August 19th, 2022

Walnut City Music Festival Makes a Comeback

A 5 piece band plays on a lit stage at night with a lively crowd watching.
The Seratones, from Shreveport, LA, played to an enthusiastic crowd during 2019’s festival.
Photo by Sionnie LaFollette.

Live music, never in short supply in McMinnville, now frames summers here in the heart of Oregon wine country. We launch it in June with Make Music Day, and we’ll close it out Labor Day weekend with the Walnut City Music Festival, Sept. 3-4. 

It’s a fun, family-friendly, lawn chairs-and-blankets affair, but it is two days of back-to-back bands, so it’s something you need to plan for. Tickets range from $10-20 depending on how many days. Weekend passes and discounted student rates for ages 13-18 are available. 

Founder and organizer Ossie Bladine is pumped about bringing the music festival back after a 2-year pandemic hiatus, as are the musicians, some of whom have played Walnut City before. He was heartened by a recent Farmers’ Market downtown, where he encountered fans of past festivals who are jazzed about this year. 

“It’s cool to see the work we did over the first seven years build up a fan base so that we can come back after two years off and we still have that base,” he said. “It doesn’t feel like we’re starting from scratch.”

This year’s event has a new home, one that should give the crowd more breathing room and plenty of parking: It’ll be at the Oak Grove behind the Evergreen Aviation Museum. If you’ve never been, there’s a trail back there–a fantastic place for kids to play. There will be a couple food trucks and a merchandise booth, and shuttle service into town will also be available.

The festival kicks off Sept. 3 with Hillstomp, The Black Tones, J. Graves, Falcon Heart, Rum River Cult, Acousta Noir, Missing Mars and Interstate-5. On Sunday, the lineup includes The Stone Foxes, Manitoba Road Crew, Thrown-Out Bones, Harpers, MAITA, Buffalo Kim and Bootleg Jam.

If you’ve attended previous festivals, you’ll see a few familiar names in there, fan favorites and regional bands, like the local bands Bootleg Jam and the Manitoba Road Crew, Hillstomp, The Black Tones and The Stone Foxes, who will headline Sunday night. “They’re coming up from San Francisco just to play for us,” Bladine said. “We really wanted them to be there to celebrate the new digs with us.”

Bladine said a lot of musicians spent the last two years producing new music, but with scant opportunity to play for a live audience. And it’s live shows like this that bands depend on for their livelihood–not CD sales or streaming income. 

So if you love live, indie music and want to support musicians, plan on chilling in the Oak Grove behind Evergreen this Labor Day weekend. That’s where the musicians will be. 

A cartoon of David Bates

About the author: David Bates is a McMinnville writer who has appeared in Gallery Theater productions since 1998.