GAYS MILLS - The Schendel-Dremsa family took on Larryfest for the first time this year and it is safe to say we had an excellent time.
For those not in the know (like we were last year) you can hop on the World Wide Web and find information a plenty about this former family get-together that has grown to 1,000 tickets sold, big time blue grass acts, and excellent little shuttle buses. In fact, there is even a story on ExploreLaCrosse.com called ‘Five things you need to know before you go: Larryfest.’
This was the 21st year of the festival now put on by the Kickapoo Valley Acoustic Music Association with help from the founding Sebranek family (with Larry Sebranek being the name sake).
We had wanted to go for the last several years, but the tickets always sell out fast and we kind of dilly dallied on the whole thing so the stars never aligned for us until this last January when we took the plunge, the day my tax return check was deposited.
Although I’ve been to a blue grass show a time or two, I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect of Larryfest, because it seems as though if you go, you’ve always gone. People who love Larryfest just seem to have it be a part of their history.
We didn’t go whole hog on the event for the first year, as we didn’t camp. I pulled the “I’m nearly six months pregnant (surprise faithful readers!) and do not want to sleep on the ground. in the damp weather” card.So, we shacked up at Chasca’s grandparents. This was an excellent choice. I mean, who would really choose sleeping on the ground over comfy accommodations, free delicious breakfast and a morning splash around in the hot bubble (also known to all the non-toddlers as a hot tub), not to mention delightful company. We’re pretty lucky and thankful they like us enough to let us stay.
We were rained out Thursday but got a bright and early start Friday, getting down to the grounds while things were still fairly quiet.
Probably the biggest highlight for Thatcher through the entire thing was the fact that the fest provides shuttles via little yellow buses. To Thatcher, the bus is a toy, a song and a yellow blur that whizzes past our house a few months out of the year; but the opportunity to ride on one? How could life get any better?!
When the shuttle pulled up to the parking lot, his eyes lit up, as he squealed “YELLOW BUS MAMA! MY YELLOW BUS!” He immediately began doing a window wiper hand motion, but I think was too excited to even remember the words to ‘wheels on the bus’ so I started the round of song for him, which he quickly joined in on.
Lucky for the little curly-haired toddler, it is also a very family and kid friendly event. Right away, Thatcher latched on to a pair of twin boys that looked uncannily like his friend Jacob. Because he doesn’t quite have the vocabulary yet to ask someone what their name is, he decided to name them the “Many Jacobs” and continued to chase them and yell, “Come back Many Jacobs! Come back!” throughout the day.
We were able to set up our chairs in a spot near my cousin Hannah’s food stand that also got shade for a good part of the day, and perfect sound from the stage. Although we didn’t spend much time actually sitting in the chairs until late at night.
The music was continuous and wonderful and Chasca and I both found ourselves dancing in place as we talked to people we knew.
Thatcher on the other hand, being quite the North Kickapoo Valley guy, was greeted by several friends of his great grandparents with whom he spends time regularly, but he acted shy, perhaps already embarrassed by his ol’ ma and dad in front of his friends.
Luckily for us, we were able to get him to have a snooze in the afternoon both days, which led to his fussiness staying to a minimum and much to everyone’s surprise, he hung out until the headlining acts both nights.
The local favorite Horseshoes and Hand Grenades took the stage Friday night and per usual put on quite the foot-stompin’ good time. However, the pitch of the bluegrass harmonica nearly awoke the little person wrapped up on my lap, leading us to depart early.
On Saturday night however, my ears were greeted by probably one of my new favorite bands, the Hog Slop String Band. I had been excited to see them since I read their silly name on the schedule. And, they certainly did not disappoint. It was the first live band I’ve ever seen featuring the instrument known to me as the gut bucket- or more commonly known as the washtub bass. Which for those of you not in the American folk music know, is basically a turned over galvanized wash tub with a string coming out of the middle, stretched taunt by a broom handle. The player of the gut bucket for the Hog Slop String band was named Pickles. He was seemingly quite the wild card, as video footage surfaced on Facebook a few days later of him taking a leap of faith into the arms of the Larryfest dancers and crowd surfing around a bit. Phenomenal stuff.
So if you haven’t given Larryfest a try, I suggest you start polishing your dancing boots and keep an eye out for when next years tickets go on sale, you won’t be disappointed.