Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Waka Culture: Chompdown!

A long music festival can be exhausting.  Four nights (five if you choose early arrival) in the Ozark Mountains can be beautiful, but also straining, especially for festivalgoers who either make their own food in camp or choose one of Wakarusa's many food vendors

There's nothing quite as restorative as a good meal, especially one taken in the company of friends. That's what Chompdown is all about. 

The Wakarusa Camping and Music Festival is just a few weeks away.  The annual event, which draws up to 25,000 music lovers each year, will be held June 4-7 at Mulberry Mountain on Highway 23 (The Pig Trail) in northwestern Arkansas.  More than 50 musical acts will hit the stage during the festival, which also includes art installations, group activities and the beauty of the Arkansas Ozarks in the early summer. For what to pack, click here.  For the latest road update, click here.

The very first Chompdown happened in 2007, just a group of friends gathering at Wakarusa (back when it was held in Kansas) bringing a little of this and that to create a breakfast feast.  Musical groups played, more people poured in and suddenly there were hundreds peacefully waiting, cooking and eating together.

Last year, photographer Grav Weldon and I took part in the breakfast, heading down the hill and out to RV Camping at eight in the morning with eggs, fruit, Oreos and Rice Krispy Treats.  The first early risers were awakening, and a couple of folks from another
camp were making coffee.

And there was a guy in a bacon suit.

Within minutes there was a crowd, which created the most orderly of lines. 

And that's when the magic happened.  So here's what to expect when you're attending Chompdown.

Everyone is a volunteer.  Everyone contributes.  Donated fruit is sliced for
easy consumption.

Everyone's out to have a good time and have a little fun.

For many concert-goers, this will be the one wholesome meal they'll get while
on-site. Many of the attendees are younger folk who save up for their tickets
and do the festival on the cheap.  The fruit is quite welcome.

Food is placed on tables for the line to approach.  Many dishes are gone just
as soon as they're set out -- but that's all right.

Just as the food is consumed, more is made and set out.

A veritable army gets together and fries bacon.

Other items appear on the table. Donations run the gamut from cereal
to syrup, granola bars to grapes.  People bring what they have to share.

The mood is generally cool.  Yes, for those who don't arrive early, the wait can
be long, but no one seems to be having a rough time. Not even the guy
in the bacon suit.

Or the guy photobombing the guy in the bacon suit.

The dishes at Chompdown are real dishes. Disposables damage the environment.
There's a wash station over to the side, and people are encouraged to bring their
own plates and utensils.

After you eat, you wash your dish and return it to the stack on the table for others
to use, Unless you bring your own and want to take it back, of course.
Chompdown is located on one lane in the RV section of the site. The line can
go out the gate into Main Camping.  But no worries.  There's plenty of shade and
people to talk with while waiting in line.

The operation is considerably large, with whole stations scrambling eggs.

That's a lot of eggs, but they'll go quick.

It takes another army to cook up all the bacon and sausage.
Though... you can sit down on the job if you really want to.

Pancakes are another option... they're cheap, easy to make and can feed a crowd.

While the line is processing by, and after folks are fed, the great Louisiana
group Dirtfoot jams...

and people come enjoy the bonus concert with their breakfast.

Some folks even groove a bit.

The lineup on the food keeps changing as the morning progresses, but thanks to the
nice variety of donations, there's usually something anyone can eat at the table.
But what is it really like?  Here's a walkthrough you should hear to believe.

The jam goes on for quite some time.

So now you've seen what Chompdown is all about, here's a list of things you can bring:
Pancake mix (the kind that just requires water is best)
Fresh fruit
Granola bars
Cheese (sliced or shredded is best)
Sour cream
Salsa (remember, plastic bottles only)
Cooked vegetables (peppers, onions, potatoes)
Baked goods

For more information, head over to the Chompdown Facebook page and remember -- this year's feed is Friday morning at 9 a.m.


  1. I have wanted to go to Wakarusa for years. Every year the weekend is consumed with some other obligatory event. Someday I will make it. In the meantime, your pictures and descriptions of the food are making me super jealous and super hungry. Keep them coming!


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