The Walnut Valley Festival, held each September in Winfield, Kan., is more than just an annual music trip for Eddie Crane. “It’s a huge part of my life,” Crane said. “I named my third child Winfield. I got engaged at Winfield. I live for it.”
To fill the void, Crane started Halfway to Winfield, a one-day festival featuring bands who play one of the biggest unofficial stages at Winfield. This year’s fest, to be Saturday at Knuckleheads, is the fourth annual Halfway to Winfield, and like the three others, it will ring in the six-month turning point.
“Saturday night at midnight, we start rolling toward this year’s festival instead of away from last year’s,” he said. “Halfway to Winfield is a reunion of people who love the festival. It’s a good excuse to have Travis (Peterson), who runs Stage 7, come down from Chicago and celebrate its culture.”
Stage 7 is one of three unofficial stages at the festival, described thusly on its Facebook page: “Stage 7 is an acoustic stage within the campgrounds of the Walnut Valley Festival in Winfield, Kansas. The stage requires no amps, cords, monitors. Just audience and performer. The performer has an intimate relationship with the audience, especially since most, if not all, performers are fellow campers who love the joy of acoustic music.”
“It’s a whole other culture,” Crane said. “It’s where all kinds of moonshine-swilling, hippie-rocking and banjo-playing hillbilly things happen. It’s less polished, but it really speaks to everyone. It’s where my heart is.”
This year’s Halfway to Winfield headliners are Split Lip Rayfield and Truckstop Honeymoon.
“Split Lip has been a big promoter of Stage 7 and friends with Travis for a long time, going back to when Kirk (Rundstrom) was in the band,” Crane said, referring to the band’s founding guitarist, who died in 2007. “To get them to find the time and play in Kansas City for the first time in almost two years is a huge boon for this event.”
The rest of the lineup includes other Stage 7 alums who have become part of the stage’s culture, Crane said.
“The support we’ve gotten from bands has been great,” he said. “It’s a great community for that. They all have a Winfield/Pecan Grove pedigree. They’ve all performed there and slept in the mud with us. “The Halfway show isn’t about how big a draw you have. It’s for people who know about Stage 7. If you go out to the public at large and show them the list of the (Halfway) bands, most wouldn’t recognize a lot of them. But to people who live and breathe Winfield, the bands are superheroes.”
The rest of that lineup includes the Whistle Pigs, Tyler Gregory, Old Sound, the Konza Swamp Band, the Rural Grit All-Stars, the Kansas City Bear Fighters and Crane’s band, Loaded Goat. Most of the proceeds will go to help Peterson with Stage 7 expenses and to pay the bands. Advance tickets are $19.50.
“A big chunk of the money goes to Stage 7,” he said. “For 15 years, they’ve had to pay for multiple campsites and the stage. Travis literally from the moment it starts, never leaves the campsite. He’s always there working, he and his dad.”
Crane is the former owner of the Drop Bar and Bistro and is the co-founder of Revel Traveling Bar and Events, a mobile bar, staffing and event-planning company. He recently became a partner with Little Class Records, a label based in Westport. He is about to announce another music event: the Westport Roots Festival, a three-stage, all day country/roots festival to be headlined by Billy Joe Shaver on May 24, Memorial Day weekend, in Westport.
“There will be an outdoor stage in the parking lot by Buzzard Beach, an indoor stage inside the Westport Saloon and a one-man-band half stage,” he said. “We are starting off keeping it modest and small, just one day. But we plan on making it bigger every year.”
But first he’ll ring in the halfway point between last year’s Walnut Valley Festival and this year’s, which can’t come soon enough.
“About this time of the year, for people like me, who think it’s their music mecca every year, we start having dreams about it,” he said. “The spirit of this event is the reunion of people who love this festival. Once you go, you can never not
go. You get it right away.”
Halfway to Winfield starts at 5:30 p.m. Saturday at Knuckleheads, 2715 Rochester Ave. Split Lip Rayfield and Truckstop Honeymoon headline. Also on the bill: the Whistle Pigs, Tyler Gregory, Old Sound, Loaded Goat, the Konza Swamp Band, the Rural Grit All-Stars and the Kansas City Bear Fighters. Tickets are $19.50 in advance. Go to KnuckleheadsHonkyTonk.com or call 816-483-1456 for more information.