There are hand-painted signs outside the main gate of the ranch. “Welcome Home” one reads. “It Can Be This Way Always” states another. Those were indeed curious signs that I can’t say I really understood the first time I saw them. After 10 days on the ranch, that changed. Not only did I completely understand what they meant, I totally embraced it.
These signs are posted outside the entrance gate of “Quiet Valley Ranch” just 9 miles outside the Kerrville, Texas city limits. The ranch consists of 50 acres of rolling hills and rocky roads in the heart of the beautiful hill country of south central Texas. But this magical place is more than just beautiful scenery and breathtaking views and abundant wildlife. It is home to the Kerrville Music Festivals.
The Kerrville Folk Festival, Quiet Valley’s biggest annual event, starts the Thursday before Memorial Day weekend and runs a total of 18 days thereafter until around June 10 or so. It is jam-packed with activities from canoe trips down the nearby Guadalupe River to bike rides throughout the hill country and from afternoon dips in quaint Medina swimming holes to big camp cook-outs that feed hundreds. There are kid’s activities including their own staffed pavilion with crafts and storytimes. Interfaith Sunday morning church services are held outside on Chapel Hill. Oh yeah, and then there’s the music.
You can find just about every type of music here and in a wide variety of formats. It’s truly a musician’s mecca. There are songwriter’s circles and music classes where you hone your craft with other musicians through sharing and critique. Teachers can take a workshop for CU credit certification. Ballad Tree presents an opportunity to perform new songs before an appreciative audience in the late afternoon. Kids on the ranch enjoy children’s concerts that are fun for the grown-ups, too. In the evenings, you can catch professional stage shows at either Threadgill Theater or the Kerrville Main Stage. Acts such as the Dixie Chicks; Lyle Lovett; Peter, Paul and Mary; Trout Fishing in America; Judy Collins; Janis Ian; Steve Earle; Shawn Colvin; and Nancy Griffith have graced these stages.
Big stage nights are normally Friday through Sunday the three weekends and in addition to the awesome music, there are more than 100 merchants selling their wares from fine art to tie-dye as well as food booths, ice cream and other treats. There is a huge pavilion that sells music from thousands of artists to Kerrville Music Fest T-shirts.
Other more informal activities and events that run throughout the 18 days include a Watermelon “slaughter” event, the “Corn Dog Festival and White Trash Family Reunion”, Fajita Thursday, a “Kerr-de-Gras parade” with plenty of bead throwing, and fire dancers in the street at night. There’s no shortage of happenings on the ranch during the festival and fun abounds for all. There’s even a colloquial language to learn. On your first visit, you’re a “Kerr-Virgin.” If you come back for another year, you’re deemed a “Kerrvert.”
And then there’s the campfires. Sometimes going all night, these range from quiet, laid back singer/songwriter circles to loud and boisterous traveling street bands doing hundreds of covers. You’re sure to find whatever genre of music you like here: bluegrass, blues, rock, folk. reggae, jazz, acoustic pop, oldies, country, new alternative, etc. I personally witnessed a new genre I dubbed “folk rap” through an innovative traveling lyricist extraordinaire by the name of Chris Chandler.
Being a musician myself, I traveled around from camp to camp sharing, learning and growing; taking it all in like fresh air. I probably learned more about music in the 10 days I attended than I could have from taking years of music classes. The talent here, both on- and off-stage, is incredible.
And if that’s not enough, there’s the lifelong friendships that are formed here. It’s very much like an extended family and the festivals are like an annual family reunion. The Kerrville Festivals have celebrated more than 38 years of wonderful events since their very first in 1972. As a side note: my parents met here more than 20 years ago and so this truly has deep roots for me.
And it’s like stepping back in time. You might think you fell asleep like Rip Van Winkle and awoke in the 60s in true time travel fashion. Everything is simplier, your troubles melt away and the rush of the modern world seems so far removed. You’re on “Kerrville time” and you do what you want to when you want to without any pressure to have to be somewhere at a certain time. There’s lots to do, but you can choice to do absolutely nothing. It’s in a word, magical.
Quiet Valley Ranch is actually open year-round as it also operates as an RV Park. If music is not your thing, visit it during the quiet times where it’ll feel like you have 50 acres of natural beauty and wildlife viewing all to yourself. There’s also “little folk” which is like a mini-festival over Labor Day weekend and is a scaled-down version of the big event in May/June with the added benefit of it also being a wine-tasting event with dozens of local and regional wineries exhibiting. It’s called the “Wine and Music Festival” and is a great way to get a taste of great wine as well as what the Kerrville Music Festivals are all about without the mass of the big event.
Facilities at Quiet Valley Rance include showers, kitchen sinks and bathrooms, RV hook-ups, wi-fi, water, electrictiy, ice, street lighting, firepits, telephones, parking beside campgrounds, and 20 acres of campgrounds. Nearby abound local shopping areas, rivers, restaurants and other attractions. The ranch is near towns such as Kerrville, Fredericksburg and Bandera and only an hour from San Antonio and the famed Riverwalk.
This is a vacation spot like no other. Whether you’re a musician or a listener, the Kerrville experience is sure to be unforgettable. To get to the Quiet Valley Ranch, go 9 miles south on Hwy 16 (Medina Hwy) from the Guadalupe River As you are heading south on Hwy 16, before you get to Medina, the ranch is on the right (West) side of the street about 1.5 miles passed the Mini-Mart. You can call (830) 257-3600 or visit www.kerrville-music.com for more information.
The sign says it best. Going home is truly what’s it like for me as I make my annual pilgrimmage back each summer. I am now on the volunteer staff and tent camp for as many days as I can spare on the ranch each year. Think about joining me this year. It will truly be a travel experience you’ll never forget.
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