Color us surprised when the KC Bear Fighters started their set on Stage 5 at Winfield’s Walnut Valley Festival on Saturday afternoon and asked the crowd to get up off their bums. It wasn’t to dance, although there was plenty of that going on, but instead to do squats. By the end of their 30-minute (incredibly entertaining) set, the lead singer, Quinn, estimated we’d completed 70 squats. If you aren’t used to that kind of workout, you were most definitely feeling the burn on Sunday morning while tearing down your tent.
The show was part of the 42nd Walnut Valley Festival, the largest bluegrass and flat-picking championship in the world. It’s a music festival set the third weekend in September in south central Kansas and people flock with acoustic instruments, tents, and visions of peace and recharging dancing in their heads. Like any festival, over-consumption of any kind is bound to ensue. But we went in ready to come home mentally recharged without the weight of the weekend carrying around our waists.
The KC Bear Fighters’ squats workout helped. But so did a few other things that we either happened on or deliberately planned.
This is how we survived Winfield in a healthy way while having as much fun as everybody else.
1. Get up and dance! Bluegrass has so much soul and is a lot of fun to listen to. In fact, it’s too much fun to just sit back and take in. Every chance we got we were out of our chairs dancing right along.
2. Walk the walk. The boundaries of any two camps bleed together forming this one cohesive campground with you and 10,000 or so of your closest new friends. Every couple of hours we got up and walked and wandered. We’d happen upon jam sessions that spontaneously occurred in the middle of the road (another excuse to dance), meet cool people, see cool things, all of which would have been missed parked in our lawn chairs.
3. Ride a bike! While we didn’t pack ours, there were as many bikes as there were tie-dye T-shirts. Not only does it make cruising the festival and campground easier, but it forces you to be a bit more active than you would have otherwise. And if you have a bicycle with cymbals for wheels – you better bring that thing!
4. Eat well. We managed to sniff out the one food stand that didn’t have a fryer in the back. A fully organic truck with black bean, sprouted rice, and pepper burritos for lunch? Oh man, it was the refuel we needed. Other than the fresh-squeezed lemonade splurge and this lunch, we ate exclusively in camp.
5. Pack smart. We were able to eat in camp exclusively because we planned ahead. Our cooler was bursting with deli-sliced turkey, whole grain bread, Laughing Cow’s Babybel cheeses, grapes, carrots, Angie’s Boomchickapop, and even skim milk and lots of water. Yogurt and scrambled eggs awaited each morning, with dinner offering lean proteins with lots of veggies. We ate fresh so we’d have the energy to play!
6. Hydrate. It’s the rule of every game, but when you spend 48+ consecutive hours outside battling the sun, sleep deprivation, poor eating habits, tons of activity, and allergy season, you really can’t push through without a steady supply of water.
7. Cat naps. When Stage 5 doesn’t close until 2:30 in the morning, and the sun comes up at 7, you’re running on very few hours of sleep. A mid-day nap is crucial at the lull of the day to ensure you can power through at night. Heck, we even slipped in to the tent for little 10 pm power naps so we wouldn’t miss the best shows after midnight!
Carrie Nation and the Speakeasy; image via Russell Brace for Stage 5
8. Good juju. You know, the stuff that’s good for the soul and helps you unplug and recharge. Stuff like helping the local Boy Scouts by recycling cans. Carpooling to make trips to town. Saying hello and “happy Winfield” to perfect strangers. Buying CDs from ridiculously talented bands. Pitching in on clean-up and tear down. Building bridges out of pallets to avoid rivers of sticky mud. Just showing up and being part of it all.