It would be difficult for me to describe the Kerrville Folk Festival to the uninitiated. For those of us who make the annual pilgrimage to Quiet Valley Ranch outside of Kerrville, TX the “Welcome Home” sign pretty much says it all. For 18 days beginning the Thursday before Memorial Day each year the ranch is home to thousands of music lovers from all walks of life coming together for the sake of the song. By the time it’s all said and done the ranch is pretty much wall to wall tents and music. There are fabulous stage performances every night with added performances on weekend afternoons as well as the almost daily Ballad Tree where anyone who cares to share a song can get up and perform. The music that goes on nearly 24 hours a day at the various campsites is part of the heart of the festival and you’ll hear everyone from the casual music lover to mainstage performers at all hours of the day and night swapping songs in a circle of friends.
Groups of people gather the weekend before for Landrush to set up camps with names like Camp Coho, Kantigree, Sweetness and Light, and Duct Tape, just to name a few. My home base at the festival is a little slice of heaven known as Camp Nashbill where our fearless leader, liege lord and High King, Bill Nash welcomes us with open arms.
In her book, The Dance, author Oriah Mountain Dreamer has this to say about home:
“This is what home is: not only the place you remember, but the place that remembers you, even if you have never been there before, the place that holds some essential piece of you in trust, waiting for you to return when you go out into other places in the world, as you must.”
That pretty much sums up the festival and especially Camp Nashbill to me. I was made to feel at home from the moment I stepped foot under the canopy in 2002 and to this day it remains home and my campmates are family. Each year we’ll welcome another member or two into the fold and they are greeted as though they’d been coming there for years.
Bill is an inspiration to many, including myself. Diagnosed many years ago with Multiple Sclerosis, Bill has had to develop ways to play the guitar that don’t require as much strength in his left hand. He has developed a method using alternate tunings and multiple capos of varying sizes to enable him to play chords with one or two fingers and is always ready to teach anyone with a desire to learn. His after mainstage song circle is a popular place for performers to stop by and share a song or two. Bill welcomes anyone and everyone who would like to sing and play and the circle often goes on until 3:00 or 4:00 a.m. I’m way too much of an early riser to stay up with them that late but I have a tradition of setting my tent up just outside of the song circle. I’ve heard some amazing music while half asleep in my tent. It’s a magical place.
To say that I am grateful for the friendships, the songs, the laughs and the hugs that I have received from my fellow “Nashbillians” doesn’t begin to scratch the surface. In my campmates and fellow festival goers I have found acceptance and kindred spirit. If you ever find yourself near Kerrville, TX at the end of May or first part of June stop on by. We’ll all say “Welcome Home!”