Kerrville Folk Festival grounds undergo renovations as kickoff date nears

Jacob Karre Staff Writer May 9, 2018

When the Kerrville Folk Festival isn’t happening, work is constantly underway to improve the 50-acre Quiet Valley Ranch.

Right now, there are at least 14 projects in various phases as the grounds are being prepared for the 47th festival, which will kick off May 24.

“We try and spread the projects out,” said Mary Muse, executive director of the festival. “Some of (the projects) are small, like adding a new backdrop to the main stage, or bigger projects like remodeling the entire barn.”

Muse said the most important thing to keep in mind when doing improvements is balancing tradition with the new.

For many of the festival attendees, the annual event is much more than just a music festival — it’s a way of life.

“For this festival community, there is a sense of sacredness around a lot of things,” Muse said. “For some, it’s about the camp; for others, it’s about the friendships. So it’s about finding the balance between understanding what is sacred and what we must preserve and what are the ways in which we can grow and improve.”


Since the event was founded in 1972 by Rod Kennedy, it has gone from a small, one-day show to a large event with 18 full days and more than 100 artists and workshops and events for people of all ages.

Every year, the Kerrville Folk Festival brings more than 30,000 people to Kerrville from all over the world to enjoy the songwriters and cultivate a space for the musical arts, Muse said.

The gates will open for land rush a day before the festival opens. Land rush is a tradition among longtime festival attendees: Hundreds of campers arrive early to stake their claim to a camping spot.

“There won’t be a bare spot on the campground,” Muse said, recalling the memories she has of the event as an attendee.

But before the kick off and the mad dash to get the perfect camping spot — the work must be completed.

Each year, anywhere between $50,000 and $100,000 is spent on renovations. This year, those renovations included creating water drainage areas, updating the onsite storage barn and installing a permanent sound booth in front of the main stage — to name a few.

Muse said she thinks they’ve been able to maintain the balance and give the space updates that fit with the core values of the festival.

“Figuring out how to do these things in an organic way is important, because a part of this community is having a respectfulness of nature,” Muse said.

That’s seen in the natural stone drainage systems and tiered steps that will help when it inevitably rains — something show producer Dalis Allen acknowledged with a little resentment.

But the rain is a minor aside to the joy she’s experienced working to find talent to line the stages every year, she said.

“I think the gift in it is to be so close and connected to the creativity (the artists) bring,” said Allen.

She said the festival is the main reason she moved from Houston to Kerrville.

“Rod Kennedy felt like there were tons of festivals about Celtic music and other styles, but he felt that songwriters didn’t have their own festival,” Allen said. “This was his way of saying we truly believe that and they are important, too.”

Allen suggested that’s why so many people continue to come back year after year and from across the globe — to experience the festival and the way it not only connects them to music, but to other festival goers.

The renovations are there to help maintain the grounds of what is already a herald tradition for many festivalgoers — including Muse and Allen. To maintain the space is something they said they truly enjoy.

“This is the best job on Earth,” Allen said.