Festival Fans Tout Family Feel

By: Phil White Email
By: Phil White Email

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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

A tradition for many music lovers begins Thursday.

The 41st Walnut Valley Festival will be in full swing by mid-morning. The festival has become a tradition -- even a pilgrimage -- for its regular visitors.

Anybody who makes the trek to Winfield year after year will tell you it is the family-like atmosphere that brings them to the Walnut Valley Festival. For some of them, the family feel turns into a real family.

"We chose to get married here because all of our friends are here," said Robert Rosenberg of Vancouver, British Columbia.

The festival is also where he and his wife, Alice Boyle, met after catching up with a mutual friend at Winfield in 2006.

"About a year-and-a-half after I met him (the friend), he was on Labor Day weekend packing up to go to Winfield," Alice said. "I was supposed to be finishing my Ph.D., and I bought a plane ticket to Kansas instead."

Now Alice and Robert, who will soon move to Manhattan, Kan., celebrate their anniversary at the festival each year.

"It's not the date that matters of our anniversary, it's the day of the week of the festival (Thursday)," Robert said. "So tomorrow is our anniversary."

"Don't forget," Alice was quick to add.

Roger Eilts and Leo Eilts have each been attending the festival since the 1970s.

"What could keep us away," asked Leo. "Nothing."

"It's the music, the people," said Roger. "This is as close as a family reunion we have."

Their extended "family" over the years has included the four bands with whom they have performed. The best known of their groups, Spontaneous Combustion, performed at the Walnut Valley Festival for 21 years. This year, Roger and Leo are in Winfield with their new band, Three Trails West.

Roger is eager to introduce the new band to the Winfield family.

"I feel like I'm bringing my new girlfriend to the family reunion, so it's pretty exciting for me." he said. "They're going to like her. She's hot."

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