by Amy Lambert
THE JAM SESSION:
Bluegrass in the Valley kicks off the weekend with a jam session. If you are a musician, this was the place to bring your instrument out to play. Judging by the vocal desire for more, next year will bring more opportunities to jam out
THE FRIDAY NIGHT LOW COUNTRY BOIL:
Included with the family admission cost with Friday night’s jam is a low country boil. The Low Country Boil is a delicious one-pot meal that can feed a few, or a crowd. Low Country Boils feature a large pot of seasoned water that cooks an entire meal of potatoes, corn on the cob, sausage and of course, lots of shrimp.
Friday is $5 per family, Saturday $10 per person, $5 for kids 10 years and under, but they max it at $25 per family for the day event, and Sunday $5 family. The prices included the park admission and all areas of the park were open for enjoyment.
The music was fantastic and varied widely. Sounds of Bluegrass filled the air as Stringworks of Peoria, Milltown Wranglers from the Quad Cities, and Cork County Bazaar from Detroit performed. Set with multiple stages, attendees could choose between scheduled bands or circle up anywhere on the park grounds for their own impromptu jam session. Outside of the traditional bluegrass was the bluesy guitar of Chris Stevens to the modern folk sounds of Jay Orlando of Princeville.
THE ART IN THE PARK:
Cardboard handwork provided enjoyment. Cutouts of guitars, fiddles, and bases hung from tees throughout the park. There were different cardboard displays that visitors could pose with for photo opportunities… Those who wandered the trails, listening to the musical background, found their journeys brought many surprises.
THE HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE:
Camp Wokanda was purchased from land owned by Claude Heacock in 1936, then the President of Caterpillar Tractor Co., for a sum so small it was deemed a gift. Dedicated with the vision of becoming a camp for boy scouts, the craftsmanship of the Civilian Conservation Corps is evident. Boy Scout camp kept lots of boys busy with activities until the late 80. Costs were too astronomical during the economic downturn to keep the camp going, and it was sold to the Peoria Park District who has since maintained it.
This was the very first Bluegrass in the Valley. The Bluegrass Festival was the idea of Jack Lambert, a musical enthusiast and a Master Gardener and Master Naturalist through the University of Illinois Extension Office. Mr. Lambert presented the idea of combining the two loves of nature and bluegrass into a three-day festival to Camp Wokanda and the Peoria Park District and Bluegrass in the Valley was born. Candace Marner, a program specialist at Camp Wokanda did a great deal of work and coordination to bring the idea to fruition.
The camp itself was a wonderful backdrop for the music experience. Great oaks, and beautiful maples build a lush green space. A natural prairie portion of the park truly builds the feel of what our landscapes held close before man came into the picture.
Nature and music took center stage in the vendor area. From handmade goods like sweetly beaded acorn earrings to pottery and stepping-stones, there was a good collection of items to bring you back to nature. If you are a musician, there was a great number of opportunities to pick up new items like picks, strings, and maybe even a new instrument or two. There was a beautiful collection of handmade mandolins to choose from.
All ages were welcome and all ages came. Many of the bands that performed over the weekend steadily tour the local nursing facilities and many residents came out to hear them play.
Musicians and Bluegrass Lovers alike can snuggle up in sleeping bags and sleep under the stars, in tents, or for those who act early, a cabin with bunks. The accommodations are rugged, but come with a camp stove and firewood.
Saturday morning started off with the yummiest pancakes at 9 a.m. You can wake up from your tent or cabin and wander down to the lodge.
THE BEST THING TO LOVE:
It is going to happen again next year! That is right, July 11, 12th and 13th will mark the Second Bluegrass in the Valley Festival. SO… IF YOU:
· Love Bluegrass – put it on your calendar now!
· Play Bluegrass – contact Jack Lambert at firstname.lastname@example.org
· Want to be a Vendor – contact email@example.com
· Want to bring a group of attendees – coordinate times and rates with Camp Wokanda at (309) 579-2157.
· Want to reserve a cabin? Do so now, they will fill up fast next year! Contact Camp Wokanda at (309) 579-2157.