Have you ever been to a folk music festival? Oh you haven’t?? Well, let me tell you about a place you should go to pop your cherry in the folk music festival world. Quiet Valley Ranch is nestled in the heart of the Texas Hill Country circled by thick crops of Oak and Cedar trees that build a grove around this hippie play ground. Since 1972, Quiet Valley Ranch in Kerrville, TX has been the treasured location of the Kerrville Folk Music Festival that runs for 18 consecutive days on the ranch. Folksy folks from all over camp out for the festival on the ranch’s camp grounds. They set up camp, sell their wares and listen to soul-soothing music and enjoy life together in an atmosphere centered on natural living and community. As sad as it is to admit, I did not know this gem existed practically in my backyard until this year. I was sitting at my desk clacking away at the keys on my keyboard and making business-related phone calls when a woman in the office sparks up a conversation about the festival. My ears always tuned to pick up random information, I heard her explaining that she had been going for years (she’s much older than me) to hear her favorite folk artists sing, and how each time is a great experience.
I was interested. I had never been to a folk music festival before and knew that I had to change that sad fact about my life. Sooo, I got a ticket from work. I scored a free ticket which is rad, but mind you, the festival is not free to attend. The Texas Folk Music Foundation that hosts the festival at the ranch is nonprofit, so what you pay for the ticket goes to maintaining the camp which is used to educate kids during the summer about music and the arts or host festivals and other special events. The ticket is definitely worth it. I was able to get two and so I brought a friend with me to experience this new adventure. Music is played throughout each day, but we did not arrive till after eight. It was a small trek to the main camp and along the road beyond the fence, we saw tents packed like sardines all the way from the very back of the property line.
When we brought our tickets up to the VIP counter which was just a lean-to with a tin roof and two hippies collecting tickets as they sit on a beat up couch in front of a folding table confirming names on an ancient laptop, we saw people milling about all over the property. We had not walked to the main gathering about the stage and shopping cabins yet, but there was plenty to see. The grove swam with tie-dyed life and dreadlocks and the tickling of ankle charms. Somehow, we had found ourselves plopped into a world designed for us – especially for me. I swear, if I had known about Quiet Valley Ranch awhile back, I would have been going each year. I felt like I had found my lost people as we hiked up a sloping trail to the main gathering. The center stage was semi-circled by benches littered with people listening to folk artist perform. Beyond these benches is a nice patch of grace where I saw a group of guys and a couple gals playing hacky sac. Throngs of children would run past chasing bubbles. Individuals were dancing to the rhythm of the bluegrass and sultry voice of a poet humming lyrics about a dying Native American warrior.
Beyond this patch of free-spirited grassland, a half circle of vendor from the Texas Hill Country were selling their goods. We wandered from booth to booth checking out organic soaps and lotions and healing herbs. Another vendor was selling his surreal, southwestern art, and many others were selling dream catchers and healing crystals or tie-dyed clothing mingled with peasant skirts and blouses or hand-crafted leather sandals.
I had three favorite vendors while I was there. A lot of people selling items are trying to make a living from what they make with their hands so their prices are rather high which I can understand, but when I stumbled upon a little old man who was selling crystal and stone necklaces for five bucks each, I had to buy one. A gorgeous green stone with golden and silver metal wire weave over it to resemble lightening caught my eye. I grabbed for it immediately while my friend started up a conversation with the vendor. He had been selling his five dollar necklaces since nearly the beginning of the Quiet Valley Ranch camp opened up to the festivals. He explained that in the late 70s and early 80s, hippie folk would show up to his booth and close their eyes as they slowly ran a hand beneath the hanging gems. Whichever of the gems they felt drawn to, they chose. I did that exactly, of course. I closed my eyes and slowly ran my hands beneath the array of colored or colorless stones and grasped for the one that I felt drawn towards. To my delight, it was still the heavy green stone with lightening wire across its belly. The old man explained to me that the gem was a traveling stone meant to protect those headed someplace new. Five bucks lighter in my pocket, I walked on to the next vendor with a smile on my face.
The next vendor I fell in love with was a woman who produced clay art. She would mold the tiniest strips of colored clays into a scene and fire them till baked and solid. I bought two magnets from her with a scene depicting a male mermaid and a violin, guitar, flute and a dragonfly. Finally, I stumbled upon a vendor who does pottery work and she had a wide selection of handmade coffee mugs. If I had had more cash, I would have gotten one of her ten dollar mugs. One in particular had a series of scorpions on it that shifted in texture from smooth to rough. I loved it.
So if you have not been to a hippie festival centered around the good vibes of folk music, your first trip needs to be to Quiet Valley Ranch in the early summer. Go full out by camping for a week or weekend and truly absorbing the atmosphere or step into the water gingerly by going for the evening to relax with good music, shopping and vibes. Either way, you will not regret the experience. I will be going back next year and the following until I can’t stand it anymore which will probably be never!
Kerrville Folk Festival website –> http://www.kerrville-music.com/