DARRINGTON — On Friday morning, lots of people were still sleeping off the opening night of the 10th annual Summer Meltdown.
Up early in the fog were children, their parents and other adults who look like they can’t live without their coffee.
At the espresso stand, the tip jar was replaced by a bucket accepting donations for the Darrington Food Bank.
“This is a very community-oriented event,” said John “the Freak” Dame, a Meltdown volunteer from Seattle. “It’s very relaxed.”
Maybe not for long.
The Presidents of the United States of America were scheduled to headline the show Friday night; they’re among dozens of acts set to perform over the weekend.
About 4,000 people are expected at the festival, a number more than double the population of the town of Darrington.
By noon Friday, many of the anticipated crowd had gathered, preparing for a full weekend of music, dancing, children’s events, workshops, shopping, drinking in the beer garden and eating.
And other stuff.
Sam “Samonberry” Mariposa sat in the campgrounds next to his colorful Volkswagen van called “Amethyst the Canni-bus.”
A 1993 graduate of Mountlake Terrace High School, Mariposa bought the van in the wilds of Granite Falls, fixed it up and took it on the road to follow his favorite bands around the country. Mariposa, an artist, now lives in Eugene, Ore. He rolled into the festival near Darrington on Thursday to enjoy an eclectic calendar of music and spend the weekend in the Cascade foothills of his native Snohomish County.
Many people involved with the Summer Meltdown think Darrington’s amphitheater is better than the Gorge, said festival staff member Preston Hall.
“With its view of Whitehorse Mountain and access to the river, Darrington has the nicest amphitheater in the Northwest. We are blessed and grateful that the Darrington Bluegrass folks and the people in town welcome us here,” Hall said.
This is the fifth year the Meltdown has been in town.
The Seattle-based band Flowmotion started the festival as a private party in 2000 out on San Juan Island. It continued on Camano Island and near Sedro-Woolley until the band realized the Meltdown needed a public home.
“It was a party without permits before we got here,” Hall said. “It’s a grassroots festival that has grown over the years, but it’s still all about the Flowmotion fans.”
The diverse musical program includes rock, folk, hip-hop, electronica, blues, funk, pop punk, bluegrass, jazz and soul.
“It’s also a visual show with a lot going on,” said Hall, the Meltdown’s art director. “The kids love it. We’re kid-oriented and that helps us keep the festival calm and real.”
In its 10-year history, the festival staff has never had to call an ambulance, not one fight has ever ensued and the sheriff’s deputies haven’t had much to deal with, Hall said.
“We have this reputation as this hippie jam band event, but I meet people of all ages and all walks of life,” Hall said.
This year people have come from as far away as New Zealand and Hawaii, he said.
“For $80, plus a campsite, you get dozens of performances over three days,” Hall said. “That’s a deal.”
In one corner of the campground, the Bothell-based band Panda Conspiracy runs an around-the-clock camp party for members of all the bands. Whoever wants to drum, strum or sing along is welcome.
On Friday, the Panda men — TJ Berry, Sandy Dickerson and Chris Poage — said they hoped members of the nationally known group Presidents of the United States of America might stop by. The Presidents, known for their funny lyrics and catchy tunes, were scheduled to perform that night.
“Playing with the Presidents would be very cool,” Poage said.
The 10th Annual Summer Meltdown Festival continues today and Sunday at the Whitehorse Mountain Amphitheater, Darrington Bluegrass music park, Highway 530. The nonprofit event is hosted by Terra Roots to support regional music and arts. More information is available at www.SummerMeltdown.com.