Set in Tolt-MacDonald park, the fest spans across 547 acres and the Snoqualmie River. A 50-foot extension bridge originally built by the Army Reserves in 1976 connects the Main Stage to the Campfire Stage across the water, tucked into the evergreen trees. It takes place the second weekend in July each year, right when the Pacific Northwest sun decides to finally share its warmth.
The town has learned to brace itself for the onslaught of hip teenagers in overalls, crawling out of their tents to swarm the local coffee shop and beloved family Mexican restaurant. The seasoned campers slide into worn seats at the local bar and wait until the sun tips past noon to transition to Timber!’s beer garden. Equipped with aluminum Stanley cups (the only merchandise worth having) they mingle with locals who have either volunteered, waltzed through with a nod to security who is also their next-door neighbor, or snuck in through the trails they grew up exploring. While the music is what ultimately brings the crowd together – Courtney Marie Andrews: blues queen and Duvall local headlined this year – there is a distinct ethos about a festival that has been sculpted around a pre-existing community.
Timber! Music Festival began in 2013 as a partnership between Artist Home and the King Country Parks Department. Artist Home are “culture makers, community builders, and event producers who have served the Pacific Northwest for nearly 10 years.” Artist Home are known in the Pacific Northwest for Doe Bay Fest on Orcas Island, the largest of the San Juan Islands in the northwestern corner of Washington state – only accessible via ferry. King Country approached Artist Home with the idea of having an event at the Tolt-MacDonald Park in Carnation.
The founder of Artist Home, Kevin Sur, is a much-loved man. During Timber! weekend it became obvious to everyone, especially those who did not know before, that Sur is simply honored to be able to do what he loves most. Geek out over small Seattle bands in the forest. Sur’s energy is at the core of the festival, generating a space of easy amenity that sets the stage for a prodigious musical event for every demographic. During an artist’s introduction at the Campfire Stage Sur gave a brief speech about his love of the community at this particular event: “A part of Timber! Fest is celebrating the outdoors … and there’s nothing better than looking beyond our company to you [the community], who makes these things happen.”
Timber! is noteworthy not only for its small scale – only so many people can fit in the field in front of the stage – but also because of its desire to support growing artists. Sur spoke to The Stranger this past winter and said, “The more talented someone is and the more unknown they are, the more we want them to play our festival. Falling in love for the first time with a band is so rich. And giving that chance to people is so valuable for us.”
While the park is sprawling, the music and food is localized to the Tolt-MacDonald Park proper. A light jaunt from the campsites, the Main Stage is viewable from both the grass and beer garden. The grass is organically set up: small rugs and folding chairs are arranged into curved rows. In the beer garden, a tent has been erected for the audience’s pale Seattle skin. Standing and sitting room isn’t an issue, they gently rib one another as they jostle their drinks in the indispensable Timber! Stanley Vacuum Cup.
The camaraderie between artists, crew, families and assorted fest attendees was singular in its lack of eccentricity. Pacific Northwest people in their Chacos and Land’s End gear, lounged in their respective areas – demarcated with blankets and sturdy beach chairs. Adults wandered to and from the beer garden, as kids in noise-cancelling headphones ran through the crowd gathered in front of the stage. Timber! Outdoor Music Festival is a community for the community. Dedication is found on all ends; the artists, the crew, the volunteers, the festival goers. Timber! is simply about the outdoors, music, and good vibes.