A California-based music festival comes to the foothills of the Blue Mountains in September with 14 acts over two days.
Organizers of Huichica Music Festival officially announced this morning plans to bring a mix of indie and folk artists, including Yo La Tengo, the Allah-Las and more, to a historic homestead along the winding South Fork Coppei Creek, Sept. 13-14.
The all-ages festival brings what they describe as a “farm-to-table” approach to the American music scene: world-class wine, craft beer, locally sourced food and camping options to a homestead between Walla Walla and Waitsburg.
Huichica Walla Walla is presented in partnership between Sonoma’s Bundschu Company, California music and events curator (((folkYEAH!))), and Walla Walla’s Sleight of Hand Cellars.
About 1,000 people are expected for the event, said Trey Busch, Sleight of Hand co-owner and winemaker. The festival could grow from there, he said.
“We wanted to make sure the first one we have goes without a hitch,” Busch said.
Tickets were to go on sale this morning at $150 for a two-day general admission pass. Prices go up from there depending on camping options that that include high-end luxury tented glamping accommodations in a 200-square-foot furnished tent with bed fully dressed with a down comforter, Egyptian cotton sheets and Pendleton wool blanket. Glamping pass holders (at $550 or $675, depending on the chosen option) get access to a VIP lounge within the festival.
This is the second expansion for Huichica (pronounced wah-CHEE-ka), launched in 2010 by vintner Jeff Bundschu and musician Eric D. Johnson at Gundlach Bundschu Winery in Sonoma. It’s also in its third year in Hudson Valley, N.Y.
Walla Walla’s festival is the first to offer camping. The performances and accommodations will be at property known as “Stella’s Homestead.” Grown from the historic Hansen wheat and cattle farm established by Jim and Geraine Hansen in 1947, the property is now operated by their daughter Cheryl. The site includes pastures, gardens and park areas, as well as a 1938 barn, and outbuildings.
Busch said the idea to bring the event here was rooted during the Gentlemen of the Road Stopover in 2015. That’s when he first met Bundschu and his wife.
“They walked into my tasting room, and we hit it off immediately,” Busch said.
The Sleight of Hand tasting room is not just a spot to find renowned wines. It’s also a music-lover’s paradise. A massive collection of albums lines the walls, and spinning vinyl is part of the experience.
Thus, a friendship was born. The pair reconnected last year during Celebrate Walla Walla Valley Wine — The World of Merlot, when Bundschu came to town as one of the guest panelists for the wine event.
Busch spent a day driving him around the Walla Walla Valley and learning more about the Huichica.
But not until some time later did a potential location come up. Busch happened into Thomas Reese at the Walla Walla Roastery and shared the idea to bring the festival here. Reese knew Hansen, and the rest is history.
Sort of. Busch said much planning with Walla Walla County continues as preparations are made for the event. A lot of traffic will be coming off Lewis Peak Road. Care is being taken to make it the best possible experience, Busch said.
He’s headed to Sonoma this weekend to experience the show there.
For Bundschu, the idea of bringing the festival to Walla Walla was an easy sell.
“I knew it when I saw it,” he said in the announcement. “The inspiring natural environment of the Walla Walla Valley, the caliber of the wine and food culture, and the laid back and open attitude of the people — all were right in line with the ethos that we’ve built our Huichica festival on for the past 10 years.
“Expanding our bicoastal music festival to the region will be a natural fit, and we’re excited to bring people together around trendsetting music, food and wine in more beautiful rural settings.”
Wines from Gundlach Bundschu, Sleight of Hand, Echo Echo, Underground Wine Project, and the Walla Walla Community College program will be available for purchase, in addition to craft beers and farm-to-table fare.
Andrae’s Kitchen will be on site. Owner and chef Andrae Bopp will lead the rest of the food operations, likely bringing on board another couple of food trucks, Busch said. Other ideas include a mini-version of the farmers market and a possible partnership for a petting zoo for kids.
The timing of the festival blends with what would normally be Busch’s own Sleight of Hand Night at the winery for club members during the middle of harvest.
“Part of what I like about this whole thing is that Walla Walla has always been about the collaborative spirit of wine,” he said. “This is the same, but it’s going across state lines.”