Walnut Valley Virtual Festival 48.5 Nears Conclusion

Winfield, Kansas—The performance portion of the Walnut Valley virtual Festival, officially dubbed WVF 48.5, reached its conclusion last Sunday, Sept. 20. However, the virtual festival web page, https://www.wvfest.com/wvf-48-5/, continues to be active, and the videos will remain up for viewing till the end of September, as planned. Funds raised during the campaign will help performers and the festival, and donations are still being accepted. 

Festival officials say that the individual videos of the performances, totaling more than 40 hours of content, were loaded over 24,000 times, and played by at least 11,865 unique visitors to the site. Those who donated received a range of goodies, from guitar picks to facemasks, t-shirts and mugs, to a specially designed game tailored to festival fans. So far, donations have reached $38,551 of a target of $150,000, with 6 days left in the fundraising campaign. 

WVF 48.5 officially began Sept. 12, with a series of instrument workshops conducted by Zoom. More than 130 people took advantage of the chance to learn from the masters, and the workshops featured sessions on a variety of instruments, taught by a who’s who of bluegrass musicians–Stephen Bennett, Dan Crary, Bill Evans, Juni Fisher, Bing Futch, Grace Van’t Hof, Chris Jones, Adam Miller, Mark Sganga, Mark Stoffel, Missy Raines, and Mark Alan Wade. 

From Monday, Sept. 14 through Friday, Sept. 18, a series of concert events were broadcast, including a collection of memorable performances on Stage 5, one of the festival’s best-known camp stages, and a virtual Winfield Music Crawl with sets from several local bands. This was followed by a special showing of a video produced for the festival’s 25th anniversary, giving an inside look at some of the main features of the Walnut Valley Festival, including camping, concerts, contests and crafts.  

Wednesday saw the airing of an evening concert with John McCutcheon, devoted to “Community in COVID-19,” which featured guest appearances from Muriel Anderson, Michael Mark, Tom Chapin and his daughters, Abigail and Lily, The Steel Wheels, Socks in the Frying Pan, and several others. This was followed by a video devoted to Andy May’s Acoustic Kids, a long-running program which focuses on mentoring talented young bluegrass players. Thursday, September 17, a special Champions Showcase concert was shown, with performances by 7 of the winners of last year’s 8 instrument contests—the International Autoharp Championship—Doug Pratt, International Finger Style Guitar Championship—Adam Gardino, the National Mountain Dulcimer Championship—Grant Olson, National Mandolin Championship—R. Wesley Carr,  National Flat Pick Guitar Championship—Allen Shadd, National Hammer Dulcimer Championship—Nate Pultorak and National Bluegrass Banjo—Eric Welty. Information on those winners can be found at www.wvfest.com/contest-winners/ 

On Friday, September 18, a special edition of the festival’s NewSong Showcase was shown. The NewSong Showcase offers a chance for aspiring songwriters to submit their work for review by a professional songwriter/artist, with the opportunity to appear on stage during the festival. This year the top participants recorded videos of their performances, which were streamed on Friday evening. Immediately following this another campground stage, Stage 11, continued on with other talented songwriters offsite on social media. 

Saturday and Sunday, September 19-20, were devoted to streaming concerts by artists who were scheduled to perform in Winfield this year. Most of the performances were recorded specifically for this event, but there were a few videos that featured performances captured elsewhere, at-home performances with missing band members or surrogates, or footage taken at the 2019 Walnut Valley Festival. Performers who contributed videos included 3 TRAILS WEST, Appalachian Road Show, Helen Avakian & David Irwin, Stephen Bennett, Byron Berline Band, Roz Brown & Jim Ratts, Tom Chapin & Michael Mark, The Cowboy Way, Crary, Evans & Barnick, Damn Tall Buildings, Juni Fisher, Bing Futch, Beppe Gambetta, JigJam, Chris Jones & the Night Drivers, John McCutcheon, Marley’s Ghost, Mile Twelve, Andy May, Adam Miller, Barry Patton, Missy Raines, Mark Sganga, Socks in the Frying Pan, Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen, The Steel Wheels, Steelwind, Linda Tilton, and Mark Alan Wade. The staff of Feisty’s Music Camp for Kids also offered sing-a-longs and guest performances via Zoom, aimed at a younger audience, on Saturday morning.  

Winfield’s Legacy Foundation and Winfield Arts and Humanities Council are facilitating the fundraising aspect of the event. Sixty percent of the funds raised will be split equally between all of the artists in the lineup taking part. The remaining forty percent will be used by WVA to pay for production costs of WVF 48.5 as well as to get ready for its 49th Walnut Valley Festival in 2021. To aid in fundraising, Elk Falls Pottery and Art Farm Screen Printing & Design produced special mugs and t-shirts to reward donors. Theurer Auction/Realty also provided a platform for an online auction of festival memorabilia.

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