'Hands-on free-for-all' music

Jean Lepley sings along to a traditional German folk song at Sunnycamp in Ocean Park on Saturday.

Music lovers share songs, warmth and friendship at Sunnycamp

OCEAN PARK - Mother Nature must not have known the name of the musical get-together taking place in Ocean Park last weekend, because from the time that Sunnycamp began Friday afternoon, clouds and fog made it anything but.

However, the gloominess outside did not affect the positive mood indoors as more than 20 music lovers gathered to sing and share songs.

This is the second year for the music festival, which is a "hands-on free-for-all" as one person described it. The event, which began on Friday afternoon and ended Sunday morning, took place at the Ocean Park Retreat Center.

"I just wanted something local," said creator/organizer Mary Garvey, "just to have fun. We just really enjoy the music." Garvey is also responsible for a similar music festival in the Seattle area called Rainycamp.

On Saturday morning, some of the over 20 people attending the event gathered in the Rec Hall to sing American folk songs, and of all things - fix roller skates for a ride later that day.

They sang and strummed along to John Prine's "Angel of Montgomery." They tried their hand at an old "Negro" worksong. They discussed how some classic folk songs have been changed in this age to fit in with political correctness, which one singer with an English accent called, "a bunch of bloody bollocks!" One singer introduced a post-Civil War song that told of the mindset of Southerners and their detest for the Union folks to the north and the America of that day.

"But I ain't gonna love'em ... and I do not care a damn," said the lyrics.

They sang in and out of tune, shifting off key and on, but didn't seem to care. Hippies in braids, stomping bare feet on the dirty hard wood floor with the rhythm. A man in khaki slacks and an Intel T-shirt. It didn't matter who you were or what you looked or sounded like, as long as you sang along to the music.

"It's just a lot of fun," said Garvey. "It's people who are interested in folk music and history."

Laura Martin and Nathan Tompkins met at Sunnycamp last year. Martin has attended several such camps around the great Northwest over the last 25 years or so.

"I like it a lot," she said of Sunnycamp. "It's like the other ones were in the beginning. It's more do-it-yourself, up for interpretation."

She said that many of the other festivals have moved away from such things as having the attendants do for themselves, including the cooking. Martin said she missed the time of communing and cooking together in the kitchen with the other campers - something she found here. As she was saying this, Martin passed a head of cauliflower she had grown and brought with her through the window of the kitchen as the women inside made lunch for the campers.

"It's a do-it-yourself fest," she said. "Everybody is on the same level."

Tompkins said one thing that he likes about this kind of festival is that he can meet and sing with people of whom he has been buying CD's of for years.

"Like Eric Bogel," he said.

"You've met Eric Bogel?" asked Martin.

"I've met Eric Bogel," he proudly replied.

In the Ocean View Hall, which served as home base for the festival, people gathered to try their hand at German folk music, led by locals Andrea Patten and Christl Mack.

Jean Lepley of Seattle was seated next to Patten, who she made acquaintances with at the camp last year.

"We connected through German songs," said Lepley, who studied the language in college and spent a year in the country, of her new friend.

"Some songs are much better with two voices," she said before launching into another traditional song with Patten.

"I think it's a great time to share our favorite songs," said Patten of being tabbed to lead the German portion of the weekend. "I think it's just a beautiful opportunity."

Garvey said that people came from as near as Astoria and the Peninsula and as far away as the Seattle and Portland metro areas.

"Some of them are actually very, very good musicians," she said.

The atmosphere was casual, just as Garvey had hoped. She said that one of her hopes for the festival would be that traditional songs of the Pacific Northwest would be promoted at the camp.

"There's just so much history here," she said.

In the end, the idea that the event should be "very informal and a lot of fun," was certainly the case, as many of the campers sang late into the night together.

"Because it was smaller then other camps it was easier, it was just cozy. Its a friendly group," said Garvey.

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