ituated between the meandering Chehalis River and Highway Six, the normally quiet Willapa Hills come alive with music every second Thursday of the month. American Roots Music at Willapa Hills Farm is a series of family-friendly events featuring regional musicians in a cozy barn.
Willapa Hills Farm owners Stephen Hueffed and Amy Turnbull moved to the farmland in 2005 to make cheese and raise their family. The couple’s three children Williem, Lucas and Lilly play and help on the one-hundred and forty-six-acre farm. With cheese production and sales, lowline angus cattle and as a destination for weddings and other events, the farm is a hub of activity. The addition of live concerts came from their love of live music and a collaboration for booking performers with Oregon musician Bart Budwig.
“It’s a community builder here,” says Vicki Muething, event coordinator at Willapa Hills. “Stephen is a visionary on how to get the most use out of a building. We want to engage the community and be a center for gathering.” Viki has had many experiences during her four years at the farm. Her innate friendliness shows when discussing her favorite part of the job; “Talking to people from the local area and from all over the world,” she shares. “As remote as we are, I’m amazed at the people who visit from different places.”
The Roots Music concerts came from the family’s love of their historic barn and live music. “I love music but am not musical,” says Stephen. “I’m inspired by them all.” Committed to sharing the tradition of American music with the community, Stephen also offers a reprieve for musicians who are often playing in honkytonk bars. “Our goal is a quality experience for everyone,” he shares.
American Roots music as Stephen defines it is, “Music with any connection to American History. Americana is a nice image of it. It’s a grouping without being too restrictive.”
On this evening, singer and songwriter Kory Quinn performs. With his boisterous voice, the high cathedral loft of the almost one-hundred-year-old barn comes alive with the warm sounds of guitar and song. Kory’s song lyrics tackle current world issues with the charm of old time music, creating tracks that are relatable yet classic. Kory describes the Willapa Hills location as a “great venue …. It provides a wonderful canvas for music.”
Kory’s set was a balance of light-hearted and funny songs conjoined with dark and meaningful melodies. Interjecting his songs with stories of the road and life gave the show a quality of interaction not typical in many concert settings. During intermission the crowd sampled the farm’s award-winning handcrafted cheeses. Everyone mingled and got to know each other, with hot cups of tea and cocoa for the children. With lovely light streaming in the windows, the ambiance of the barn adds to the coziness of the concert and the personality of the building is a topic of discussion for everyone there.
The family loves sharing their bit of Earth with the community. As a farm that practices sustainability, they work in harmony with the river that bisects the land. The couple hopes to expand their offerings to the community in the future with workshops. They would also like to offer the farm as a gathering place. “We appreciate what the county has done for us,” says Stephen. “They have been very helpful and friendly.” As stewards of the land, Stephen and Amy, along with their staff, offer an enchanting balance of natural and refined mixed with warm hospitality.
Other events at Willapa Hills Farm include a snack stop for Tour de Farms during the Ride the Willapa annual bike ride. The farm will also serve as camp for the Midnight Riders Endurance Horseback Ride. In the fall, the family plans to host contra or country dances. They invite the local community to bring the family down and join them for upcoming dances and the American Roots concert series. “It’s a fun evening and a beautiful drive out here,” says Vicki. “Come on down and listen to great music with us.”
The concert series continues with Lindsay Clark on June 14. Tickets are $10 advanced sales online and $15 at the door. Visitors will find something special in the rustic barn interwoven with the tradition of American Roots Music.