The Walnut Valley Festival (referred to simply as “Winfield” by long time festival-goers) is an annual acoustic festival held in Winfield, KS, the third full weekend in September. The festival takes place over a five-day period and is a great, family-friendly event.
For 2021, the Walnut Valley Festival will host the National Flat-Picking Championships from September 15-19..
This has been annual event for almost 50 years. While the Walnut Valley Festival is known as a “bluegrass” festival, it has evolved into much more over the years. “It now is a blend of all kinds of acoustic music: bluegrass, folk, Americana, old-time country, a little bit cowboy, Celtic, blues, jazz, swing and more. And the bluegrass is both traditional and progressive,” say the organizers.
For many, the festival isn’t just about the music. It’s so much more. It is a place to collaborate with other musicians, a place to reunite with friends and family, and even a place to get married! (There have been many weddings at the festival over the years.)
Many festival-goers bring their own instruments too and play into the wee hours of the night in the campgrounds. There is even a makeshift stage in the campgrounds that is lovingly called “the 5th stage.”
At the Winfield music festival, there is family-friendly entertainment on four stages simultaneously throughout the day. The sounds of banjos, hammer dulcimers, mandolins, fiddles and more fills the air throughout the festival grounds. There are also 10 different contests that occur at the festival including: the International Finger Style Championships, the International Autoharp, National Mandolin, National Mountain Dulcimer, National Hammered Dulcimer, National Bluegrass Banjo, and the Walnut Valley Old Time Fiddle Championships. These contests are a big part of the Walnut Valley Festival, attracting competitors from all 50 states and international performers as well.
Best of all, you can sign up for hands-on, in-person workshops from experts like Helen Avian and Davie Irwin, Bing Futch, Juni Fisher, regardless of your skill level. There are separate sessions for kids and adults.
Arts and Crafts, Food, and More
Besides the wide variety of music, there are also plenty of delicious food vendors to nourish you. There are also more than 100 booths of drawings, paintings, jewelry, woodcrafts, glass, metalwork, baskets, pottery, weaving/spinning, leather, herbals and soaps, and children’s items. Artists, crafters, and luthiers (makers of stringed instruments) come to Walnut Valley from more than 20 states to sell their wares.
My family has attended the festival many times over the years. In fact, my parents’ honeymoon was at the festival! As children, my brothers helped make ropes and my sister and I proudly wore garlands of ribbons and flowers on our heads. We also made ribbon wands. My parents have purchased handmade belt buckles, earrings, camp chairs and more over the years.
The Walnut Valley Festival is traditionally held the third full weekend in September. For those who are camping, check out the information on the Land Rush and how to navigate the camping process. Some festival goers line up weeks in advance to get their favorite camping spot.
The Walnut Valley Festival encourages families to come and it shows in their pricing. Just $100 advance price (you have to order and pick up your tickets at the office on on the grounds before 5 p.m. on September 10, 2021) gets you into the entire five days of the festival. Gate price for the all-inclusive option is $125. Individual days range from $60 to $90 each in advance, or $70 to $100 at the gate. Children 6-11 are just $10, and those 5 and under are FREE with a paid adult. For a full list of ticket prices, visit the Walnut Valley Festival website.
What to Bring
The Walnut Valley Festival is a relaxing, fun atmosphere. There is so much to see and do. Don’t forget to bring your lawn chairs, blankets, sunscreen, bug spray, hats and any other creature comforts that you might need for a day of outdoor fun. Only one of the stages is a grandstand with bench seats. The other stages are on grassy areas that require you to bring your own seating. For more information on what is and is not allowed at the festival, visit the WVF Festival Rules web page.