It seems like everything has changed over the past couple of years, from the job market to the price of gas and the economy in general. As a result, we've seen many events come and go as it becomes harder and harder to survive in a hostile climate that's fighting for our expendable income.
While some have either been victims of circumstance or thrown up their hands and gone home and a few have survived on rainy day funds, others have adapted and survived, if not thrived with the change. Out in Okemah, flexibility has been essential to the success of Grape Ranch Winery and with a dedication to its patrons and vision, the owners have continued to adapt to keep one of the most anticipated events of the year up and running.
That said, the Red Dirt Harvest Festival returns for its fourth run this weekend, August 1 and 2, at Grape Ranch Winery. It's a little earlier and a day shorter (previously held over an extended Labor Day Weekend), but most of your favorite Red Dirt artists and friends are back with a few new friends to make sure you get a weekend long fix of Red Dirt, beer, wine and BBQ. Sure, it may be a little warmer, but it's a weekend any festival veterans still won't want to miss and the change in pricing structure will even make it cheaper for most people coming out for the weekend.
If you're not already familiar with the Red Dirt Harvest Festival, shame on you. After three consecutive years, most Red Dirt fans in Northeast Oklahoma are looking forward to a weekend with friends, family and the heart of the Red Dirt movement. Nestled in a corner of Woody Guthrie's hometown of Okemah, Grape Ranch Winery plays home to the festival with two stages, primitive camping (no electricity) and cold showers, food vendors, beer and a selection of the host's own wines in an effort to celebrate both the fall harvest and the music most closely associated with the region's red soil.
Down and Dirty
This year, things have changed a little in order to accommodate the musicians, fans and campers. Instead of ticketing for attendance, admission to the festival itself is free with parking fees of $10 per day for those who prefer to commute to and from the winery. Those ready and willing to stay the entire weekend can settle in at the campgrounds with terraced camping fees. Tent camping is $25 for the weekend or $15 for Saturday night only, while graduated fees are $30 for campers, trailers or small RVs and $50 for large busses and RVs. For those who are planning ahead, the campgrounds open Friday morning, August 1 and close Sunday evening, August 3, at 7pm.
Ice chests with food and drink are allowed; however outside liquor, wine and beer are prohibited. All in all, that's a fair call, since the event is being held at a winery and Grape Ranch does provide wine and reasonably priced beer for sale on the grounds and food vendors will be operating daily.
You Want to Know
With housekeeping details out of the way, we can get on with the good stuff--the music. Once again, there will be an open mic stage in the campgrounds for interested performers who can sign up for a slot on a first come-first served basis between the hours of noon and 5pm on Friday or 11am and 4:30pm on Saturday. The best of the open mic performers, as judges by the Grape Ranch staff, will then get the opportunity to open the main stage at 4:45pm on Saturday, August 2.
The August 1st main stage lineup kicks off at 5pm and includes Tom Skinner, Mama Sweet, Travis Linville, Randy Crouch, the Flying Horse Opera and Red Dirt Rangers. Saturday's roster will include Travis Kidd, Dustin Pittsley, Hosty Duo and Mike McClure as well as a few other friends that are sure to show up.
Additional performances from Don Morris, Larry Spears, John Fullbright, Bill Erickson and Greg Jacobs and a couple of my personal favorites in this extended circle of friends, Scott Evans and Susan Herndon, can also be expected over the course of the weekend.
The true charm of the weekend, however, lies in the fact that the Red Dirt Community extends its stage to each other like a family reunion, so you know you're always bound to have a few surprise guests show up and plenty of co-mingling between acts. Besides having an eclectic lineup, that's one of the best reasons to show up for the Red Dirt Harvest.
Of course, The Red Dirt community suffered a great loss this year with the passing of its mentor and Godfather, Bob Childers. While Childers is sorely missed, this year's festival is dedicated to mourning his loss, but celebrating his memory, so even though he's not with us in body, you can be sure he will be well represented in spirit and song.
Also conspicuously missing this year is Jason Boland, who is suffering from throat problems and vocal issues. Boland was originally scheduled to perform on Friday, but will be forced to miss it this year, so we'll be looking forward to seeing him at the Cain's in November.
Even without a couple of our local heroes, it should still be a great weekend of music, food and fun, so don't be shy about making the drive if you're a fan of any of the Red Dirt artists. Driving directions, a detailed schedule and further information are available online at www.reddirtfestival.com.
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