The great American novelist and poet Don Williams Jr. is famed for his quote stressing the significance of the journey versus the destination: “The road of life twists and turns, and no two directions are ever the same. Yet our lessons come from the journey, not the destination.”
On the road of recreational trailer travel, most owners have already journeyed through life and reaped its lessons — they know better than most that the journey is much more than simply a point A to point B route to get to the next destination. In this piece, we focus on the philosophically fun side of RV travel and making a music festival a destination in and of itself. Visit and enjoy these top 10 unique music festivals we found across America that are especially well suited for RV enthusiasts who have learned the hard-earned lessons of the journey and are finally ready for some fun on the open road to getting there!
Keeping the Blues Alive in the Ozarks
In addition to attending the annual two-day Greater Ozarks Blues Festival (www.greaterozarksbluesfest.com) for your love of the blues, you’re also supporting the mission of the Blues Society of the Ozarks to keep the blues alive in the local community by encouraging schoolchildren to learn about it.
This festival, held in Chesterfield Village in Springfield, Missouri (just north of the James River Expressway at Highway 13), September 6-7, 2013, is an outdoor event that encourages attendees to enjoy on-site amenities and food, and to bring their own lawn chairs for seating. The annual lineup features Blues Music Award nominees and winners, the International Blues Challenge winner, the area’s local Blues Challenge winner and regional favorite blues bands. The closest RV park is the Springfield/Route 66 KOA (800-562-1228).
Kicking off Summer’s Lazy Days under the Shade of Oaks
Whether you’re celebrating Father’s Day in mid-June or just the start of a fun summer of open road RV travel, a worthy West Coast stop is the Live Oak Music Festival (www.liveoakfest.org). This three-day music festival is held annually on Father’s Day weekend in the wine country of the Santa Ynez Valley, 15 miles from the city limits of Santa Barbara, Calif. The festival, which celebrates its 25th anniversary June 14-16, 2013, benefits San Luis Obispo’s public radio station KCBX this year. The festival is held at Live Oak Camp, nestled in the river valley that feeds Lake Cachuma, a site filled with old oaks that provide restful shade and pristine beauty. The oak trees shade the area available for on-site camping. RVs are encouraged to park in the main campground or in the RV Corral, a designated RV area that sells out quickly (advance tickets are available online). There are no hookups in the corral or general camping areas.
A prime focus of festival-goers is what’s happening on the main stage. The stage annually features traditional, folk, bluegrass, gospel, blues, jazz, classical and world musical performances from all over the United States and the globe. Offstage, the festival is also home to a collection of arts and crafts booths, music workshops, fireside jamming and rowdy barn dances on Friday and Saturday nights. A variety of daytime activities is also offered for young people from guitar lessons to arts and crafts and a major talent show.
Appalachian Soul: Celebrating Bluegrass in Tennessee
Held in the state that spawned Dolly Parton and Kenny Chesney, the Dumplin Valley Bluegrass Festival (www.dumplinvalleybluegrass.com) is made for RV travelers who enjoy good music and down-home country hospitality and camaraderie with others who appreciate the same. The 2013 festival — running September 19-21 — is held at Kodak, Tennessee’s Dumplin Valley Farm RV Park (525 E. Dumplin Valley Road). The festival kicks off on a Wednesday night with a big potluck dinner for all the campers already on-site. The show runs with performances for three days and nights with nationally known and internationally traveling bands as well as a few regional groups that festival organizer Mitzi Soward describes as providing “Appalachian soul music” (also known as bluegrass).
“Camping and bluegrass go together like peanut butter and jelly. The campgound stays alive with the sounds of jamming and people visiting very late into the night during festival weekend,” Soward says of the homey feel of the crowds and location. “The RV park was started as a result of the demand from the folks coming to our festival, now in its 13th year. Every year we are excited to welcome people to our farm (also our home) from all over the USA, Canada and Europe.”
A majority of festival campers return each year. “Our festivals are almost like a big family reunion in some respects, as so many of our attendees are retired and attend festivals all over the South and Southeast as well as other areas,” says Soward.
