A blissful, wooded weekend of talented musicians jamming amid the trees.
After my interview with Pickathon founder Zale Schoenborn, I had the strong suspicion I had serendipitously stumbled upon something pretty darn special. But I still had very little idea what to expect as my friends and I pulled into Happy Valley’s Pendarvis Farm two Thursdays ago, dust kicking up behind us into the gray Oregon sky.
What followed during the next four days, however, was pure magic.
At Pickathon, the woods become a chock-a-block, tent-filled community where campers lounge around chatting, jamming, reading, imbibing, lazily swinging from suspended hammocks. Tribes of happy children rove around freely; the mini-gangs of future entrepreneurs amongst them “sell” spritzes of cool water or bird’s nest craft projects—at very reasonable rates, I might add.
Some attendees choose to car camp, while others set up impressively elaborate mini-homes amongst the trees (it’s clear there are many veterans in this crowd). Festival organizers have gone to great lengths to make this camping experience a pleasant one, and all the attention to details has not gone unnoticed.
Feeling tired? Grab some Spunky Monkey coffee. Sore from sleeping on the ground? Enjoy a $1/minute massage. Phone died? Give it some juice it in the solar-powered charging station. Feeling a wee bit too grimy? Enjoy a surprisingly decadent shower where the warm water, sun-dappled trees overhead and soundtrack of live bluegrass in the background might just feel like the best five bucks you’ve spent in a heck of a long time.
The Talent: We already felt confident that we’d be wowed by Andrew Bird, Tift Merritt and Vieux Farka Touré (and we were), but we found a whole slew of new favorites, too. Among them: Seattle-based Cahalen Morrison and Eli West, Cedric Watson & Bijou Creole, The Cactus Blossoms, Pharis and Jason Romero, Shinyribs and last, but certainly not least, Sturgill Simpson (if you don’t already know this guy, check him out). Saturday night, Feist mesmerized audiences young and old at the Woods Stage. At this tucked-away venue deep in the forest, seating options range from bales of hay to a tiered hammock community, the biergarten zone bustles, and super-size Japanese lanterns magically light the pathways.
This list is only a small sampling of the amazing musicians who graced the stages of Pickathon. Powerful voices and captivating chords resonated all day and night, bouncing off surrounding trees and resonating against the rafters of barns strewn with twinkly lights.
The Food: Pickathon welcomes local vendors to the festival, meaning reasonably-priced options with great variety and fresh, healthy alternatives too. Favorite dishes included the egg-bagel sandwich from Spunky Monkey, the patty with chevre at Kuza Burger, the Verde Salad at The Grove and the pad Thai at Thai Seasons. (We heard Pine State Biscuits serves to-die-for sandwiches, but we never quite worked up the patience to brave the queue. Next year…)
The Activities: Other festival highlights ranged from a morning yoga class in The Workshop Barn and a big old-fashioned, open-air square dance Friday evening at the Mt. View Stage to nightly campfires outside the The Galaxy Barn. Kids found plenty of ways to enjoy their Pickathon days, too.
So four days later, we left Happy Valley—exhausted and filthy, yet undoubtedly, well, really happy. As we pulled out of that dusty parking lot, we rolled down the windows and slid some new tunes into the CD player, one of our new favorite musicians serenading us home. Thanks, Pickathon; till next year.