The 10th Annual Canadian River Music Festival went off without a hitch last Saturday. Despite dire predictions of rain continuing throughout the morning, the precipitous delivery arrived ahead of schedule, and the sun had already begun to assert its right to shine as festival-goers began arriving around noon.
Practice seems to have made perfect. After a decade of dress rehearsals, the CRMF organizers had honed this production to a fine art, and were prepared for whatever nature threw their direction. In this case, it was mud—the natural byproduct of ample rain that had fallen earlier in the week.
Undeterred by the weather forecast, attendees showed up in a mélange of footwear, ranging from flip flops (easily disposable) to Sorels (fashionable but utilitarian) to muckboots (country-hip and functional). Organizers broke down cardboard boxes to cover the muddiest and most-traveled spots. If anyone brought umbrellas, none were needed.
This year’s anniversary event revealed evidence of tweaking here and fine-tuning there:
The food vendors had been liberated from the confines of the gated area and were assembled beneath the trees and along the road across from the RV campground, inviting even those without festival tickets to partake.
The 17 or so riverbed campers were appreciative of the change, as well, telling organizers they loved not having the vendors stationed in front of them.
The net result, according to CRMF board member extraordinaire Anna Booze, was less trash to clean up.
It seemed everyone was happy with this year’s event. Sponsors’ reviews were all positive, Booze said, as were those of the vendors. One company, IV Rejuvenation, has been attending for three years now and expressed great enthusiasm for the festival. “They go to a lot of festivals,” according to Anna, “and said this one is one of the best for them. They tell everyone that they must come to Canadian.”
Anna said the company declared CRMF “very well-organized, one of the cleanest venues, and family-oriented.”
Musician J.D. McPherson told Anna he loves coming to CRMF. Always well-organized, he said, and great people to work with.
While the numbers are still being tallied, it was interesting to note that, although ticket sales—both pre-event and at the gate—were down this year, merchandise tent sales were up.
According to CRMF board member, overall attendance was down to about 1,800, including staff. “Concerns of rain directly affected our ticket sales,” Carpenter said. “Unfortunately, it’s just part of organizing an outdoor event. For those who did brave the weather, they were gifted a beautiful day to enjoy some great music.”
And how about that music?
Well, it was sublime. Lesser-known area artists, like Comanche Moon—who kicked it off at noon—and John Fullbright, drew enthusiastic reviews from the early-attending faithful. Fullbright took the smallish crowd to school on the piano and blues harp, before bringing out his band, turning up the juice, and picking up the pace.
As the crowd grew and the sun came out in full force, Bonnie Bishop, J.D. McPherson and The Great Divide had the crowd up on its feet and dancing. It was the perfect lead-in to the master showman Marty Stuart, and his aptly named band, The Fabulous Superlatives, who owned the stage—and the audience—for the next hour-and-a-half, until the always popular Robert Earl Keen and his band had fans crowding the stage and singing along.
“Those of us working the Ticketing Tent get to see people both arrive and leave the festival,” Tiffany said, “and we received so many positive responses on how they enjoyed their time at CRMF. Some had so much fun they mentioned bringing more family and friends next year. You can’t beat this kind of response.”
“This event has grown so much over the years,” she added, “and without the community support we receive, the crews and volunteers who work so hard to build and support our festival grounds’ infrastructure, the amazing financial assistance from our sponsors, donations, and Chamber marketing grant funds, and our wonderful festival patrons, this event doesn’t happen. It’s kind of amazing how it comes together, us all doing our part to create the whole.”
Seems there’s life, still, in the 10-year-old Canadian River Music Festival. Here’s to the next decade.
PHOTOS BY LAURIE EZZELL BROWN