By Rocky “Rock Khan” Nelson
A beautiful Indian Summer afternoon brought us to a shindig in the shadow of Mount Rainier this past fall. I drove to downtown Mineral Washington of ultra-rural Lewis County where time and cell phone coverage ceases to exist. Randy Oxford and Gary Johnson’s fourth annual benefit on September 25th at the Mineral Lake Event Center for the Lewis County Food Bank was in full swing when I arrived with a caravan of musicians and blues fans.
A fabulous venue within the old Mineral School grounds ensured a perfect rain or shine performance for the many campers, blues fans, musicians, and vendors.
I spoke with promoter Gary Johnson about the venue and the support he has seen over the years.
“Randy and I have done 10 concerts together,” said Gary, “[mainly] Blues and Jazz, including a couple country shows. Realizing that our facility is remote, we had to reach out with our advertising. Today the average person travels at least 50 miles; others come from various areas throughout the state, also California, Oregon, Idaho, Colorado, Montana, and Southern British Columbia, Canada.”
“We have had over 50,000 people pass through the facility in the last 5 years,” continued Gary. “We have a 25% discount for active military and invite all members of the Armed Forces to attend. Our mission is to provide a quality show with an affordable price, keeping it family oriented, kids of all ages are welcome, and in fact we encourage it. Randy also brings young acts with each show.”
Twelve year old Nolan Garrett had won a band competition back in the spring and one of the prizes was a paid performance at the Mt.Rainier Rhythm and Blues Festival.
“I have known him since he was 9 as he attended my kid’s jams that I was hosting at Jazzbones in Tacoma,” said Randy. “I have watched him grow and develop his skills over the last 3 years and it was a real pleasure to be able to hire him and let him shine on the main stage.”
Other acts from all corners of the Pacific Northwest included Big Monti featuring Peter Dammann, The Hudson Rocket Band, The Fat Tones, Al Earick, The Coyote Kings, Jeff and the Jet City Fliers, Little Bill and the Bluenotes, Midnight Cruiser, The Randy Oxford Band, and the 20 piece Groovin’ Higher Orchestra.
Support from many volunteers made this event happen. The volunteer crew, the sound crew, the vendors, the bands, the jam sessions, the food donations, the perfect weather, and the general positive vibe, all came together at once for what was “one of the all-time great festival experiences” said Oxford.
Many microbreweries and local wineries slaked the thirst of parched blues fans. Along with a cocktail bar in the main stage area, there were Elk Head, Harmon, White Horse and Deschutes breweries. Fans of adult grape juice enjoyed local area wines from Scatter Creek and Westport. Uncle Thurm’s Southern Style cranked out ribs, cat-fish and chicken. Mario's Philly Sandwiches and the Pizza-Man gave hungry patrons excellent choices.
In addition, arts and crafts booths featured jewelry, pottery, wood carving, metal sculpture, hand-made clothing, oil painting, photography and a Massage Therapist did chair massages. The Washington Blue Society also had a booth in the main- stage area to sign up new members and sell CDs.
“Over-all, I would say that this was our best turn out yet out of the 10 events that Gary and I have put on in the last 4 years,” Oxford said with a smile.
With over 2000 pounds of canned goods donated to the Lewis County Food Bank during this event, and all the other smiling faces I saw, Randy and Gary have a lot to be proud of.
Mark your calendars for May! The next joint event for Oxford and Johnson at the Mineral Lake Event Center is the 5th Annual Music on the Mountain Festival, scheduled for May 13-14 2011. Be there for some great music, great food and drinks, and a great way to support a great cause!