The heat Saturday wasn’t so bad under the shade cast by trees in Winolequa Park in Winlock, where a crowd gathered to take in some live music at Pickersfest — a festival celebrating bluegrass and other genres of acoustic music.
Organizers of the event said on Saturday that while attendance seemed to be down from years past, acts with a national draw were taking to the stage and impromptu jam sessions were breaking out at individual campsites — sometimes going late into the night and into the early morning.
“Some people don’t go to bed, they just jam all night long,” said Mason Smith, who has long served as the event’s MC.
“It’s fun, it’s low key, not a lot of stress to it,” said Smith when asked what keeps him coming back year after year. The Portland resident said he used to put on a monthly bluegrass show back home — saying such events were a labor of love, because there’s not a lot of money to be gained in hosting them.
All through Friday, Saturday and Sunday, workshops focusing on different instruments were taking place and musical performances from well-known bluegrass artists were slated to take the stage.
Saturday afternoon, open mic performers took their turn on stage, showcasing their musical talents and prowess with acoustic instruments.
One of the event’s volunteers, Jim Bierlein, said attendance seemed a little lower than usual Saturday afternoon, but that anything can happen — an influx can occur at any time. Most of the attendees seem to come from somewhere between Seattle and Portland, he said.
He said getting the word out on festivals like this can be a hard thing, saying it seems to be the kind of festival that many people don’t seem to know about.
“It’s extremely difficult. It’s almost like those who appreciate and are aware of this music and this activity are already informed and are already here, and the rest of the world doesn’t care, but I don’t believe that. I really think if people knew what they were missing, they’d be disappointed that they missed a lot of these festivals. Because there have been some amazing, fantastic artists performing,” said Bierlein.
But for the crowd that was gathered there, they relaxed in lawn chairs in the shade, listening to a rotation of artists and Smith banter with them between sets. One sang an original song about making moonshine, before 81-year-old Bill Francis took to the stage with a guitar and with a friend on the banjo — plucking and singing as the afternoon continued on.