The Evolution of a Festival: Looking back at the history of 4 Peaks before its fourth installment | The Source Weekly - Bend, Oregon

The Evolution of a Festival: Looking back at the history of 4 Peaks before its fourth installment

The 4 Peaks Musical Festival is coming back for a fourth time so take a look at the festival's past years.

This weekend, the 4 Peaks Music Festival will take place in Tumalo for the fourth time. Since its inaugural year in 2007, 4 Peaks has gained traction in Central Oregon with its roots-oriented lineup, family-friendly attitude and intimate environment. Here's how the festival came to be - then not be - and now is beginning to regain its stature as the region's go-to music festival, according to two of its founders and Jason Beard of de facto 4 Peaks house band Poor Man's Whiskey.


The festival arrives in Central Oregon, becoming essentially the only large-scale music and camping festival in the region. The lineup includes New Monsoon, ALO, Poor Man's Whiskey, Trampled By Turtles and others. About 800 fans turn out for the two-day event.

Eric Walton, Co-founder: "I was down visiting family in Santa Rosa and Jason Beard of Poor Man's Whiskey and I were talking about having a show up here at my place in Tumalo."

Jason Beard, Poor Man's Whiskey: At first we thought of maybe 50 people in the backyard. We started talking and then realized we could do at least 200 people.

Stacy Totland, Co-founder: "Eric knew I'd worked at a bunch of festivals in Telluride and that I'd always wanted to do a festival like this in my own town. Soon, it began blossoming into a thing that would be bigger than Eric's backyard and that's when Gary and Lisa (Armstrong) said we could do it on the Rockin' A Ranch."

Eric Walton: "That first year we did around 700 or 800 people. We had a ball and it was rewarding to see it play out."

Stacy Totland: "We had a decent sized crowd and kids running around and playing Frisbee, I just had an overwhelming sense of, 'wow, we did this.'"


Returning to Tumalo's Rockin' A Ranch for a second year, the festival is met by complaints from a small group of neighbors. At a hearing before the county, the festival is granted a mass gathering permit. Attendance doubles, a second stage and expansive 40-acre campground are added. Nearly 1,800 people attend. Lineup includes Tea Leaf Green, Zilla, Everyone Orchestra and others.

Eric Walton: "We had 80 some letters written to the county in support of the festival and there were 10 or 12 people who showed up at the meeting against it. It's tough to stomach that sort of vocal oppositions when you're legitimately planning something that, in our minds, is a great family-friendly event."

Stacy Totland: "We added 40 acres. We cut a road into a hillside. It was a big jump."

Eric Walton: "We wanted to go bigger. And as far as the bands are concerned, we did go a little bit bigger."

Jason Beard: "We let it be known that we've had more of a connection with 4 Peaks than we initially let on. That was the year that sort of kick-started things for us. 4 Peaks is one of the main reasons why we do pretty well in the Northwest."

Stacy Totland: "Just to see the dueling stages Matt Butler (of Everyone Orchestra) had going from on top of Eric's truck was hands down the best moment of the weekend. He was essentially conducting a jam from on top of that truck."


Amid the recession and some of the organizers having moved out of town, 4 Peaks does not materialize for 2009.

Stacy Totland: "I was trying to put together a festival downtown at multiple venues. That didn't end up turning out."

Eric Walton: "Throughout the course of 2009 we tossed around a plethora of ideas. We were all emotionally tied to this and we wanted to do it. We wanted to keep this thing rolling."


The organizers decide to throw a small-scale, one-day event. It's called the 4 Peaks Jamboree and after several venue changes, the concert is held for about 200 people at the Rockin' A Ranch.

Stacy Totland: "I was getting a little pessimistic that (not having a festival in 2009) would kill any momentum going forward. But because we went so big the first two years, we had made a name for ourselves."

Jason Beard: "It was a really awesome festival and was my favorite of the three. It was low stress. It was a backyard concert with Poor Man's Whiskey and a few other bands like they'd originally planned this to be in the beginning."

Eric Walton: "We had a car trailer and a stage. It was cool and brought everyone in really close. We were only on 10 acres and that gave it a really tight, close-knit feel."

Stacy Totland: "It was like a house party out there."


Committed to returning 4 Peaks to a larger-scale event, the organizers are returning to the Rockin' A Ranch for 2011. They've capped attendance at 500 and will provide campgrounds on-site, shade, food and drink vendors and a lineup that for the first time has Poor Man's Whiskey as the headliner.

Eric Walton: "It took a few years to really learn how to do this and make it sustainable for everybody. I think we're there now."

Stacy Totland: "I'm getting super pumped for the buzz that's been around for it a couple months... We're also looking at sustainability this year and are encouraging people to buy Silipint glasses to use, rather than wasting plastic cups."

Eric Walton: "It will be very intimate. Especially compared to the first two years."

Jason Beard: "When Poor Man's Whiskey goes out to Wakarusa or High Sierra, it's great, but it's not always easy to bring the family. That's what makes 4 Peaks one of my favorite festivals - it has a good feeling of being a family festival.

Stacy Totland: "We want to keep this going. Really, it comes down to selling it out so we can do more next year."

Comments (0)

Add a comment

Add a Comment
View All Our Picks


Bend Ticket Giveaway

Newsletter Signup

Get Social

Want to Advertise With Us?

For info on print and digital advertising, >> Click Here