A Truly Family-Friendly Festival | The Source Weekly - Bend, Oregon

A Truly Family-Friendly Festival

The community-minded vibe at 4 Peaks Music Festival offers something for the whole family, from Kidlandia to national touring acts, alongside local faves

Bend is a city practically built for families. Every day, there are tons of families taking advantage of Central Oregon's parks, trails and breweries with kid-friendly outdoor spaces. It seems as though dogs may be the only family member that could possibly outnumber kids in Bend.

It only makes sense then that 4 Peaks Music Festival proudly touts itself as "Bend's only multi-day music and family camping festival." This year's summer solstice brings with it the 16th edition of the eclectic, locally grown and curated fest from Thursday, June 20 through Sunday, June 23.

"From the start, it was always family friendly — basically because we all had kids," laughs 4 Peaks' publicist Gregg Morris. "We had to have it family friendly."

"And lots of festivals claim it, but we really walk the walk with our Kidlandia," adds festival founder and booker Stacy Koff.

click to enlarge A Truly Family-Friendly Festival
Courtesy of 4 Peaks Music Festival
"Discover your new favorite band" while letting the kids run wild at the homegrown, community-focused 4 Peaks in southeast Bend on June 20-23.

Amongst all the normal festival trappings you'd expect (music, camping, silent disco, vendors, yoga, food and beer), 4 Peaks prides itself on its family-friendly ethos. Kidlandia, the fest's dedicated kid zone, is conveniently located opposite the festival's two music stages and boasts a full daily lineup of activities, from group games, fort building and storytelling, to family yoga and capoeira, to guitar and drumming workshops. Numerous craft hours allow time to accentuate your festival costumes while making your own masks, crowns, wands and streamers, plus, there's a pottery wheel for clay creations. And it all culminates in a Saturday evening parade and a Sunday morning jam session followed by an afternoon art and talent show.

This all sounds pretty great for occupying your kids' time — what'll you do with yours? Here's where the rest of those festival essentials come in handy: 4 Peaks' communal vibe pairs oh so well with great music.

"That's the main reason we're all here: our love for music," Morris says. "We use this phrase a lot: Discover your new favorite band." Morris also helps provide stage management at 4 Peaks and is a local musician who you can catch playing guitar in TEB on the fest's opening day. Yet, he says, "every year there's always a band that I was, like, 'Holy cow! These guys are great. How did I not know about them?'"

Koff prides herself on creating a family-friendly, hospitable environment, "as well as grabbing lots of national bands that are about to blow up," she says. The first fest was held in 2007, and in the years since, rising artists like Billy Strings, Sierra Hull, Greensky Bluegrass and The Brothers Comatose have graced the 4 Peaks stage—all of whom have gone onto greater success and are playing arguably larger stages (FairWell at the Deschutes County Fairgrounds, Hoodoo's Bigstock and Sisters' Big Ponderoo) in Central Oregon this summer.

If you "look at past artists [who have played 4 Peaks], people are blown away by the talent I've had on stage, and they don't necessarily know it while it's happening," Koff tells. "That's something I love to do."

This year's highlights include psychedelic R&B rocker Neal Francis, the self-explanatory Daniel Donato's Cosmic Country, country singer Miko Marks, the soul blues of Southern Avenue, jam band ALO, banjo player Tray Wellington and up-and-comers Broken Compass Bluegrass. Portland soul godfather Ural Thomas & The Pain, regional stalwarts Garcia Birthday Band and Seattle's Wolfchild will rep the PacNW, while Bendites Billy and the Box Kid, The Hasbens and Dead enthusiasts Call Down Thunder round out the local talent. In fact, the latter will play a late-night Saturday silent band set as part of the silent disco.

All of this goes down on approximately 200 acres of the Stevenson Ranch just outside of the Southeast Bend neighborhood. This is, "a festival with world-class live music in your own backyard — it's literally 10 minutes from town. Some people ride their bikes," Koff describes.

click to enlarge A Truly Family-Friendly Festival
Courtesy of 4 Peaks Music Festival

Affordability is also key, "because we understand the difference between one person buying a ticket to the festival and a family buying a ticket to a festival: It's exponentially more expensive," Morris says. "And that's a big deal." To this end, kids under 10 are free while prices for adult and teen passes remain reasonable.

Organizers look to improve the festival's experience year over year, and this includes refining sustainability efforts and encouraging no single-use plastics and offering branded, reusable stainless steel cups for beverages. The first drink is free!

The homegrown nature of 4 Peaks means most staff, vendors and volunteers come from the area, and many financial benefits of the fest stay in the county's economy, which supports the local community that organizers seek to create.

"When we say family friendly, it's the kind of thing where literally every member of the family—from a 2-year-old to an 80-year-old—has something to do at 4 Peaks," Morris says. "It's the safety and security aspect, where your kid can be running around while you're watching" incredible musicians.

"It's intimate enough," Koff adds, "so you're not worried about: "Where's my kid?"

As Koff concludes, "I hope that everybody who steps on the property gets to escape in whatever way they know how."

4 Peaks Music Festival
Thu., June 20 to Sun., June 23
21091 SE Knott Rd., Bend
Gates open June 20 at Noon
$40.99 to $322

Chris Young

A journalist, editor and champion of his local music community, Chris graduated from the University of Oregon before founding Vortex Music Magazine, a quarterly print publication that covered Portland's vibrant music scene, and MusicPortland, a nonprofit music industry advocacy group. He's since moved to Bend...
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