“Where can I park?” I asked the visitor information clerk, revealing my big-city origins by jumping to the all-important question first.
Her expression was puzzled when she replied, “Well, you can park here if you want.”
I had counted four parking spots when I stopped for directions to Longstock, a two-day music festival in the foothill community of Longview, not enough for a house party, never mind a music extravaganza.
I knew then this was an event with a difference.
I missed Woodstock in 1969 so when a friend invited me to Longstock, I thought it would be a great way to recapture the rock ’n’ roll experience.
Eva Levesque of The Travelling Mabels started Longstock in 2008.
“I was sitting around the kitchen table with a friend and we decided we should have a little festival,” she recalls.
So a little festival was born, and if you’ve grown up in a city, you find a small-town festival has a charm all its own.
It starts when you arrive and see a sign proclaiming “Admission by donation only.”
Who doesn’t charge for a music festival?
Eva didn’t want anyone to miss the event because they couldn’t afford it.
And as she points out, “We don’t have much security. They would just have to step over the yellow rope around the park and they would be in anyways!”
The small-town flavour was seen in other ways.
The mayor was selling raffle tickets to raise money for a park, the fire department was running the beer tent, and an enterprising group of kids wandered in to set up a lemonade stand on the grounds.
I’m pretty sure they didn’t stop to fill out paperwork or get a licence first. The lack of formality was wonderfully refreshing.
And the community seemed to agree.
“Everyone was so happy after the first festival,” Eva said,
“It was too good not to do it again.”
So each year, a group of musicians donate their time and perform at the festival.
They want to showcase their music, help out a good cause, and people want to come out and have fun.
As word has spread, so has the popularity of the festival with performers.
“I don’t have to beg anymore!” laughs Eva, saying it was easy to fill the 16 slots for musicians.
The music ranged from folk to country to bluegrass.
I confess I didn’t hear too many familiar songs, but it was good to stretch my musical boundaries.
I found myself tapping my toes to the music and itching to download tunes to my iPod.
Many of the artists were selling DVDs, posing for pictures, and autographing conference T-shirts.
So if you wanted to get your 15 minutes of fame with recording artists, Longstock delivered.
All proceeds from the festival were donated to a local charity.
This year, the featured charity was Heaven Can Wait, an animal rescue group, and they had some of their best fund development reps at the door.
Three four-week old puppies slumbered in the afternoon heat, waking long enough to roll into another heart-tugging pose.
If you didn’t have room to take them home, you couldn’t resist throwing money into the pot for dog food.
After looking at the size of their feet, I threw in extra — someone was going to have some big mouths to feed when they grew up!
About a thousand people came to the festival, and while Longstock didn’t boast the attendance of Woodstock, it shared its values of peace and music.
Over $4,000 was raised for Heaven Can Wait, a tremendous contribution for an intimate celebration.
So if you haven’t been out of the city recently, look for a small-town event to rekindle your community spirit and sense of fun.
Longstock is held the third weekend of August each year.
Carol Patterson of Kalahari Management Inc. has been speaking and writing about nature tourism and emerging destinations for two decades. When she isn’t travelling for work, she is travelling for fun. More of Carol’s adventures can be found at www.kalahari-online.com.