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Central Standard

Bluegrass Meets Trashgrass At The Walnut Valley Music Festival

Walnut Valley Music Festival

Since 1972, bluegrass, country and even Irish orchestral music have sounded from stages and campsites at the Walnut Valley Music Festival in Winfield, Kan. 

In a conversation with Central Standard's Gina Kaufmann, longtime festival goers Lowen Millspaugh and Kasey Rausch called in from Winfield where the 2014 festival is taking place right now.

Millspaugh has been attending since she was a teenager. For her, it's the good-natured crowd that keeps her coming back year after year. 

"I camp with the same people every year," Millspaugh said. "I always look forward to spending time with them, I call them my Winfield family."

Rausch, a Kansas City based Americana musician, says that spontaneous campground jams are just as, if not more important than the main performers are.

"As soon as folks wake up in the morning, they have instruments in their hands," Rausch said. "[The festival] is on my calendar for the rest of my life, it's that important to me."

Though the festival has its roots in flat-picking bluegrass, performers aren't strictly held to that tradition. Genres such as punkgrass, grasstrash and even rural covers of rap songs coexist among traditional bluegrass and country. 

"There are no parameters here," Rausch said. "It's a free-for-all for whatever you're inspired to play on an acoustic instrument."

KCUR's own Steve Bell went to Winfield in 2009 to talk with campers from sites such as "Camp David," "Camp Nowhere," and "Next to Nowhere." Like Rausch and Millspaugh, Bell makes the trip to the festival every year. 


Central Standard live music
Cody Newill is part of KCUR's audience development team. Follow him on Twitter @CodyNewill or email him at cody@kcur.org.