Ask any bluegrass musician in Kansas what their favorite time of year is, and mid-September is bound to get the most enthusiastic response. That's because of the annual Walnut Valley Festival, a five-day music and camping festival in Winfield that serves as Kansas's closest answer to Telluride.
Though it lacks the big name headliners of Telluride or Merlefest, Winfield's down-home charm keeps the minions coming back year after year to pick out old-time tunes with new friends in the campgrounds. Many of the best performances take place late at night on the unofficial campground stages, where independent-minded groups like Split Lip Rayfield and Truckstop Honeymoon have earned rabid followings.
And as long as you plopped down $80 for a four-day pass, you might as well sleepwalk over to the main stages to check out perennial faves like The Wilders, Tommy Emmanuel and Beppe Gambetta as well as assorted instrumental competitions. And if you get burnt out on bluegrass, there's always ample time for snoozin', swimmin', drinkin', tomfoolerin' and washer tossin'.
Full-festival(5-day) $80.00 2-day
Children ages 6-11 are $5.00 payable at the gate, not payable in advance. Cash only, no credit cards.
We suggest taking your regular camp set-up (tent, sleeping bag, hatchet, flashlight/lantern, battery operated radio etc.) in addition to stable foods, like potatoes, onions, carrots, etc. Cans are preferred over bottles, and recycling is available. There is an (affordable) ice wagon that regularly attends to campsites, as well as several water and food stands just inside the main stage gate. Showers are also available in several locations for a small fee.
Always take water-friendly gear, including a rain coat, because it often rains at least one day during the festival. Taking at least $15 per person, per day (in addition to camping and ticket cost) in spending money is advisable. From our experience Cingular and Verizon cell phones work in the campgrounds. Sprint does not (though service is usually available 10 minutes away in the town of Winfield).
Maps: The easiest (and likely quickest) way to Winfield is to take I-35 south (by way of 59 south—that is, Iowa St.—thru to the south side of Ottawa) all the way to exit 19 (south-east of Wichita, though you'll not go thru Wichita). At exit 19, take Hwy 160 east to Winfield. Before you get to town, you'll see many a sign to the festival.