Those looking for a music scene that’s off the beaten path, need look no further than the small town of Willamina. Every summer, the Wildwood Music Festival showcases regional musical talent while celebrating its own little corner of Oregon in a weekend of camping and concerts that all started with two friends.
Big fans of their little town, Katie Vinson and Kim Hamblin wanted to share it with the world, and a music festival was born. Vinson had the music connections—her and her sister have operated the Wildwood Hotel in town for more than fifteen years. Hamblin owned a property with an old basalt quarry that was just begging to host parties. So in August 2011, the women hosted a word-of-mouth concert and a hundred people showed up.
Six years later, the festival has continued to grow, bringing in hundreds of fans to watch twenty bands from the Northwest and beyond. We asked Katie and Kim about the Willamina, the music, and the moments that keep people coming back.
Travel Yamhill: How did Wildwood start in Willamina and where did the idea originate?
Katie: Having a music festival has always been an idea particularly in relation to attracting people to our area. Live music has been a big part of Wildwood Hotel; we have touring and local musicians about every other weekend. After getting to be fast friends with Kim, she and her now husband Dan Rinke were eager to allow their property to be used for an event like this. I am always in awe of Kim’s ability to take on massive projects with a laugh. It takes many people to make it happen and thankfully we have had lots of volunteers in previous years.
Travel Yamhill: Tell us a little about the music. What kinds of bands do you look for in the festival lineup?
Katie: Musically we are always looking for music with a lot of soul, I don’t mean like soul train, but music made with a lot of heart. Americana and Roots are what the festival focuses on but I feel like those terms are not big enough to capture all of the genres represented. The big goal is music that makes you stop and listen, shed a tear or jump up and down. Anything that really gets to you: folk, blues, rock, traditional, bluegrass and lots more.
Travel Yamhill: How has the weekend changed over the years?
Kim: The style of music has mostly stayed consistent, but we’ve extended over the years; now we have over twenty bands playing on stage, a late-night firepit and a single act playing during a cider tasting event.
Travel Yamhill: What’s your favorite part of the event and what are you looking forward to this year?
Kim: My favorite part is usually on Sunday morning when I can sit down and relax a bit, I love looking around and seeing how incredibly full of joy everyone is; those moments are what make the whole festival worth it for me.
Katie: My personal favorite part of the festival is also Sunday—it has such a great family reunion feel to it. Lots of people that I only get to see once a year. This year we have a six-piece gospel band from L.A. and it is going to have a real celebratory feel.
Wildwood Music Festival and Campout: July 21-23rd, 2017 – Willamina, OR
To see the 2017 lineup and for more information visit wildwoodmusicfest.com