Willow Folk Festival
This weekend marks the 45th anniversary of the Willow Folk Festival. What began as a fundraiser for the Willow United Methodist Church has turned into an annual “mini-Woodstock,” with performers playing on a hay wagon and the pasture across the road full of campers.
There are performers of all ages getting their (literal) 15 minutes of fame in this open mic style event, in a truly unplugged format and where the only drums are djembes. The quality of the performers ranges from barely knowing how to strum a G chord to nearly professional, but everyone gets applause for their efforts. Willow is not about chops, it’s about the shared enjoyment of music, much like I imagine it was when people used music to entertain themselves before text messages, the internet and even television took over our leisure time. While playing on stage is a blast, the real fun is jamming in the campground.
People wander from campsite to campsite with their instruments, looking to sit in on a jam session. Sometimes they stay for a song or two and then move on, sometimes they stay for hours. I’ve noticed more 20-somethings at the the festival in the last few years, and at their campsites you tend to hear acoustic versions of songs by newer artists; this year Old Crow Medicine Show and Jack Johnson seemed to be favored. However at the campsite next to us some folks were ripping through “When The Levee Breaks!” Jimmy and the boys would’ve been proud.
For me maybe the most impressive part of the Willow experience is that this weekend of music and camping is accomplished with NO SECURITY NEEDED. People can leave their guitars on chairs and go across the road to hear some performers and come back and the guitar is still there. Everyone shares their food and drink and space. It’s truly a communal experience. For me there is only one problem with the festival: we need more fiddle players!
So please, all you fiddlers, and anyone else who has an acoustic instrument and is looking for a great time, reserve the 2nd weekend in August of 2013 and follow the signs along Rt. 20 just east of Stockton, IL. The music starts at 11:00 a.m., and I GUARANTEE you’ll have a blast. See you there.