Though Ripplefest 2004 may have started with some inclement weather, the weekend certainly wrapped up beautifully. Thursday night's rain was chased away quickly by a bright beaming sun and plenty of cool breeze.

Ripplefest 2004 by Sam Hanford
Set along an exit ramp in Bluffton, Ohio, Ripplefest is close to a highway but does a great job of tuning out any signs of civilization. While the golden arches of Mickey D's may still be visible, a Big Mac seems a far stretch to anyone enjoying the vending and music at Camp Jam.

Hitting this festival less than a week after Bonnaroo, I was struck by the intimacy of it. Small and easy with about 2000 fans in attendance, this festival goes back to the roots of outdoor summer music. A large shelter houses the stage and plenty of dance space, while bales of hay are scattered outside for additional all-day seating. Camping is permitted anywhere on the grounds, either two seconds away from the stage so you can boogie in your tent, or minutes away along the perimeter of the pond behind the venue.

Ripplefest 2004 by Sam Hanford
Another nice element is the real family vibe that exists at Ripplefest. Birthplace to "Kidz Jam," a child's play area you may have seen at various Hookahvilles or even at Bonnaroo, Ripplefest strives to make outdoor festivals fun for the entire family. "Kidz Jam" provides activities and equipment for kids and parents to share a good time together, raising money to keep it going via raffle tickets and donations.

The line-up wasn't too shabby either, with Dark Star Orchestra headlining on Friday night and ekoostik hookah bringing it home very late on Saturday. Dark Star did a stellar version of the Grateful Dead's first "Terrapin" show--2/26/77 at the Swing Auditorium in San Bernardino CA. A fun "U.S. Blues" encore and a fitting "Ripple" filler closed the show and set the mood for a long and strange night of campfires and fireworks.

Ripplefest 2004 by Sam Hanford
Saturday was perfect festival weather--high, airy clouds that provided bits of shade throughout the day and just enough breeze to keep it cool in the hot, hot sun. Kites and Frisbees filled the sky as Skeleton Crew and The One-Eyed Show got the day going.

The One-Eyed Show took the stage at roughly 1:30 and played an energetic and impressive set of their own. Born in St. Mary's, Ohio, about 30 minutes from Bluffton, this band was the unexpected pleasant surprise of the weekend. Though some members were unable to make this gig due to prior engagements, the family feel of Ripplefest took over as members from other bands were happy to sit in and jam. Midwestern festivals are no stranger to this group, though, as The One-Eyed Show and fellow Ripplefest talent, Grasshopper Pie, have co-produced their own festival, Tabfest, for the past five years. Located in Mendon, Ohio, Tabfest is another Ohio gem, this year featuring Dickey Betts and Great Southern. This kickass Ohio-style festival takes place July 23-24 and will donate 100% of its profits to Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Miami Valley.

Ripplefest 2004 by Sam Hanford
ekoostik hookah brought the fest to a close with a long and killer couple of sets. Mixing hookah favorites like "dragonfly" and "Alexander II" with crowd-pleasing covers like "Rocketman" and "Spiders," the show was solid from start to finish. Underneath the clear, star-filled sky, the amazing concert visuals of Jeff Garbaz added to the music by projecting eye-catching images onto a screen in front of the stage. For hookah fans, the "Magic Carpet Ride" encore was a special never-before-played treat and the "Deep Elem Blues" featuring Joe and Julie from the Recipe was unforgettable.

Yellow Submarine played on the big screen by Disc O' Pizza and campfires raged till sun-up at this year's Ripplefest, bringing another great weekend to an end. Cheers to Carol and Bill from Bluffton, who sure know how to throw one hell of a party.

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Words and Images by: Samantha Hanford
JamBase | Ohio
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[Published on: 7/6/04]

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