This was my tenth year to attend the Walnut Valley Festival in Winfield, KS. This decade of experience has taught me to pack for the “three seasons of Winfield:” hot, cold, and rainy. It's hot during the day (mid 80s this year), and cool in the evening (low 50s). It typically rains Friday or Saturday, often torrential rains. This year, the rain came the week before the official beginning of the festival.
A few words of explanation are in order: the Festival takes place on the county fairgrounds (Winfield is the county seat of Cowley County). I have been told these grounds constitute a square mile. The grounds include two groves of trees (commonly called Pecan and Walnut) where people camp. The Walnut Valley River meanders around the border of these grounds.So, when the rains came Sept. 11 & 12, the river began flooding. I was told there is a dam upstream which needed to be opened, in order to avoid flooding the town. The combination of rain and opened dam caused the river to crest to ~32 ft. The festival grounds are low-lying, and were flooded.
Part of Pecan Grove Thursday morning, Sept. 18, about a week after the flood
People who had arrived to early were evacuated. Some went to near-by Oxford (about 10 minutes west of Winfield). The group I normally camp with went to Winfield City Lake, about 30 minutes north-east of town.
I heard heart-warming stories of how local farmers used their tractors to help pull campers out of the mud. How grateful campers performed for the retirement home in Oxford.
As I say, I was at Winfield City Lake, about 30 minutes away. Another way the city pitched in to help was by providing shuttle service to and from the remote camping areas. The bus ride from the lake was a little over 30 minutes long.
A very different experience from being able to walk over to a concert, then walk back to camp. One had to plan ahead. Plus, I had to take into account the poor night-time visibility at the lake, and the challenge of finding my way back from the bus stop, at the Marina, to where I was camped — maybe an eighth mile as the crow flies, but a little further by foot.
In the end, I only went to the fairgrounds to hear music three times. It was on the first trip that I heard the Wiyos, whose video is posted below. I also saw Stephen Bennett, who I always enjoy. On Friday, I saw Beppe Gametta, Italian finger-style and flat picking whiz; and the Kenny & Amanda Smith band, which was better than you might imagine.
Four good acts, and one exceptionally bad one (who shall go unnamed). This was worth $80?