By: Sam Kayuha
If the quality of a party is measured by the number of people who want to be there, then Kyle Wilson and his family throw a damn good party. It is the only family I know that has had its Memorial Day cookout grow into one of the best music festivals in the state.
Family property in Hocking Hills was the site for a Memorial Day party in 2011, where someone suggested that it would also be the perfect spot for a festival. It became the setting for the first Duck Creek Log Jam a year later and remains the site for the upcoming seventh, happening on June 15 and 16.
“We’re well-rooted,” said founder, owner and promoter Kyle Wilson. “Hocking Hills is the reason for the festival. The outdoor environment is what our festival is all about.”
The Duck Creek Camping and Outdoor Events Area is located off US-33 in the heart of Southeastern Ohio, adjacent to Lake Logan State Park and near the Cantwell Cliffs. Wilson described a bucolic scene of ponds to swim in, trails to hike on and ground aplenty on which to spread out a sleeping bag after a long day.
“It’s beautiful,” said Doug Cherryholmes, the festival’s emcee and frontman of its houseband, the Hocking River String Band. “The property perfectly exemplifies Hocking Hills.”
Duck Creek began as, and remains, a family project. Wilson and Cherryholmes are brothers-in-law. Mackenzie Shaw, Wilson’s wife, is a co-owner and marketer. Her sister and Cherryholmes’ wife, Mallory Cherryholmes, is the head of vendor coordination. Another sister, Morgan Wendling, coordinates merchandise, while cousin Hobie Shaw is the fest’s web and graphic designer.
250 people turned out for the first edition of the festival. Over 1,000, what Wilson estimates to be the biggest crowd the property can handle, are expected this year.
“It’s small by design,” he said. “We never envisioned doing a 5,000-person festival.”
The growth that has come to the event has brought more work for the half dozen family members who put it on. It takes improvisation for the group to handle the Log Jam’s rising popularity.
“We want as many people as possible but it can be like, ‘Oh my gosh, there’s a lot of people here,’” Cherryholmes said. “Efforts ramp up every year, and we’re always making tweaks based on the year before.”
The festival brings performers who put their own spin on bluegrass, folk, rock and americana music. It doesn’t host many household name bands, the effect of booking artists who play music somewhat outside of the mainstream.
But CAAMP, the Columbus-born, Athens-formed folk duo, is one name that will draw a loyal fanbase. Duck Creek was one of the first festivals the group played and has been witness to its rise. Wilson said it might not be long before the band is beyond the Log Jam’s budget abilities.
Headlining on the main stage will be the Hip Abduction. Hailing from St. Petersburg, Florida, the group plays catchy indie pop. Most of the other bands better fit the image of a log jam, incorporating banjos and having styles that sound written to be played around a campfire.
Also on the bill is Doc Robinson, the Columbus duo which has quickly become one of the biggest draws in the capital city.
Duck Creek is a festival that was made to be intimate, with nightly jams around the campfire and its performers sauntering around the grounds among attendees.
It is not just the absence of corporate sponsorship and any kind of pretension that makes Duck Creek an outlier in the mass of summer festivals. As long as it exists, it will be defined by the efforts of the small group of people who started the Log Jam, whose original vision of organic community is still alive seven years later.
“I just want everybody to feel at home, be comfortable and have fun,” said Cherryholmes. “People come up to me and talk to me like I’m their best buddy—when someone sees me from the year before it’s like they never left.”
Duck Creek Log Jam will take place June 15 and 16. Presale two-day passes are $99, while one-day presale are $50 with camping and $35 without. Tickets and the full lineup can be found at duckcreeklogjam.com.