It’s been now roughly six months since I started this trek into the history of the Walnut Valley Festival. I really thought it would be a simple process - I knew there was some “pre-fairgrounds” history - and I started out to chronicle that phase because it seemed to be disappearing from the general consciousness. Along the way, I discovered some glaring errors that seemed bound up in some aspects of the festival that were neither musical nor conducive to building a musical community. But yet, the community is there, the music is there, and I’m left wondering if the contradictions I’m coming up with really matter to the folks in Winfield or to the thousands that claim Winfield as their musical home.
Of course, I’m no historian, but I’ve begun to think of myself as a student of the historical process. I’ve only got this one ride on the carousel, and I’d like to think that one or two of the molecules that I push around will still be bouncing when I’m gone. Myself, members of my family, and many of the people I hold dear, claim Winfield as their musical heart, so maybe this is my dent in the fabric that stretches across the time-space continuum of vibrating strings and voices tilted back and sung to the stars. This is what I have loved most in this old life, and preserving a bit of the purity of that feeling is all I’m going for here. I just want the story to be true, at least this once.
Here are the things that struck me as I did my research:
The Walnut Valley Festival Archives fail to include or otherwise recognize the first two folk festivals at Southwestern College, which are clearly it’s predecessors. Consequently, a whole group of students and academic visionaries are denied their proper legacy in the history of one of the first and finest festivals of it‘s kind in the entire Midwest.
The Festival also fails to give any mention or credit to the one man without whom this festival would not exist at all, Stuart Mossman. Merely writing that sentence is difficult for me, my fingers twitch, and my brain leaps to more mundane, more easily understood problems. And I have avoided trying to understand it at this point, and to just lay out what seems true, and that’s the guts of it - Stu Mossman was the soul of this festival, and that soul has been ripped out without honor or recompense.
So my position is clear and I will try not to dwell on it. It’s a small campaign, and I’m well aware that it pales in comparison to plenty of other problems in the world today, but this is where I chose to live, and I’m going to see if I can have some small impact on a community that I believe has the capacity to someday help solve some of the bigger problems.
Also, I’d like to mention another historical journey to another music festival, and to give an update on one of the best of the current local festivals.
I'm hoping to add more information later but for now I want to pass the websites along to whet your appetite. There’s StringBreak, which happens on May 3 just a few miles east of Newton. http://www.myspace.com/stringbreak
Then on May 24, the Jackpot Saloon in Lawrence will be the scene of the 25th reunion of Musicians Unite And Sing in Climax . The web site has all of the music that Doug Dubois, John Barger and friends recorded on those two magic weekends in Climax, Kansas in1983 and 1984. http://www.climaxfestival.com/
Stay warm. Only 207 days till Winfield.