For the 12th year in a row, the Winter Folk Festival has filled the town with musicians from throughout the Northwest and attendees from all over Oregon. There are six concerts on Saturday and four on Sunday, which are officially part of the festival. But that’s not all. Several venues in Florence host the musicians for gigs on Friday and Saturday evenings, and then impromptu jam sessions continue on into the wee hours on both nights. And on Thursday, there were two concerts for the elementary schools of Florence, Mapleton, and Reedsport all held at the Florence Events Center.
Each January, the Winter Folk Festival is one of the major happenings on the Central Coast. During most years, the weather is a problem, but not this year. It was spectacular: sunny and clear with no wind and 60 degrees. What we call perfect! Since the inland valleys have been socked in with fog all week, folks coming from the east, were feeling blinded but positively loving the sun.
Because I finally got started on my animal book this past week, I rewarded myself by attending the Winter Folk Festival.
During the day on Saturday, I saw a lot of people I knew, and as we chatted I talked up the Around Florence book. So now more folks are aware of it. I also talked to folks from the local Florence Area Humane Society at their booth and they seemed interested in my animal book, since all but one of the featured dogs and cats were rescue animals.
I arrived shortly after 10 a.m., when the doors opened, and by 10:15, I was in my seat in the auditorium ready to hear Barefoot Leroy. This group consists of lead singers Lea Jones and Donna Duffey accompanied by an accordionist and a young fellow from the U of O on guitar. They were quite good.
Then I checked out the Artisan Craft Fair, which is always a part of the festival. I only got part way around because I kept stopping to chat. Then it was time for the second performance.
This time it was Rick Nestler, a Grammy Award winner who has sung and sailed with Pete Seeger. He is an older fellow with a guitar who sings and spins yarns between songs. He believes in audience participation and even had us yodeling. His songs are clever and funny and before I knew it, it was time for lunch.
I had brought a lunch and went out to my car to eat. Red Rose catering had lots of snack foods, cinnamon buns, burgers, brats, and other lunch fare, as well as coffee, wine, beer and there was plenty of seating, but I wanted to get outside and escape the crowd for a bit. Besides, it was positively lovely outside.
After eating, I was back in my seat for Kathy Boyd and Phoenix Rising, a group from Portland. Very talented, very energetic, and very popular. One of their songs was Rhubarb Pie. I had to buy their CD with that song on it for someone who just loves rhubarb pie. Kathy was the lead singer of the group and plays base. The others played fiddle, guitar, or banjo and also sang.
After the third concert, I got in line for pie and coffee. There was a pie contest and afterward the winners were announced. Some pies were sold whole and others were cut and slices sold. The pie contest has become a tradition at the Winter Folk Festival.
The fourth concert was my favorite of the daytime concerts. It was Mike and Carleen McCornack, who have been singing for 30 years. They both write songs, play various instruments, and sing. And they were accompanied by a fellow who played base and cello. The cello on the ballads was absolutely beautiful. She has a voice reminiscent of Judy Collins and their ballads brought tears to my eyes. He had a couple of witty songs, “Proper Cup of Coffee” and “Pitty Party.” The first was such a clever play on words and the second so just plain funny that the audience cracked up on both of them. I bought their latest CD that had both songs. It was a gift to me.
The Sagebrush Sisters were the fifth and last of the daytime concerts. They sang mostly westerns with some yodeling accompanied by one fantastic fiddle player. One sister played a guitar and the other a wash-bucket base a.k.a. gutbucket base. It looked like she was playing the handle of a push broom. I thought at first that she was just pretending to play, but I could hear a base. She actually was playing one string on that handle and was able to tune it. That is what I learned, when I asked an old-timer what she was playing. Then he asked, “Where’ve you been, sister?”
After the last concert, I took my time checking out the 30-plus booths of the craft fair. I got a toss-and-kick toy for Groucho from the Humane Society folks. It is a tubular bag filled with catnip with a bow on one end. And I bought some Pinot Noir Berry jam as another gift. This will be for someone’s birthday in a few months.
I then headed home, watched Groucho play with his new toy, and fed him. Then I fixed a quick dinner before heading back for the headliner evening concert. The Brothers Four were back for at least their third time. At any rate, that’s how many times I’ve seen them.
It’s hard to believe that two of them Bill Flick and Mark Pearson are original members dating back to the early 1960s at the University of Washington. Mike McCoy joined a few years later, and Karl Olsen is the newest member. They still have that smooth, wonderful sound. And they play guitar, banjo, and bass. “Try to Remember,” “Greenfields,” and “The Green Leaves of Summer” were just a few of the many songs they performed. It was a totally sold out performance. I was on the edge of my seat all evening and sang along whenever I knew the words. I loved every moment.
The fun continued on Sunday with three daytime concerts and the Artisan Craft Fair. John McEuen, an original member of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, was the headliner at 3:30 p.m. I didn’t attend Sunday. Maybe next year!
The Winter Folk Festival is a fabulous opportunity to hear a wide variety of folk music, and I look forward to it each year!