Cresting a hilltop in rural Overton county Tennessee, the sounds of plucking, fiddling and strumming filled the air. Pulling up, my son and I were welcomed by smiling faces who escorted us to our campsite at the furthest reaches of Scrappy Town, directly on the bank of the West Obey river. The temperature under the canopy was nearly ten degrees cooler than out in the open fields, and a breeze drifting across the 55 degree mountain stream brought further relief.
My son (Cagney, who I call my ‘man-child’) and I were arrived at our first music festival. Our mission? To show festival-goers Orion Coolers and get them out on Jackson Kayaks – and to catch a show or two at the end of the day. I pulled out my phone to Google the lineup for the day.. only to realize there was absolutely no cell phone service. Five days of complete disconnect? This was going to be a challenge indeed!
We had a strategy with our personal coolers. Precooled the night before with four frozen gallon jugs of water, a 35 quart Orion was designated as our drink cooler (holds two cases of cans and two ten pound bags of ice *perfectly*). A 55 quart held frozen burgers, hot dogs, lunch meats and cheeses, a Nalgene bottle with pre-scrambled eggs, sausage, orange juice and the like. After we’d unloaded and set everything up Thursday afternoon, folks started to come out to visit our side of town – we were set up right beside the swimming hole (also – the bathing area, ha). After getting some people out in the kayaks (I had brought a SUPerFISHal and a Coosa HD), it was time to head to the River and Sundown stages.
The event is far more than simply a music festival. Vendors wrapped around the stage with all manner of interesting baubles, artisan crafts and delicious food. The Council of Americana Roots Music (COARM) held a food drive to be delivered via “the Hippie Bus” through the surrounding hills and mountains of the Cumberland Region to those in need. In addition to the food drive, there was also a book drive so they could leave those with children 4-5 books of their choice and partnered up with Soles 4 Souls to get footwear to those in need.
No shortage of generous hearts at this event.
Cagney and I grabbed a 65q Orion Cooler and had a handy seat at the Sundown Stage to listen to Guy Marshall. This was truly a wild, wooly and eclectic bunch of Americana, bluegrass and gospel sounds! Around midnight we headed back to camp and prepare for the next morning.
Morning was silent and beautiful, with only the occasional rustling of other campers to disturb the calm. What better time to take my 5’6″ ultralight spinning rod and make a few casts? I had decided to bring one lure and one rod – my lure of choice was a tiny silver tube on a 1/8th oz lead head.
I popped onto the Coosa HD and paddled down as far as I could before it was time to abandon the yak and wade down through several riffles, catching a handful of smallmouth and rock bass on the way. Much to my surprise.. the best fishing was right there in the deep hole adjacent to our camp, where I landed five before heading to the bank to whip up some grub.
Breakfast was easy on the dual-burner Coleman stove, though I’ve come to appreciate lightweight cookware for … accelerated heating vs the heavy pots and pans we brought from home! Sausage was cooked on one side, eggs on the other (the coffee had been finished long before breakfast started, naturally) and after cleanup, folks started heading from their campsites to the water for bathing, swimming and relief from the 90 degree day.
Being a very family-friendly event, there were a lot of children down splashing around in the water. A few asked if they could get out and paddle, and I was more than happy to oblige them. Strapped into a PFD and depending on their skill level, I’d either plop them onto the SUPerFISHal in front of me while I sat on my Orion 35 or onto the Coosa HD so they could give paddling a try for themselves. The paddles I had were far too long for them, but my Werner Kalliste worked swimmingly as it weighs next to nothing with its carbon fiber shaft and blades.
Sawyer from The Outdoor Experience in Cookeville showed up at camp to help out in the booth and he and Cagney helped folks on shore. I shuffled kids from one boat to the other .. then back again and then.. it was time to do a little more than just paddle! I collected my rod from the bank and, after brief instruction… the kids were casting the spinning rig like pros! Evie and Ella had a system down – one would paddle, the other would fish (both were on the SUPerFISHal). Before long – the first fish was caught, a spirited rock bass!
Una came out with me on the paddleboard next – she couldn’t have been more than four years old. A bug landed on her arm, and she announced very matter-of-factly ‘that bug needs to quit distracting me from my fishing’. This girl was *serious*! It wasn’t long after we’d started tossing the tiny tube that a rock bass was fooled into snapping it up and we proudly paddled it back to shore to show everyone.
Ryland climbed aboard after Una sent her rocky on its way. We paddled out, cast a few times and were watching intently.. throwing out the lure, letting it swim back, being careful not to bring it back *too* fast when there was a bronze *flash* – and at the end of Ryland’s line was a nice smallmouth!
Evie came back out with her family and started catching fish from shore – including this nice little smallie (which she had no intention of touching, thank you *very* much).
Fishing ended for the day and now some of the … ‘big kids’ got into the paddling action. Cagney & I packed up after a quick dinner and headed for the music. After checking out some of the crafts we sat down again on our handy Orion 65 to check out The Flea Market Hustlers and the Hackinsaw Boys (one of my personal show faves!).
The next day was more or less a repeat, but this morning young Ella (who had been *very* helpful at the water getting other kids on and off the boats) decided she was going to come out extra early so we could maybe find the fish before anyone else got out.
I strapped her into my PFD, handed her my rig and she launched out onto the calm water. It wasn’t ten minutes later that she was holding up a rock bass all her own, and I couldn’t have been happier than if I’d have caught a five pound smallmouth myself!
Lots of folks came to visit us at the booth and on the water, and several ended up joining the Orion Coolers family. The folks from Cookeville Remodeling picked up a new 35 quart in Blaze (they were frustrated with not having enough room in their ‘other’ cooler), and an awesome couple from Outdoor Experience picked up a new 45 quart Orion in Bluefin for a river trip down the Buffalo in the coming weeks.
Probably my favorite couple was this one. She and her husband had been looking at our coolers but she’d told him no, no, not right now. Coming back to visit us by herself, she asked if we could bring it to her camp as a surprise for her husband, which Cagney and I were happy to oblige. As we crossed three fields and entered their camp carrying his cooler, he kissed her on the head and said how very grateful he was to have such an incredible woman in his life.
Kinda the overall feel of the whole event. Gratitude for those in our lives, helping out however we can.
Sunday night was filled with a bunch of ‘outlaws’ singing spirited songs .. and dedicated to the whole family of performers. With an ever-changing line up and a jam band mentality.. the result was a beautiful cross-pollination of sound and energy – which is exactly what Jammin’ at Hippie Jack’s is all about. You can check out some of the music from the most recent season here: http://www.jamminathippiejacks.com/tvseries/season9 and keep an eye out for Season Ten rolling out fall of 2016 on your local PBS station.
And for our ‘real-world’ ice test? At the end of the day Monday, six days after dumping ice and contents into the cooler, the 35s ice had melted but the contents were still cold. The 55 still had a handful of cubes hanging on. We’ll call it a success.
HUGE thank you to Hippie for having us all out, The Outdoor Experience for being great neighbors (even if they *were* on the other side of Scrappy Town) and to the great artists who put on such an incredible show!
We’ll be back next year for sure.
~ Bridgett Howard