In 1969, baby boomers came together in New York to enjoy three days of peace, music and the company of fellow long-haired, establishment-scorning hippies. Now New Mexico is hosting an event that plays on the moniker of that infamous fest, and it comes with a furry little twist. Combining live music, sleeping under the stars and the howls of wolves, the first Wolfstock kicks off this weekend.
Wolfstock is hosted by the Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary, in Ramah, on June 10, 11 and 12. The festival features local bands spanning the genres of folk, klezmer, rock and beyond.
Angel Bennett is the education assistant at WSWS and an event organizer. She says she’s hoping Wolfstock will bring out people who weren’t aware of the wolf sanctuary, or hadn't had an excuse to make the two-and-a-half hour drive from Albuquerque.
The sanctuary was founded in 1991 by Jacque Evans as The Candy Kitchen Wolf and Wolf-Dog Rescue Ranch. A few years later it was transformed into a nonprofit safe haven for captive-bred wolves, wolves that people have tried to domesticate and wolves that have been bred with dogs. When domestication fails, many of the animals are abused, neglected or abandoned. Unable to survive on their own, they would die in the wild. "Wolves are not the Big Bad Wolf from Little Red Riding Hood, but they are also not pets," Bennett says. The sanctuary houses more than 50 wolves and wolf dogs, and offers educational recources about the animals and their importance.
The impetus to hold a music festival at the sanctuary did not come from any of the staff, but from a visitor. Christina Hartsock was inspired by the beautiful landscape and the sanctuary’s cause. She says she wanted to get involved and raise money to help the wolves. “They have a lot of land and I just thought, Wow, a music festival would be really cool,” Hartsock says.
The sanctuary had thought about doing a music festival before, she says, but because of its isolated location, it did not have any connections with bands. That’s where Hartsock stepped in. She started by talking to Dave Payne, bassist for The Saltine Ramblers. He agreed to play for the event and gave Hartsock names and numbers of other people he thought might be interested in playing.
Wolfstock’s lineup includes Latin quartet Candela, Balkan and Eastern European folk group Goddess of Arno, folk duo The Twilight Bungalow, solo artist Over (Robert Hoberg), klezmer band The Rebbe's Orkestra, rock and roll band The Seeing Things, and, of course, alt.country act The Saltine Ramblers. Each band is donating its time.
Although the live music is only on Saturday, everyone is encouraged to camp out Friday and Saturday nights, as well take a tour of the sanctuary on Sunday.
“We’re all excited and hoping that Wolfstock will become an annual event that people come to New Mexico for,” Bennett says.
The festival is off the beaten path, but Hartsock encourages anyone interested to experience something new and not let the distance bother them. “This is something very different, and it's a group of bands that are so diverse coming together,” she says. “Look at it like an adventure.”