If you want to celebrate life as a band, why not throw a party for fans and crew and fellow musicians at a fishing and picnic hideout in the wooded hills of Oregon? For the weekend of July 16th – 19th, Yonder Mountain String Band returned to Horning’s Hideout in North Plains, Oregon to host the 14th annual Northwest String Summit, and brought along more Kinfolk than ever before.

Expanding the experience, the new Kinfolk Revival Tent provided another late night venue as well as a shady spot for some daytime workshops. This not only meant more great sets of music, it also made for some breathing room at the other late night venue. The Cascadia Stage, located down along a creek, has limited capacity, and tends to get a little claustrophobic during late night sets.

Those attending “Strummit” as it is affectionately called, can expect to see a lot of collaborations on stage. This year was no different and the cross-pollination got started right out of the gate. Anders Beck from Greensky Bluegrass came out to play dobro with Fruition during their main stage set on Thursday. Next up on the main stage was Elephant Revival, who invited members of Fruition to come out and lend them a hand. And so it goes. At String Summit, musicians take advantage of getting the opportunity to play with their friends and colleagues.

In addition to the Main Stage, The Cascadia Stage, and the Kinfolk Revival Tent, the Further Bus was parked at the top of the amphitheater. Here, bands set up for “tweener” sets during the 20 or so minutes it takes to get the main stage ready for the next artist. Up and coming bands got the chance to display their musical prowess for fans headed to the vending areas. The biggest crowd at the Further Bus turned out for Sideboob, a project Mimi Naja of Fruition put together with a cast of female musicians, including Allie Kral of Yonder and the Shook Twins.

The String Summit also played host to more plugged in and non-string band acts than it has in the past. This year, in addition to a rare Saturday late night Greyboy Allstars show, there were also some daytime offerings of more plugged-in bands, including Nahko & Medicine for the People, Nicki Bluhm and the Gramblers and the California Honeydrops.

These departures from the string band base were only temporary. Pastor Tim, the long-standing MC of the event, spoke often of bluegrass royalty over the weekend. He introduced Darol Anger and Scott Law as String Summit staples. But the highest honors were saved for Del McCoury and David Grisman. Del and Dawg awed the crowd not only with their songs and playing, but with first-hand stories of Bill Monroe and the dawn of bluegrass.

Security at String Summit proved more help than hindrance. Minimal bag searches and a general cool vibe made for an even more relaxing weekend. Of course, as far as a fanbase goes, it is mostly self-policing. Sure, there were a few less than friendly conversations about camping space when anticipation was high going in on Thursday, but overall it’s basically a big family picnic.

The one time police car lights made an appearance, people were naturally curious as to why the authorities had shown up. On closer inspection, the officers were just coming to visit, and took the time to park their car by the big NWSS letters at the entrance and pose for some photos. Later they were seen simply chatting with people along the vending avenue, seemingly enjoying themselves and taking in the scenery like everyone else.

And Yonder Mountain Sting Band. They are gracious hosts and seem to truly appreciate what they have built. Allie Kral (fiddle) and Jake Jolliff (mandolin) have melded into the Yonder core of Dave Johnston (banjo), Adam Aijala (guitar) and Ben Kaufmann (bass), forming a powerful bluegrass-based jam alloy. Kral with her signature shredding and Jolliff playing a multitude of notes with a meditative demeanor that makes it seem like no big deal. But together, it is a big deal. A super-full sounding band where any member can take the reigns and provide spirited solos over the driving structure.

They also welcomed a number of fantastic musicians during several of their performances, including Paul Hoffman, Anders Beck, Ronnie McCoury and Mike Devol together at the end of Friday night’s first set.

When you combine the appreciative bands with the jolly fans, and community support like the Lilli Trippe Memorial Head Shave to raise money for research of children’s cancer, and put it all in the magical setting of Horning’s Hideout (there are paddle boats, people!), it tends to be a weekend very well spent.

View a full gallery of photos courtesy of Greg Homolka below: