On the continuum of music festivals, Cowboy & Hobo Days will be closer to a flea market than to WE Fest. That's the way the organizers, the performers, and the fans (if all goes well) want it.
The festival, scheduled for Sept. 7-8 at the Crow Wing County Fairgrounds in Brainerd, has been molded in the image of its namesake. In addition to organizing it, Cactus Willie, Boxcar Bob & The Drifter will be performing at this festival, which they hope to make an annual September event.
If you go
What: Cowboy & Hobo Days Festival.
When: 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Sept. 7-8.
Where: Crow Wing County Fairgrounds, Brainerd.
Admission: $5 (adults per day), free (14 and younger). Proceeds benefit Salvation Army's bridge and flood disaster funds, Camp Confidence and the Brainerd chapter of Fishing Has No Boundaries. Camping is $15.
Phone: 763-3662 for information, 829-6680 to reserve a camp site.
Web site: www.cactuswillie.net.
Who's playing when on the main stage
10 a.m. - Cactus Willie, Boxcar Bob & The Drifter.
11 a.m. - The Shaffer Family.
Noon - Casey Aro.
1 p.m. - Marrianne.
2 p.m. - Gary Timbs.
3 p.m. - Michael Murphy.
4 p.m. - Sonny Winberg.
5 p.m. - Red Johnson.
6 p.m. - Geoff Elvee.
7 p.m. - Buggy Whipp.
8 p.m. - Johnny Jay Huhta.
9 p.m. - Cactus Willie, Boxcar Bob & The Drifter.
10 a.m. - The Nelsons.
11 a.m. - Gary Timbs.
Noon - Angie Senger.
1 p.m. - Buggy Whipp.
2 p.m. - Sonny Winberg.
3 p.m. - Casey Aro.
4 p.m. - Red Johnson.
5 p.m. - The Shaffer Family.
6 p.m. - Cactus Willie, Boxcar Bob & The Drifter.
7 p.m. - Marrianne.
8 p.m. - Geoff Elvee.
9 p.m. - Johnny Jay Huhta.
"We're at the crossroads of folk, country, rock and bluegrass," said the band's lead singer, Charles Casterline (Cactus Willie). "We meander around all of it, but it's acoustic. So you're going to hear vocal harmonies similar to how bluegrass and folk would harmonize. So we're a crossroads band and it's worked well for us because we're not stepping on anybody's toes."
If all goes as planned, the festival will find a similar niche. Although Cowboy & Hobo Days doesn't push a specific genre, the 13 main-stage acts have a common bond.
"There's no high-powered, super-driving music," Casterline said. "It's acoustic, low-impact, family music."
Cactus Willie, Boxcar Bob & the Drifter - including Bob Selby as Boxcar Bob, Charles Casterline as Cactus Willie and Will Kelley as the Drifter - are organizing and performing at Cowboy & Hobo Days Sept. 7-8 in Brainerd. The music festival will feature Minnesota musicians in a variety of genres, from bluegrass to folk to rockabilly.
Spin for Yourself
Cactus Willie, Boxcar Bob and The Drifter
» Kawliga album - "Let's Keep It Simple" (click to listen)
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Brainerd lakes area musicians on the main stage will include Baxter's Johnny Jay Huhta, an old-school rockabilly guy; Crosslake's Geoff Elvee and Aitkin's Marrianne, who have a mainstream country sound; Baxter's Shaffer Family, which plays bluegrass; and Staples' Gary Timbs, known for tickling the ivories.
From other parts of the state come storyteller/singer Casey Aro, traditional country legend Red Johnson, bluegrass family band Buggy Whipp and modern country musicians Sonny Winberg, Angie Senger and The Nelsons.
The performer logging the most miles will be Oklahoma's Michael Murphy, who tells stories and plays flute in the Cherokee tradition.
"The theme behind this was to maintain a local flavor," said Casterline, the nephew of bluegrass legend Lester Flatt. "I don't want this to be WE Fest. If Alan Jackson wanted to play here, fine, but we want to keep your Red Johnsons, your Geoff Elvees, your Johnny Jays. And I want to keep storytelling in there. It's something that goes well with the music and something you don't see a lot around here."
The mood of Cowboy & Hobo Days will be reminiscent of June's Nisswa-stamman and August's Lakes Bluegrass Festival in that the music won't be limited to what's on the main stage.
"We'll have an open mic stage. We'll have Jammers' Central, where people can put their name on the list of where they want to meet up with others," Casterline said. "They can go anywhere on the fairgrounds as long as they don't interfere with the main stage or the camping. Play music. This is a music festival, and I want it to be not just one-sided. It's the kind of thing where you can sit and listen if you want, or you can go and participate if you want."
In addition to Casterline, who lives in Emily, Cactus Willie, Boxcar Bob & The Drifter is rounded out by guitar and mandolin player Robert Selby (Boxcar Bob) of Wyoming, Minn., and bassist Will Kelley (The Drifter) of Lakeville. The band specializes in summer festivals in small Minnesota towns; they also play resort shows in Texas, where they reside in the winter.
The trio wanted a festival that reflected their most fun, intimate shows. Those tended to be flea markets rather than big-stage gigs.
"I've known other musicians who play at the flea market and see it as a dead end," Selby said. "It turned out to be just the opposite for us."
"There are the shows that are real premo shows and then there are those that are just fun," Casterline said. Flea markets are fun, because you're right there with the people. We draw crowds around us three deep. It's like they're part of the music. I love the ones where we're right there with the people."
JOHN HANSEN may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5863.
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