Driving from Orlando, Florida to Ozark, Arkansas is a long drive that experiences many different US cultural changes, climate and elevation changes. The four nights, camping festival, Wakarusa is one of the larger festivals that has maintained its original grassroots starting and vision of providing a musical experience to its patrons with minimal corporate involvement in the logistics of the festival. Wakarusa maintains the feeling of a local festival- many fans coming from the area and the Midwest, but really with fans from around the globe.
Wakarusa is located in a little valley on top of Mulberry Mountain, Ozark in the Ozark National Forest near Ozark, Arkansas. The festival setting is in plenty of woods, nice cool climate with rolling mist, and clouds while the sun shines through in-between. A really pretty location for a music festival and weekend of camping, the valley really lets the music reach you over the land as you enjoy nature; it feels magical. We watched Lunar Moths hide in the barns and saw baby birds learning to fly. While mostly sunny that weekend, early Sunday morning (while we were still up late listening to the music), day and the last night was rain and hail storms. Unfortunately the main stage had to be brought down for safety purposes and some acts were cancelled but the other stages still played and 2012 Wakarusa go-ers still got down!
Wakarusa this year had many great acts including Pretty Lights, Big Gigantic, Girl Talk, Balkan Beat Box, Primus, The Avett Brothers, Bob Weir, Robinson & Greene Acoustic Trio, Umphrey’s McGee, Major Lazer, G. Love & Special Sauce, Ghostland Observatory, MiMosa and many more. This year was a special show from Weir, Robinson & Greene as their ballads and jigs sung out over the hills they played their show based off of the crowds vote for which kind of song came next! The crowd definitely went wild for Pretty Lights with several gigantic beach balls and thousands of glow sticks flying through the air for the whole show. Big Gigantic received a huge turn-out, including the light up octopus in the crowd showing their new stage set-up and some new tunes that get down. Balkan Beat Box was a crowd favorite as the band really gets your feet and hips moving and put on a fascinating Eastern European influenced tunes with a great political worldview promoting education and a greater world peace in the lyrics. Their show went over time and the crowd continued to stay for more. This year’s music was a great show.
The festival grounds had plenty to look at with 5 stages, art, sculptures, Ferris wheel, plenty of food and shopping. The festival grounds had sculptures including walls that could be written or drawn on, large bamboo stars and many light up sculptures and globes. There were also several live painters and poi dancers at the shows.
We really enjoyed the Sunday morning Drum Circle led by master percussionist Brandon Draper of Quixotic, and his family. The Sunday morning Drum Circle is a Waka tradition and had all ages and musical tastes and talent there carrying the beat. People played drums, bongos, buckets, bean cans, maracas and more at the Satellite Stage in the woods. It was a well vibed and encouraging drum circle with great leading and lots of fun. At Waka this year there was also a Ferris wheel, hula hooping workshop, yoga every morning, a giant waterslide, and shopping. We also really enjoyed the 9-hole Frisbee Golf Course designed around the Spirit Lake on the upper side of the campgrounds. Some festivals don’t offer Frisbee golf courses- so when there is a festival with a course we really enjoy it. It brings you close to other people, closer to nature and allows you some time to stretch and move around freely. Another exciting attraction at this year’s Waka was The Music Bus ROCKS on Shakedown! The Music Bus ROCKS is an old school bus set up to be a jam studio- with a full digital piano and acoustic drum set. At Waka there were daily music workshops and the bus was open for jam sessions. This year Conscious Alliance was at Waka and donated all proceeds to the River Valley Regional Food Bank in Fort Smith, AR.
Wakarusa 2012 was car camping in the beautiful Ozark Mountains. Great music played out over the campground, delivering sweet tunes to the festival go-ers ears. Tickets ranged from the $100 to $200 plus range. There were also RV Packages, camping, RV camping, car camping and VIP tickets in the $500-$700 range. Children under 12 must be with adults and got in free. We really enjoyed our equally tranquil and wild adventure to Wakarusa. The forest was beautiful, the festival go-ers are high-spirited and we found many other travellers from Wakarusa were also on their way to Bonnaroo and Phish afterwards. Wakarusa is a grassroots festival becoming one of the larger festivals in the nation and sticking to its smaller organization and community based environment.