By Isabel Vander Stoep / [email protected]
Each year on the first weekend in August, Winolequa Park hosts one of Lewis County’s most unique festivals, where musicians wear shirts with the distinctive logo of a banjo-playing chicken: the Winlock Pickersfest.
After a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the event returned for its 20th anniversary over the weekend. People came from all over the world including Utah, Portland and Seattle to attend.
The festival began in 2000 as a celebration of bluegrass and has grown over the years to include performances, lessons, group workshops and open mics across a wide spectrum of genres. Now, Pickersfest players fill the park with Americana, country, bluegrass, jazz and folk music from around the world, including Europe and South America.
Marv Sobolesky, organizer of the event and President of the Washington Acoustic Music Association, which hosts the event, has lived in Winlock his entire life. He plays banjo, guitar and mandolin with a specialty in bluegrass. His favorite part of the festival is when bands host workshops that give beginner and advanced musicians a chance to play with people from all ages and skill levels.
“It’s a good starting point,” Sobolesky said on Saturday. “One thing that’s really cute is that a few days ago a little girl found a harmonica out in the woods and started blowing on it. One of my good friends Mark is a pretty good songwriter, he’ll have her on the open mic after working with her yesterday.”
Describing how the festival brings people together, he pointed to two musicians sitting next to each other who seemed deep in conversation and said, “These guys just met five minutes ago.”
Each year, proceeds from the event go part to the club and part to other community groups, including Winlock Youth Baseball.
“There’s no generational difference in something like that,” Sobolesky said. “[There are]children up to a man who is 94.”
For more information on the Washington Acoustic Music Association, visit https://wamamusic.com/. The organization hosts events for musicians of various levels throughout the year. For more information on Pickersfest, visit https://winlockpickersfest.com/.