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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Departure Music Festival offering good vibes, camping and music in Ford

One of the silver linings of the pandemic is the Departure Festival, which is slated for Happy Meadows in Ford from Friday through Monday.

Keely Crow-Ka and Kalan Wolfe of the Shift took their band name to heart and made a shift out of perceived necessity. While persevering during the COVID-19 lockdown, the couple made a life-altering change selling their home to fund the Departure Festival. The wheels were set in motion when touring was not an option. They wrote and recorded an albums worth of material titled “Departure.”

The concept of a festival with the same name was born. The married couple’s idea is to support other recording artists they admire in a communal environment where folks can gather as restrictions ease. Crow-Ka and Wolfe went to great lengths to realize their dream of hosting a unifying music festival.

Thanks to their vision, an array of recording artists, such as Australian-born, Jamaica-based singer-songwriter Nattali Rize, San Francisco singer-songwriter Amber Lily, Spokane reggae artists River City Roots and Jus Wright, world-folk artists Tim Snider and Wolfgang Timber and Spokane’s alt-Americana artists Sweet Rebel D, among other acts, will perform in Ford.

“They did something most other people wouldn’t think of doing,” Sweet Rebel D’s Darren Eldridge said from his Indian Trails home. “They stuck their necks way out for this by departing from normal societal norms. They sold their home to build this festival. They bought an RV and are traveling with their six kids. They’re going to be pulling up to my driveway anytime now to camp out here.”

That’s appropriate since the Departure Festival, which is on 22 acres, is designed for on-site camping. Eldridge, who put together the Socially Responsible Distancing Music Festival in May on the 700-acre property in which he is the caretaker, is ecstatic.

“This inaugural festival is going to be so much fun,” Eldridge said. “The owners of Happy Meadows are some very kind people who have some lovely campsites. It’s not far from Spokane. It’s just a 40-minute drive from my house. It’s a lovely, scenic drive to wide open spaces. There is enough space for people to have their 6 feet of distance and a good view and a nice camping spot. Acts from all around the state will be in Ford. It’s going to be a blast right from the start.”

Sweet Rebel D will kick off the event at 4 p.m. Friday. “They say they wanted to start with a bang,” Eldridge said. “So they decided to have Sweet Rebel D start things up, which is cool with us. There will be music and more.”

Local vendors will provide food from Hillside Catering, jewelry, pottery and art. “All of these vendors took a hit during the pandemic,” Eldridge said. “They need the support, and that’s what they’ll get this weekend.” The organizers will minimize single-use plastics at the event, and proceeds will benefit the Skalitude Honeybee Sanctuary.

The Departure Festival is designed to be a feel-good event. “Positivity is all over this event, and it’s something we need now,” Eldridge said. “The vibe will be amazing. If anything we learned from last year is that people are precious, and we need a musical hug more than ever. That’s what you’ll get at the Departure Festival. We all need to be around other people right now and experience live music again.”

The Departure Festival is slated for Friday through Sunday at Happy Meadows, 5470 Highway 231, Ford. Sweet Rebel D, Amber Lily, Jus Wright, the Shift, River City Roots, Chester Lovelace, Dead Man’s Gold, Nattali Rize, Tim Snider and Wolfgang Timber, Whensday, Jacob Lange and Anthony Ray will perform.

A weekend pass is $65. Showtimes are 4 p.m. Friday, 12:15 p.m. Saturday and 11:15 Sunday. For more information: