ENGLEWOOD — The ghosts of country and western and rock music rolled into unincorporated Englewood Saturday night for the first annual Cimarron River Music Festival.
The only bar in town, Englewood Cool, played host to the event at which about 30 musicians channeled Waylon Jennings, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Bill Withers, Doobie Brothers, Merle Haggard, Stevie Ray Vaughan and more on both indoor and outdoor stages.
Songs original to the performers received as much applause from an audience of about 150 people as did the radio classics.
The event cost $25 to attend and was organized by Brandi Stevens.
A cool-off garden bordered by water misters kept people from overheating during the 100-plus degree day, and a food truck from Aunt B’s of Ashland served food into the night. Attendees were also invited to camp on site.
Englewood Cool has been a magnet for musicians since Russel "Russoe" Johnson, a retired Kansas City firefighter, opened it five years ago. The cost of the tickets went to pay the headliners.
Nary an attendee was distracted by a cellphone during the festival because reception is spotty at the rural location.
"That’s the selling point," Johnson said. "The draw is this ghost town that people come to see. It’s not just a show."
Dodge City-based bluegrass band Dave Carter and the F-Hole Ramblers played originals by Fowler resident Steve Hildebrand.
Acoustic guitarist Hank Wilhelm is a farmer in southwest Missouri who drove six hours to perform at the festival.
The easygoing atmosphere and respectful, expressive audience made it worth the trip, he said.
"Englewood is a spot in the road that bridges several communities together," Wilhelm said. "You see old people, young people and everyone in between here. Everybody just seems cool with it."
Tulsa resident Chris "X-Cal" Gazaway said he played the festival as a favor to his bandmate, Englewood native Wil Sutherland, and was pleasantly surprised by his experience.
The duo call themselves The Kayfabe.
"It had a good, hometown feel to it," the former American Idol contestant said of Englewood. "It’s good to be away from the city and be around down-home, good-hearted people."
Organizer Angie Miller said she was proud of her hometown.
"It's literally been a ghost town since I was a kid, so anything this productive is a success," Miller said.
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