Music on The Mountain

by | Jun 1, 2013 | Features

Music is the universal language of mankind. ~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow 
For the past five years, more than 100,000 music lovers from around the world have traveled up the Pig Trail Scenic Byway (Arkansas Highway 23) to Mulberry Mountain for live outdoor music festivals like Wakarusa, Yonder Mountain String Band’s Harvest Music Festival, and this year’s Thunder on the Mountain as well as smaller camp-fests at Byrd’s Adventure Center.
June is peak season for outdoor music on the Mulberry River, and Franklin County expects up to 40,000 visitors back-to back within the first two weeks. Wakarusa runs from May 30-June 2 and promoters anticipate a sold out crowd of 20,000+ music fans.
Wakarusa has been called the “new Woodstock” and appeals mainly to alternative young hipster types who camp in designated areas and party all night to the rocked out sounds of jam bands, progressive rock, reggae, electronic music, and more. If you love to camp out, wear costumes, and dance until the sun comes up, Wakarusa is the place to do it.

The next weekend brings an entirely different crowd to Mulberry Mountain for Thunder on the Mountain. The eagerly anticipated Country Music and Camping Festival offers headliners Toby Keith, Luke Bryan, Big and Rich with Cowboy Troy, Montgomery Gentry, and Thompson Square, plus almost 50 other musical acts. While this 3-day festival will be a different kind of party, this is one country music shindig that good-ole boys and girls of all ages won’t want to miss.

Yonder Mountain String Band’s Harvest Festival, held October 17-19, 2013 has a more laid-back bluegrass/ new-grass vibe and is the most family friendly of the music and camping festivals.
The 650-acre Mulberry Mountain Event Center has come a long way since it opened in 2005. An old blueberry farm turned guest ranch, today it is the largest privately owned outdoor music facility in the state of Arkansas. It features a state of the art amphitheater and smaller stages, plus everything from up-scale amenities for VIP campers, group camping, and primitive camping sites, said Dewey Patton, Event Director for Mulberry Mountain.

Festivals on Mulberry Mountain become temporary tent cities, with medical services, police, and daily trash service. Campers will find everything they need on the property, as there is a general store, plenty of shopping and eating booths, and loads of non-musical entertainment like a giant Ferris wheel, huge water slide, disc golf, and yoga. Adventurous outdoor types can hike on nearby National Forest trails to hidden waterfalls or play in the Mulberry River that runs along the perimeter of the property.
For those whose idea of camping is a nice motel room, this year both Wakarusa and Thunder on the Mountain are offering hotel packages that provide a room plus optional shuttle bus to and from the events.
While Wakarusa will probably be over by the time you read this article, Thunder on the Mountain tickets are still available for the June 6-8 event. For tickets or information on Thunder on the Mountain, contact the Ozark Area Chamber of Commerce at (479) 667-2949.‎
You can also go directly to the Thunder on the Mountain website at or the Wakarusa website at .
For information on other musical and non-music, summer events along the Mulberry River go to the Mulberry Mountain website at www.mulberrymountain. com‎ or Byrd’s Adventure Center at
A Brief History of Mulberry Mountain

Bordered by National forest and the Mulberry River, Mulberry Mountain is located in a beautiful area of the Boston Mountains range of the Ozarks.
With its ideal location, it’s no wonder a former National Park Service Ranger and degreed Agronomist would love this land and want to own it. Add to it the owner’s expertise, entrepreneurial spirit and knowledge of consumer tastes and you’ve got Vernon Patton. Vernon, along with his wife, sons and daughters-in law, own and operate Mulberry Mountain Lodging & Events on Hwy 23 (the Scenic Pig Trail Byway), 16 miles north of Ozark.
A man of action, Vernon and his family have invested millions of dollars in what was once a blueberry farm and guest ranch. The family came to Mulberry Mountain in 2005, after operating a festival and event facility in Bentonville for 20 years. “With residential development squeezing in and events drawing upwards of 100,000 people, festivals on our 60 acre site in Bentonville eventually out grew themselves and we had to start turning people away,” said Vernon.
So, with Vernon’s keen eye for good land and the support of his family, he founded Mulberry Mountain, a place of extraordinary natural beauty where subdivisions will never encroach.
This is not to say the place isn’t overrun during the major events. A festival with tens of thousands of people is a big deal no matter where it is, but the Patton family has constantly improved the venue adding water, toilet, and power services along with an acoustically advanced amphitheater and giant circus tents for performers.
To maintain order and insure the safety of everyone, Mulberry Mountain works hand in hand with county and state law enforcement and sets up a mobile commander center just outside the park’s entrance. Concern for the safety of festivalgoers is also important, and Franklin County EMS teams are at the ready and an Air-Evac helicopter helipad is located on-site.
Fortunately, most injuries in past years have been minor. The most common complaints are heat exhaustion, insect bites, cuts and bruises, with an occasional over intoxication, according to William (Dub) Tedford. William and his wife Ramona have worked on site since the first Wakarusa in 2007.
“This place sure doesn’t look like the hay-field my Dad and I used to cut here many years ago. Once there was a blueberry patch here called Parker Plantation,” Ramona observed.
The blueberry patch is long gone and some people worry about the environmental impact of tens of thousands of people camped at Mulberry Mountain and the surrounding area. But, with close supervision and cooperation between the Forest Service, the Patton family and the other committed environmentalists who run nearby campgrounds like Byrd’s Adventure Center and Turner Bend Outfitters, the area remains just as beautiful as ever.
“The environment is number one for all of us,” said Vernon.

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