Staged for the first time since 2019 and for the first time in southern Kent County, the Camp Greensky festival is set to unfurl with Greensky Bluegrass, Little Feat and more. Get the back story, view the schedule.
After mowing 80 acres of pasture land more than once in preparation for Camp Greensky this coming weekend, “Farmer John” Crissman paused his tour of Shagbark Farm behind the wheel of a John Deere Gator on Tuesday to survey the scene.
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“The vision of these guys never ceases to amaze me,” he said of Hoxeyville Presents crews transforming his working cattle farm into an impressive outdoor concert venue with a massive stage, vendor tents, artist “green rooms,” spacious campground and more.
When 3,000 or so festivalgoers roll in to Shagbark Farm in the Kent County community of Alaska on Thursday for the first Camp Greensky celebration in three years, many will have no clue just how much planning, labor and logistical hurdles it requires to create a music festival out of thin air – or more accurately, to hatch a metamorphosis that turns meadows and pastures into a striking amphitheater.
For farm owner Crissman, who’s dreamed of hosting Camp Greensky since 2017, it’s been a labor of love getting things ready for the 30-plus-member Hoxeyville Presents team which is preparing the stage and amenities for the Thursday-Saturday festival starring Greensky Bluegrass, Little Feat, Sammy Rae, Steve Kimock, Steppin’ In It and many more.
“My task the whole time is picking up brush along tree lines, mowing and burying water lines and then mowing and waiting for rain to quit, and mowing and then waiting for rain to stop, and then mowing again,” he said, noting that one of his brush hog tractors broke down three times in the process.
Despite that, Crissman is a happy camper, so to speak, because the festival is shaping up beautifully and the metereological forecast is more than promising.
“I couldn’t be happier to have ’em here,” he said. “Things are looking great. We’re going to have perfect weather.”
CLOSER TO GRAND RAPIDS WITH A ‘RINSE AND REPEAT’ VIBE
Greensky Bluegrass is happy to be back, too. After canceling 2020’s Camp Greensky, the band responded by playing three nights at Shagbark Farm in July – the perfect, trial run-through for this year’s festival. The festival previously had been held in Wellston, in northern Michigan, where the Hoxeyville Music Festival takes place each August.
“We originally wanted the event closer to Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo, and didn’t have luck finding the right spot,” said mandolinist Paul Hoffman.
“Now it feels like we’ve got it. We love the Hoxeyville site and being isolated in the woods creates a romantic and magical experience. Shagbark feels that way, too, with the convenience of more amenities. There’s even still a river close by to tube!”
For Jake Robinson of Hoxeyville Presents, the festival represents many months of preparation, along with a more challenging booking situation than he’s ever faced before.
With so many bands back on tour and so many events returning in 2022, the climate proved to be much more competitive when it came to finding and confirming the right groups for Camp Greensky.
But Shagbark Farm has proved to be the perfect festival site, he said, calling the set-up a “rinse and repeat” operation due to the success of last summer’s three-night run on the farm by Greensky Bluegrass. Camp Greensky will follow much the same blueprint.
“We really like it,” he said, noting the festival has added new email subscribers and fans due to the relocated site in the more populous Grand Rapids area.
Crissman said crews started arriving to set up fences and tents last week, with finishing touches and final preparations nearly complete.
“It’s been quite a ride,” Crissman conceded. “Not only am I excited for the festival, but having Little Feat here on Saturday is as good for me as having The Rolling Stones. I’m really excited to see those guys.”
Weekend passes ($75-$185) and day passes ($25-$100) are available online here. RV passes also are available.
View Local Spins’ coverage of Greensky Bluegrass at Shagbark Farm in 2021 online here, with coverage of past Hoxeyville Music Festivals here.
PHOTO GALLERY: Shagbark Farm (starting with Greensky Bluegrass on stage in 2021)