was so pleasant. What surprised me about Woody Fest is that there are not big crowds. The campground never felt crowded.  Everyone was so friendly - the performers, the concert goers, the locals. And the music was really, really excellent. That was the best part, getting to know a whole new group of performers. One of my favorites was John Fulbright, who grew up in Okemah. Another was Don Conoscenti from Taos. And the Burn Sisters.... they seemed to be able to pull 3-part harmony out of a hat.

                                 Don Conoscenti and the Burn Sisters at Middle School Auditorium

Impossible to tell all. I'm posting albums on Google but it's just the tip of the iceberg. If I run into you I could regale you for hours with stories and photos of this trip. My last day at the festival I was up at dawn to pack up before the heat beat me. Then I went to Woody's Hoot, which was a fundraiser for Huntington's and featured any performers who were still around. Woody's sister-in-law was in the house. One of Arlo's boys played. It was the icing on the cake. Then I drove around Okemah and walked a little bit to take pictures of some of the beautiful, old houses in the neighborhoods.  I will be coming back next year, for sure.

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