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Winfield at 40: Special Sense of Community on 9-11

John McCutcheon, Tom Chapin and friends perform \"Follow the Light\" at Winfield.
Photo by Steve Bell. Click to enlarge.
John McCutcheon, Tom Chapin and friends perform \"Follow the Light\" at Winfield.

The Walnut Valley Festival at Winfield turns 40 this month. And that's a rare accomplishment as music festivals go. It has been quite a run, and this reporter is fortunate to have been allowed to make recordings of performances as well as interview performers and fans over the past nine years.

A huge help comes from Patty Cahill, who did a report on the festival in 1975. She still had her tape recordings of people like bluegrass pioneer Don Reno and teenage picker-fiddler Mark O'Connor. When I heard those tracks I knew they were the opening to this piece.

Looking for a performer's perspective, I sought out four of the most popular Winfield performers over the years -- folksinger John McCutcheon, Ike Sheldon, lead singer with Kansas City band the Wilders, and guitarists Tommy Emmanuel and Stephen Bennett. Fortunately, I had original live recordings of them all.

Ironically, it was Tommy Emmanuel who brought up the subject of 2001, the year of 9-11. Tommy didn't make it to the festival that year. He was stuck in England because of the flight situation. I turned to John McCutcheon's song written for that occasion and re-discovered it as a classic.

People said what they had to say and the music was there to support it. The ending song I found on You Tube thanks to Stephen Bennett. It is a recording (I don't know who made the video)of him jamming with Tommy on three tunes.

The links below lead to downloads for John McCutcheon's "Follow the Light" and the Tommy and Stephen jam.

I'm packing up my guitar and heading for Winfield.

Steve Bell.

"Follow the Light" download
Tommy Emmanuel and Stephen Bennett jam

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