Pick and grin, or just tap your toes, at this popular Kansas music event

Recognized as the “Bluegrass Event of the Year,” the Walnut Valley Festival annually attracts bluegrass fans and performers from around the world. The family-friendly atmosphere offers high-caliber contests, workshops, world-class performances and enough spontaneous music-making to satisfy even the hardcore enthusiast. And true Festival aficionados pack their instruments and sleeping bags since camping is encouraged on the grounds.

Event: Walnut Valley Festival

Dates: Sept. 14-18, 2011

Location: Cowley County Fairgrounds, Winfield, Kan.The Festival was first held in 1972 when almost a dozen entertainers gathered to perform and hold sing-alongs and workshops. Today the event has grown to accommodate five stages with performances by more than 35 acts. Amateur and professional impromptu venues and jam sessions are common and spring up at all hours. But the Festival is most famous for its prestigious instrumental contests, such as the National Flat-Pick Guitar and National Bluegrass Banjo championships.

Come and enjoy the fun – about half of all Festival campers even bring their own musical instruments!Here’s a sampling of what you can enjoy during the Festival:

  • Between concerts, savor homemade vanilla ice cream, kettle corn, even Greek-style gyros or shish kebabs from one of many food vendors.
  • Delight in the high energy that the four-member band The Wilders bring to traditional bluegrass ballads, gospel, honky-tonk and more.
  • Experience the expert playing of folk music instrumentalist and singer John McCutcheon, master of the hammered dulcimer.
  • Find the banjo, dulcimer or guitar of your dreams at one of the Festival’s luthiers.
  • Participate in a workshop for autoharp led by musician Julie Davis.
  • Stock up on bluegrass-associated belt buckles, CDs, hats, T-shirts and more at arts-and-crafts vendors.
Learn more about the Walnut Valley Festival.Photos provided courtesy of Rex Flottman.
Becky Blake is the Director of Tourism Division of the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks & Tourism, and has been involved in the Kansas tourism industry for the past 30 years. The TravelKS Blog provides a brief update from Becky each week, featuring communities, events and attractions throughout the state.