OXFORD, Maine — Midway through the Camp Creek Music Festival on Saturday, the colorful nature of the jam-band crowd was on full display, as an eclectic mix of music-lovers outdid each other in representing the culture of the circuit.
Rich Stewart, a heavily muscled Massachusetts man wearing sunglasses but no shirt, leaned out of his tent, enjoying a performance by the McLovins while rolling his own cigarettes.
“I’m here for the beautiful women, the good music and the great friends,“ he said.
Piercings, tattoos, bunny ears, bikinis, long beards, dreadlocks and costume mini-skirts were on display. Bicyclists rode at a leisurely pace, eating ice cream from one of the dozens of booths selling everything from vegetarian kabobs to quartz crystals.
People discussed their favorite performances, with the McLovins, Zack Deputy and Ryan Montbleau receiving their share of praise. Everyone said they were looking forward to headliner Max Creek, due to perform later that evening.
One woman stood on a blanket in front of her tent, giving a hula hoop a whirl every few minutes, while 100 feet away, another woman helped children create soap bubbles the size of a dachshund.
“I love bubbles,” said Amy Pfeiffer, a Bangor native who said she has been at countless festivals over the years. “I usually wind up wrangling the children because they love bubbles, too.”
The festival workers maintained the mellow mood and were more likely to call attendees “brother” than “sir.” One proudly demonstrated a plastic pickle that yodeled at the touch of a button.
Two women sat in the grass chatting idly as one decorated the bare breasts of the other with body paint.
Another man demonstrated a flying shark windsock that could be brought to life on the end of a stick.
Attendees raved not only about the jam-band lineup, but about the open arms of the Oxford Hills community and the unusually family-friendly nature of the event.
“In lots of communities, any store you go to for ice or gas or whatever, they give you a hard time,” said Pfeiffer, while waiting for headliner Max Creek to perform. “Here, the people are happy to have you.”
“The people of Oxford are so welcoming and nice,” agreed Gretchen Migliaccio, another Max Creek fan. “I think they came to expect the music festival crowd after Nateva.”
In summer of 2010, a crowd of 10,000 showed up for Nateva, a music festival that also took place at the Oxford Fairgrounds. This year, the event was canceled, but festival organizer Frank Chandler said Max Creek stayed on to headline a smaller lineup of 30 bands for an estimated 1,500 attendees.
Willie Buffington of the Paris Fire Department was working the department’s food booth, one example of the local community being integrated into the larger network of exotic offerings.
He said the good feelings were mutual.
“They’ve been excellent,” he said. “It’s a really pleasant crowd.”
Buffington added that sales had been brisk.
“I’ve never made so many breakfast sandwiches in all my life,” he said.
Chandler said he and organizer Jim Britt were grateful to the Oxford community for building a relationship with the music festival scene. He noted that on Sunday, native Oxford band Dead Season would be performing and that Maine residents would receive discounted day passes.
Migliaccio and her husband Paul also praised the family-friendly nature of the event, which featured a puppet show, among other kid-oriented programming.
“You can bring your kids here and you don’t have to worry about it,” she said. “I didn’t bring my 10-month-old daughter because I wasn’t sure how it would be, but I’m definitely bringing her next year. Even the bathrooms here are super clean.”
Brett Nobles, 17, of Norway, said that for him, attending Camp Creek was a family event. He came with his parents and two siblings to experience the scene firsthand.
“It’s interesting to see a lot of this differentness,” he said. He expressed admiration for a Zach Deputy performance in which Deputy recorded some of the live performance, and then used it as a basis to “build a whole song out of nowhere. My whole family loves music, so we really wanted to come.”
Chandler reported that the festival had seen only one arrest, involving a domestic dispute, as of Saturday afternoon.