1980 marked a bit of a change in career emphasis for us. We were hired as a feature act and part-time organizers at one of the newest and biggest outdoor music festivals in Canada: The Boggy Creek Mountain Music Festival in Manitoba's Duck Mountains. Back in 1973, Lewis and Linda Kaselitz packed up their kids and left their native Tennessee to emigrate to a homestead on Crown Land near Boggy Creek in Manitoba's Duck Mountains. Upon reaching this wilderness, their first efforts centered around clearing much of the land for farmland and an airstrip and to build a large, modern log home. With this accomplished they had time to realize another long-time dream: to organize an outdoor music festival and to bring Tennessee mountain and bluegrass music to the "wilds" of Canada. The first two festivals were held on the cleared airstrip area.
Crowd scene on the original airstrip site
The temporary stage, sound and lights were set up on one end of the strip with concession and craft booths lining the side of the strip. Beyond this, pastures and clearing were used for parking and free campgrounds. Many of the entertainers and staff were fed and housed in or around the main log lodge and impromptu jam sessions popped up all over the site.
Hillmans lead an impromptu jam session at the entrance to the Kaselitz lodge
As the popularity of the event grew, big name acts were hired from all over North America and the concert site was moved away from the airstrip to a nearby natural amphitheatre. At the bottom of this hollow Lewis built a permanent two-storey stage constructed with logs. The first storey was used as a dressing room / warm-up area which also contained a rough-hewn narrow staircase leading to the upper stage area which was about 10 feet above ground level.
Hillmans in performance on the two-storey log stage complex
In front of the stage was a concrete slab for dancers while all of this was overlooked by a huge natural amphitheatre. At peak crowd times the hillside was completely covered with humanity... on the grass, blankets or lawnchairs.
As the event grew, so did the size of the sound and lighting systems, the size of the paid support and security force, the number of entertainers, and the logistics. Sue-On and I missed the first festival as we were touring England in 1979, but during the remainger of festival's run -- 1980-1985 -- we were very involved in almost every aspect of the festival: entertainers, board of directors, advertising and promotion, programme book design, emceeing, stage direction, sound and recording, meal prep, security, TV specials, PR, etc.
Sue-On, Lewis and Bill in an onsite TV interview
During this time, Lewis and I also accepted positions on the board of directors for the Manitoba Association of Country Music Artists and often flew into Winnipeg for board meetings for that organization. Eventually the Boggy Creek event got too unwieldy to sustain in so remote an area and the Kaselitz dream ended in 1985... soon after, Lewis Kaselitz died of heart failure.
Acts booked so far for the three-day event also include "Cornelia and Bill" of Cape Breton, N.S., the "Rocky Mountain Bluegrass Boys" of Abbotsford, B.C., and "The Needham Twins" from Nashville, according to Lewis Kaselitz, festival president.
The "Dixie Flyers" from London, Ont., "Canadian Plowboy" Orval Prophet of Edwards, Ont. and singer Dick Damron from Bently, Alta. are also scheduled to perform during the festival.
The first Call of the Wild Festival last year drew 8,000 to the Kaselitz homestead. The farmer and his family moved in 1973 from Signal Mountain, Tenn. to Boggy Creek, about 400 kilometres northwest of Brandon.
Bluegrass fans strike it rich in the wilds
Approximately 20,000 people turned out on the weekend to take in the sights and sounds offered at the Call of the Wild Folk Festival near Boggy Creek, Man.
One young festival goer, left, found the sights more to his liking than the sounds. But 15,000 others turned up Sunday to hear the sound of "Doc" Watson, below, and his bluegrass buddy, Merle.
Between sets -- well, there is nothing like a little fun with a moose.
click for large image
MAP OF THE WILD
Click for full-screen collages
Read more about the festival in our 50-Year Musical Odyssey book:
Gig Notes: Chapter 8 Section
WE SHARE MANY MEMORIES FROM THE BOGGY CREEK FESTIVAL YEARS
BILL AND SUE-ON HILLMAN: A 50-YEAR MUSICAL ODYSSEY
TO THE HILLMAN MUSICAL ODYSSEY CONTENTS
TO THE HILLMAN MUSICAL ODYSSEY ILLUSTRATED CONTENTS
Copyright 2001/2004/2013 Bill Hillman