Camping in the Snowies

Camping in the Snowies

Thursday, November 20, 2014

AZ Bluegrass at Wickenberg

Our first Bluegrass festival in Arizona and the first one we didn't have to drive hours to attend. It was great!
We had reserved a camping spot and passes in advance so pulled into our site and set up camp. 
Our friends from Salome were camping at the "penthouse" they said. We strolled over to the rodeo arena where the festival stage was set and Old Blue Sound was getting ready. A friendly Wickenberger told us where the penthouse was.  The rodeo grounds where the festival is held are located up a canyon a little ways east and north of the town. There were A and B campgrounds then various other lettered and well marked areas and far up the canyon and uphill all the way was the campground labeled "Penthouse." We decided to driving, not walking was best. There we found Dennis and Elaine Carlson and Jake and Jeannie Jacobs camped together as they had in Salome with their awnings touching and tarp wind and sun baffles held in place with clamps. We agreed to return after dinner for jamming. 

                           I think this is a kind of yucca called Yucca rigida

                                       Our site number and Airstream birdhouse.

                                 Saguaro cactus near the campground.

Dave finds a jam or a jam finds him. It all started with him playing banjo and blossomed into a great jam.  
         Jake Jacobs, Paul Smith, Gordon Acri and Dave (hat and ear).

Gordie Acri and a banjo of his own design. Yes, you are seeing angled frets up the neck and no headstock. His finger picks and thumb picks are sold by Elderly Instruments. His banjos look weird but sound good. Here.'s Dave with another Acri banjo. 

Up the hill later on for a great jam with the Penthouse gang. The night got pretty chilly and we were glad to have an extra blanket along when we got back to our camp. 

The next morning the guys from Driving Grass showed up for practice before the bluegrass band contest. 

Charlie Ray Robinson, Dave, Paul Schuler, Dennis Talbert and Rick Rhodes are Driving Bluegrass. They took third place. 

Sights in the festival area. The Fest was well attended with a parking lot full of day trippers. 

More good picking ensued on the grounds that evening with picking tents among the big rigs and three shiny Airstreams. An RV caravan group from Sun City West had a big fire pit. Many other fire pits spewed wood smoke at night. It smelled a bit like a high, dry and bare Walnut Valley Festival. 
There were food and souvenir vendors and a T shirt booth. Fancy Native American turquoise, sand painting, weaving and pottery caught my eye. Homemade ice cream and peanut butter cake got my money, though.  
   Dave in the Senior fiddle contest backed up by Laura Berry and Norm Long. He got fourth place. 

             Senior fiddle contest winners. Three classy ladies.

Dave in the banjo contest backed by Denny Carlson and Dennis Talbert.

Dave took second place in the banjo contest.

There were three professional bands who played sets between each contest. A few bands but they played a lot.
Blaine Sprouse was gracious to pose for me backstage. He played a beautiful version of Maiden's Prayer.
The Dry Branch Fire Squad played a great gospel set on Sunday morning. Ron Thomason had everyone standing and singing a hymn on the last song of their set. He did an impression of a revival preacher that was believable and funny at the same time. 
After good-byes to our new friends who we'll meet up with in Ajo or Yuma or Tucson we were on the road home. Luci is snug in her berth at the Sun Village RV lot and the Tacoma has had a much needed bath. We are home from camping until January 2015. Life is good. 

Monday, November 10, 2014

Salome AZ fiddle jamboree

We enjoyed the state fiddle contest at Payson and were able to meet some Arizona fiddlers. Now we have an opportunity to meet fiddlers and other musicians in a jam setting without competing. Our first outing in Luci since the trip south. 
Salome is a wide spot in the road on Highway 60 with a Lions club that seems happy to sponsor this weekend. They provide a hall and a chili dinner on Friday noon; a pancake breakfast and a beef stew dinner on Saturday. Beer and wine were also available. Coffee was a free will donation.  Camping is willy nilly across the street in a big dirt lot. We pulled up and camped beside some folks we met at Payson. 

The awning was deployed the entire weekend as the sun is fierce even this late in the season.

Mostly big rigs, trailers and fifth wheels. No tents. Most of us were retirement age. Some travel with their dogs and one couple had a cat. 

A picking tent was made in this case by joining two awnings and clamping white plastic tarps to the awning arms. In the daytime air movement was facilitated by rearranging the tarps. You can see the clamp in the upper right hand corner of the photo above.  The clamps were bought in quantity at the swap meet in Quartsite. In the evening the tarps kept out the chilly desert air. 

This is the Salome Lions club hall at breakfast on Saturday. The stage is a raised platform so is accessible to even the least mobile of us gray-haired folks. Yes, those are frogs on the wall.  One has a fiddle and the lady frog has a microphone. We asked about the significance of the frogs and were told that the Salome athletic teams were the Fighting Frogs. That was the explanation. 

In this jam, a roster was kept for signing up to play on stage. Anyone could perform as long as no electric instruments were used. An electric piano was allowed. The performer was allowed three tunes.  A fiddler always performed his tunes between the "others." After all, this was a fiddle jam. 

This fiddler is Blaine Cone, a venerable performer who knew the words to "Peek-a-Boo Waltz and other fiddle tunes we all knew but hadn't heard them sung.  He is a treasure and also hosted the gospel sing on Sunday morning. 
There were many good musicians and lots of pretty fiddles, mandolins and basses. There were even some banjos including a clawhammer style banjo.  

OK, I said that there were rules at the hall and one was NO DOGS ALLOWED.  Well maybe just one.
Rules are made to be broken, I guess. 

Dave did a nice job on his tunes, with Laura and Denny as backup. He stuck to familiar ones that the local guitar players knew. No Warrie Means in this group. 
I said that this wasn't a competition but there was a little band contest. Those wanting to participate put their names in a hat. Four names were drawn no matter their specialty so it could be four singers or four banjos, etc. The band members were given only a few seconds to come up with two numbers and away they went. Interesting, huh? 
Anyway, it was a fun weekend in the desert. The moon was full, sunsets were pink and purple and the sleeping was good providing that you had a blanket and your socks on. 
Next weekend Luci travels to Wickenburg for the Bluegrass Festival. We are ready to go!