Chill Out the Dog Days of Summer, Houston Jazz Style
If there’s a good reason to make a stop midway through a crosscountry RV haul in the dog days of summer, or for residents of the Lone Star State looking for a weekend getaway, one you won’t regret would be the Houston International Jazz Festival. Celebrating its 23rd year for the 2013 festival (August 2-4), the festival is part of August Jazz Month, a program sponsored by Jazz Education Inc. (JEI). Founded in 1970, JEI has earned a leadership role in education through music programming and has become one of the eminent music organizations in greater Houston and the state of Texas. JEI’s mission is to provide worthwhile educational activities for school-aged youth in the field of music while creating a better climate and promoting a greater appreciation and preservation of jazz. The Houston International Jazz Festival features musicians of international and national standing as well as lending the stage to regional and local jazz performers.
The festival’s performances are held at the Bayou Music Center at 520 Texas Avenue in Houston. Nearby RV parks include the Lake View RV Resort (713-723-0973); All-Star RV Resort (713-981-6814) and Advanced RV Resort (713-433-6950).
Get Your “Country On” in Baton Rouge Memorial Day Weekend
The Bayou Country Superfest (www.bayoucountrysuperfest.com) — a fun summer kickoff that rightfully combines “super” with “festival” to create its name — offers a total tailgating experience outside Louisiana State University’s Tiger Stadium for total country music lovers and those totally in love with the RV lifestyle. The country music festival, held over Memorial Day weekend (May 25-26, 2013), offers RV music-goers their own Touchdown Village for tailgating, as well as offering RV-specific parking areas. In addition to staging country’s top performers (2012’s lineup included Carrie Underwood and Rascal Flatts), the Bayou Country Superfest offers a special Fan Fest each day.
Attractions and activities focus on food, drinks, music and fun, including a music-performance stage, DJs and staff from area radio stations conducting games and giving away prizes, and a popular Artist Meet and Greet area, offering fans a chance to meet Bayou Country Superfest main stage performers.
Wickenburg Idol? Competition Element Heats Up Southwest Fall Festival
Traveling by RV can be all about lazy days — lounging to the tunes offered at weekend or weeklong festivals throughout America. But if you’re looking for the excitement of a hoedown that heats things up, the Bluegrass Festival and Fiddle Championship, sponsored by the Wickenburg Arizona Chamber of Commerce, is the X to mark the spot on your travel map for November 8-10, 2013. Celebrating 34 years in 2013, it is the only bluegrass festival in the Southwest to offer 13 competitive events during the weekend in a variety of categories from mandolin, open fiddle and banjo to flat-pick guitar. Beyond securing the talent of nationally recognized bluegrass bands along with providing competitive elements, the festival also offers RV camping — advance reservations are available through the chamber office (800-942-5242, www.wickenburgchamber.com).
The event is held at the Everett Bowman Rodeo Arena at 935 Constellation Road in Wickenburg. Additional RV parks accommodating festival campers include Aztec Trailer Ranch (928-684-2481), Desert Cypress Trailer Ranch (928-684-2153), Horspitality RV Park (928-684-2519) and Westpark (928-684-2210).
Celebrate the Blues Like the 1930s Heyday in Historic Durham
Durham, known as the Bull City of North Carolina, has a long blues tradition centered around the East Coast Piedmont blues — a music style recognized as more lyrical and danceable than Mississippi or Delta blues. Jazz lovers looking to get the blues Piedmont-style can do so like it’s the 1930s with the Bull Durham Blues Festival, September 6-8, 2013, at the historic Durham Athletic Park (where the Durham Bulls used to play before moving to the newer and more modern venue in the heart of downtown Durham). From the 1930s onward, the sensitive and delicate style of the Piedmont blues was played and recorded by the likes of Blind Boy Fuller, Bull City Red, Sonny Terry, Brownie McGhee and legendary guitarist Reverend Gary Davis. These and other artists living and performing in Durham played on the streets and at the tobacco auctions, as well as in the clubs, giving rise to the term “Bull City blues.”
