Best In Show: How What The Festival Turns Attendees Into Performers
At What The Festival, performers don’t stay on the stage – they become part of your story and you become one of theirs.
What The Fest’s sixth installment brought nearly six thousand revelers home to Wolf Run Ranch, a pristine 250-acre playground situated in the eastern Oregon wilderness.
With a plethora of stages, an artfully curated lineup, and activities galore, WTF truly brought something to the table for just about any attendee (ahem, performer).
It’s not hard to see why What The Fest is often likened to an “adult summer camp”.
Held each year around the summer solstice, the sense of community was palpable.
I felt that familiar tug of nostalgia as I was welcomed warmly into the Wolf Run Ranch grounds, a beautiful, shaded forest with views of both Mt. Hood and Mt. Adams.
I had never attended this festival before, and I could tell that the majority of those in attendance had been coming for years, many even from the very beginning. Despite the camaraderie one could sense in the air, I felt embraced as a newcomer.
The small size of the festival lent a sense of relaxation that one seldom sees at an event of it’s kind.
The levels of production, however, rivaled those of festivals many times it’s size.
For one to experience all that What The Fest has to offer would take much longer than just three precious days. Still, one would be remiss not to try.
For most of us, those days began at the Splash Stage. Water is life, after all- and there was plenty at the three thigh high pools in front of the most popular daytime stage.
Festival attendees sipped cocktails, recovering in style poolside, or dancing themselves clean in the sand. All this while taking it refreshing daytime beats from the likes of Whethan or Classixx.
The fashion at What The Festival ranged from awe inspiring to truly hilarious. Between the abundance of vendors on site and the hopping thrift scenes of nearby Portland and Seattle, everyone seemed to be dressed in their fest best.
Individuality and self expression were held in high regard over the weekend, and one could constantly hear compliments thrown around. On more than one occasion, I heard “Thanks, I got it from my moms closet”. Go figure.
After splashing it up in the daytime, music lovers headed out to the west field, in a frantic run between two main stages to catch world class headliners like Big Wild, Gramatik, or Zhu.
These two stages were luckily close enough to make zipping back and forth between sets very possible. Despite this, sound bleeding was not an issue. Bravo.
The third, and certainly one of my favorite parts a day at What The Festival, was the late nights.
The Groove Cube and the Dragon Stage were the epicenter of the festival nightlife. This was greatly enhanced by the winding paths of the Illuminated Forest, where artists both local and national set up a seemingly endless supply of awe inspiring art installations.
Despite delightful sounds pulsating through the woods, one could almost forget they were at a music festival. Instead, stumbling upon curiosities, each stranger than the next- it felt almost as if one had been transplanted into Alice In Wonderland.
The lineup of artists playing the festival was artfully curated- I don’t know that I was let down by any performance this past weekend. However, what I was most taken aback by was the talent of those in attendance.
Like any great summer camp, festival goers were eager to show off their own artistic chops. People from all walks of life took the opportunity to showcase their skills.
What The Festival was, in and of itself, one giant performance.
With jugglers, dancers, flow artists, musicians, and comedians peppered throughout, the talented people of Oregon were eager to put on a show.
What The Festival is unique because it doesn’t just draw in a crowd of viewers; it invites it’s attendees to become the festival. It does this by empowering local artists and musicians, and by providing inspiration in the form of breathtaking views and art that galvanizes and stimulates. I can’t wait to see what they have in store for next years festival.