For 38 years, Red Boiling Springs has played host to a sort of small-scale Woodstock festival. The strange thing about it is, many of the local residents have never been to this event. Some of them may not know that it is happening.
The Summer Solstice celebration is a three day, two night festival hosted by Long Hungry Creek Farm. It boasts a long musical lineup, camping, and food, and it’s capped off by an all-night bonfire on the longest day of the year.
This celebration began in 1976, headed up by Jeff Poppen, the organic farming cooperative and biodynamic farming expert known around these parts as The Barefoot Farmer. He and a group of friends celebrated the solstice that year with music and a singing circle around a big bonfire.
“It started out as a lot of us that moved here from other places,” said Poppen. “We found each other. And we were probably a little more liberal or progressive than a lot of what was going on at the time, in 70s. [We were] coming here trying to get away from the prevailing society with the wars and all. So it was kind of a gathering of these people who had moved here from other areas. And then over the years, a lot of influence spread to people in the area… and vice-versa.”
Today, it’s a large scale with two stages, lights, and security. But it still manages to fly rather under the radar, despite the fact that attendance has grown to average well over 1,000 people.
“We don’t do a lot of advertising,” said Poppen. “Just 37 years of word of mouth. A lot of the people are just old friends of mine or friends of friends. And a lot of children and grandchildren of friends. It’s really not like a Bonnaroo or anything.”
Performers on the electric stage this year included The Occasional Reggae Band, Ball Hog, the Love Drums, the Long Players, Ghost Gypsy Caravan, Queen of the South, Mudcat, Midnight Riders, The Mables, Kansas Bible Company, and Nate Nelson and The Entertainment Crackers. Performers on the acoustic stage included Alan Powell, Tyler and Rob, Misty and Kirk, Bells Bend String band, Nate Nelson, Love Drums, Ball Hog, Human, Mudcat, and the John D. Band.
Walk around the festival during Solstice weekend, and you’ll hear shouted greetings echo around the campsites, “Happy Solstice!”
This festival started exactly one year later than the annual favorite Hillbilly Days, and always lands on the same weekend. The longest day of the year-Summer Solstice-occurs between June 20 and June 22 each year.