Durham RV resources include Birchwood RV Park (919-493-1557), as well as RV campgrounds in the greater Raleigh-Durham area, such as Falls Lake State Recreation Area/Rolling View Campground (919-676-1027), the North Carolina State Fairgrounds Campground (919-612-6767) and William B. Umstead State Park (919-571-4170).
Ohio Washboard Festival Celebrates Artifact-Turned-Dixieland Musical Instrument
The source instrument of many a toe-tapping rhythm of Dixieland music is actually not considered useful for music in some parts of the world. In fact, this source — a washboard — is still used for its very laundering function in those areas. The city of Logan, in the Hocking Hills region of Ohio, is home to the last remaining washboard manufacturing company in the United States, the Columbus Washboard Company. And every Father’s Day weekend, visitors and locals alike pay homage to the washboard for its function as a musical instrument with the Washboard Music Festival (www.washboardmusicfestival.com), June 13-15, 2013.
The festival features a variety of free musical entertainment from bands playing Dixieland, blues, swing, hot jazz, jugband, bluegrass, funky creole, old-time country, ragtime and rock ’n’ roll. Arts, crafts, food, kids’ rides and entertainment, historical exhibits and tours of the washboard factory all make for a unique, musically driven experience.
Accommodations for RV campers are available about 12 miles away in Hocking Hills State Park, featuring four picnic shelters, nine hiking and two biking trails, a swimming pool, fishing on 17-acre Rose Lake, and a dining lodge. The campground has sites for RVs up to 50 feet. For more information or to make reservations, contact the park at 866-644-6727.
Northern California Festival Takes Nature and Music to New Intimate Level
The intimate setting, coupled with the natural aura of the American River Music Festival (www.americanrivermusic.org/festival.php), September 13-15, 2013, in Coloma, Calif., make for a one-stop destination for outdoor lovers who want to enjoy musical performances in a relaxed environment versus jamming into an overcrowded stadium with thousands of other fans. The event is held right on the banks of the South Fork of the American River.
In addition to operating musical events, the event’s staff — including executive director Matt Semonsen — is very rooted in nature. Semonsen, for example, was a former river guide. In a Sacramento Bee article covering the 2012 event, Semonsen shared how the river had always been the inspiration. The article quotes him sharing how his team has worked to integrate moving water and music.
Each year, the festival holds an average of 25 live performances by nationally renowned musicians for approximately 1,000 attendees in 10 locations throughout the river community of Coloma. In addition to riverfront performances, other fun to-do’s include a whitewater-river trip, a guided riverfront hike, kid-friendly fun and “live art,” among other recreational activities.
RV accommodations are available at the official festival-sponsoring campgrounds, Camp Lotus (530-622-8672) and American River Resort (530-622-6700), in addition to the Ponderosa RV and Camping Resort (530-642-5830) and the Coloma Resort and RV Park (800-238-2298).
End Your Summer on the Oceanfront of Virginia Beach
If you select to end your summer of RV roving on the oceanfront of Virginia Beach, it comes alive Labor Day weekend with the East Coast’s biggest outdoor music festival — the annual American Music Festival (www.beachstreetusa.com). Here you’ll be among the good company of music lovers to the tune of thousands. Between the allure of the close-of-summer outdoor festival and the area’s 18,600 acres of state parks and wildlife refuges, more than 121 navigable miles of waterways and 35 miles of ocean and bay beaches for campers to explore, this region is a great destination for some weekend music or a chance to spend some extended time after the last song to explore the rest of the area.
The festival is held annually from Friday through Sunday of Labor Day weekend (August 30-September 1, 2013). Individual headliners require a paid ticket, but free concerts are also made available along the boardwalk on various permanent stages.
For campers looking to be close to the resort area, Holiday Trav-L-Park (757-425-0249) accommodates tent and RV camping as well as cabins. Another nearby campsite close to the oceanfront is the Virginia Beach KOA (757-428-1444). RV camping is also offered at First Landing State Park (757-412-2300), the most visited state park in Virginia.