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News arrow Opinion arrow Columns arrow Charting the Coast: A sheep shearer connection

Charting the Coast: A sheep shearer connection Print E-mail
Written by Charles Kocher, Pilot staff writer   
August 02, 2014 10:16 pm

When the music finally started floating out over the winds Thursday evening, I was lucky enough to run across both the Sixes property owners hosting Bi-Mart’s first Cape Blanco Country Music Festival.

Scott McKenzie was sitting by himself in a lawn chair amid the jumble behind the food booths, watching his daughter-in-law hustle up deep-fry orders of fish and chips.

A few minutes later, someone pointed out Ron Puhl as he was drawn toward the presence of Pam Tillis on the massive stage in the middle of his pasture.

Somehow, her enchanting voice was the sound that finally made the whole event become real. 

Thousands of people — ticket sales are near 13,000 — will see world-class entertainment on the windy fields of Cape Blanco this weekend. They are parking and camping on McKenzie’s property south of Cape Blanco Road; the stage is on Puhl’s property north of the road.

It feels a bit like an invasion on this very quiet part of the world.

Why there? A sheep shearer who used to work for McKenzie is the connection. He bought property in Brownsville that has hosted Bi-Mart’s original festival for more than a decade. When organizers wondered about the coast — out of the heat — for a second event, the former sheep shearer sent them to the McKenzie family. 

McKenzie and Puhl say concert officials first toured the site on a pleasant fall afternoon. Did anyone tell them about the wind? “The very first thing,” says McKenzie. Puhl assures me it was the same. “I told them it’s not like this in August.”

It’s worth noting that Puhl’s new Cape Blanco Cranberries sweatshirt is a hoody, in contrast to the thin festival T-shirts on sale nearby.

Learning to deal with the wind, I suspect, will become a hallmark of the Cape Blanco festival, even a badge of honor for campers, for sound technicians, for vendors, for promoters and for the patrons. They were all getting lessons Thursday night. The stories were “wow” not complaints.

As is clear in today’s news and advertising, Bi-Mart is committed to come back to Sixes next August; acts have been booked and tickets are on sale at Cape Blanco today.

The McKenzies and the Puhls have agreed that bringing all this spending into Curry County — hiring temporary labor, giving community groups a chance to do fundraising, adding to sales at stores and restaurants — is a sound decision on their part to boost the community.

Both are part of long-time area families. McKenzie was born along Elk River, between the concert site and Port Orford, and his wife in tiny Denmark. Puhl is married into the Sweet family, too legendary over four generations to describe.

Next Saturday, I remind McKenzie, he can sit in the same spot and see no one, no one at all.  His reply is quick: “I’m looking forward to it.”

“People are a crop too,” said Puhl, who usually runs cattle and sheep on the spot, but by this time of year fields are too dry for grazing. “We want them to come spend their money here until it’s all gone.

They are also complimentary of the promoters in the way they have handled all the planning and arrangements for more than a year — from lids fastened to trash cans to temporary housing for neighbors who were worried about the impact on their quiet corner of the world.

 

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