By Ray Lee
Country music and wild-western family fun make a comeback in this year’s 13th annual Diamond M Solstice Festival.
Wylie Gustafson and the Wild West band, hailing from Montana, will headline a full schedule of live music at the event, to be held from 4 p.m. to midnight Friday at Diamond M Ranch on Kalifornsky Beach Road. Gustafson’s talents in authentic country singing and songwriting are amplified through his experience as a ranch owner. His Montana quarter horse ranch is prided to be his primary inspiration for the works in his musical performances.
Though cowboy music is occasionally dismissed or disregarded by the Top-40 popular music crowd, its supporters highly respect any who present it with the complexity, emotion and depth the style deserves. Gustafson brings decades of devotion to his music career (25 years with his band), combining cowboy, rockabilly, folk, swing and yodeling in his lineup. Wylie and the Wild West has performed throughout the Americas, Europe, Australia and Asia, at the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, the National Folk Festival, the Kennedy Center, Lincoln Center, on “A Prairie Home Companion,” more than 50 times on the Grand Ole Opry stage and on the “Late Night with Conan O’Brien” TV show, with Gustafson teaching O’Brien to yodel.
“I believe in creating a song that inspires the listener, either lyrically, melodically or emotionally,” Gustafson states in a band biography. “It is also important that every so often, I offer something to the genre that helps it gracefully evolve into something new and interesting to the younger fans.”
Band members include drummer and backup vocalist Rick Bryceson, bassist Shane Queener, guitarist Sam Platts and guitarist Erik Ray.
“We are a good-time cowboy band that hates to be boring,” Gustafson states. “… Rick, Sam and Shane are among the best players in their field. The fans appreciate their approachability and loyalty to the genre.”
The solstice festival is sponsored by the Kenai Peninsula 4-H Council and will include more than 40 vendor booths, horse rides and other activities, a petting zoo and live music from 4 p.m. to midnight, with the Baked Alaskans at 4 p.m., Joe Ray Skrha at 4:55 p.m., the Meteors at 5:25 p.m., Wylie and the Wild West at 6:25 p.m., the North Road Rizzos at 7:20 p.m., Say Surrender at 8:10 p.m., Wylie and the Wild West at 9:25 p.m. and Off the Cuff at 11:05 p.m.
The petting zoo includes a llama, two foals, a calf, goslings and possibly a litter of Shih Tzu puppies. No outside pets are allowed at the festival.
“No dogs, no cats, no rats, no bats, no parrots no ferrets, no anything other than the petting zoo farm animals and service animals that are clearly identified,” said JoAnne Martin, of Diamond M Ranch.
Admission is free, though donations will be accepted and raffle tickets will be sold by youth organizations 4-H and ROC the Kenai. This is a drug- and alcohol-free, family-friendly event. A tent will be available in case of weather — rainy or a continuation of sun.
“We’ll have the Baptist revival tent again this year. Last year it was so hot we used it so people would sit underneath it and cool off. Hopefully that’s going to be the case again this year,” Martin said.
For more information, visit www.alaska4h.org/kenai-peninsula-4-h-summer-solstice-music-festival.html.