With a stage made of hay bales and a chance to swim in the Chehalis River, the Helsing Junction Sleepover sounds more like a scene from "Tom Sawyer" than a music festival.
The celebration is as much a reunion for friends as a festival featuring a music lineup that includes local indie luminaries as Kimya Dawson, Arrington de Dionyso’s Malaikat dan Singa, Knot Pine Box and Tender Forever.
“It’s not Bumbershoot,” said Jared Snyder, one of the farm’s owners and a singer-songwriter who performs at the sleepover. “It’s sort of the opposite of that. It’s about the food that people produce around here and the music that people make around here.”
Helsing Junction is an organic farm and operates a large Community-Supported Agriculture program. Food grown on the farm is sold at the festival – and so is organic coffee from Olympia Coffee.
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“It’s great to have an organic espresso drink and blackberry French toast while watching someone like Kimya Dawson play in a field,” said Mariella Luz, one of the event organizers, a collaboration between K Records and Helsing Junction Farm.
“It’s pretty amazing. You’re eating this amazing food and sitting under a willow tree. It sounds sort of dorky and maybe too good to be true,” she said.
The food, indeed, is an integral part of the weekend. “In other parts of the country and other parts of the world, you couldn’t have a social event without having music and your local food,” Snyder said, mentioning such Louisiana standbys as the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, the Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival and the Festival Acadiens et Creoles in Lafayette.
“Those festivals are not just about the music,” he said. “They are about music and food.”
At Helsing Junction, the focus is on fresh and local, made with produce grown on the farm. This year’s menu will include vegetarian tamales with tomatillo salsa, pesto potato salad and roasted grass-fed lambs raised by The Evergreen State College’s sustainable agriculture program.
“Last year’s popular snack, shitake gravy on crostini with mushrooms provided by Provisions Mushroom Farm, will probably make an appearance,” said Jade Ajani, another organizer.
The food – one meal Friday, three Saturday and two Sunday, plus snacks – is all prepared by volunteers. Proceeds from food sales go to organizations and individuals working to preserve agricultural diversity.
The event draws a couple of hundred people for concerts Friday night, Saturday and Sunday. Friday night ends with films and Saturday night with a dance party.
Some people camp the whole weekend, while others just stop in for a show.
“We have an ebb and flow of people,” Snyder said. “We have people who ride their bikes from Seattle and Portland, and that’s kind of the right speed for it.”
Besides the menu and music, the sleepover features camping, swimming and a chance to explore the farm.
“It’s not your typical show,” Luz said. “People can come and go as they please, walk through the organic apple and pear orchards. On really hot days, you can walk across the street and take a dip in the river. It’s not like you are just going to a rock show and standing around.”
The event provides an opportunity to meet artists offstage. After all, they might be your neighbor for a night.
“There’s no backstage or green room or anything,” Luz said. “The artists who perform, the bulk of them camp for the whole weekend. They are there hanging out, and their kids are running around.”
And another neighbor of the farm often puts in an appearance, Snyder said.
“My neighbor has a tame pet deer, and the deer came down to check out the music and wandered through the listeners,” he said. “Last year in the crazy heat, people were in the water. They were all taking pictures of themselves with the deer and posting them on their Facebook pages.”
Helsing Junction Sleepover
What: The sixth annual sleepover features local music – mostly from K Records artists – and local food grown on the organic farm.
When: 5 p.m. today-1 a.m. Saturday, 11 a.m.-late Saturday and 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday
Where: Helsing Junction Farm, 12013 Independence Road, Rochester
Tickets: $35 for full weekend (including camping); $8 for Friday, Saturday night or Sunday; $12 for all day Saturday; $5 per night for camping
Also: No pets, guns or alcohol are permitted at the farm.