OXFORD — Excitement was building early Friday morning as campers from throughout New England, New York and as far away as Missouri poured into the Oxford Fairgrounds for the start of the three-day Camp Creek music festival.
“This is going to be sweet,” said Ali Chambliss of Brattleboro, Vt., who set up an area in one of the Oxford Agricultural Society's new buildings for children and families to play games, blow bubbles and see puppets perform during the weekend.
The music and camping event, which began Friday and runs through Sunday, features jam-band all-stars Max Creek and more than 40 other bands, including local band Dead Season, as well as Rustic Overtones, Gypsy Tailwind, the McLovins and the Mallett Brothers Band.
The Connecticut-based Max Creek, which played in the inaugural Nateva Festival last year, is set to play Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon to celebrate its 40th year as a group and headlining its own festival.
Organizer Frank Chandler got Max Creek to headline the weekend event after he pulled the plug on this year's Nateva Festival because of a lack of early ticket sales and competition from other festivals.
Campers began pouring onto the fairgrounds Friday morning, setting up tents and waiting for the music to begin in the afternoon.
The largely younger crowd, wearing tie-dyed clothing and smiles, spent the morning setting up tents, visiting with friends and browsing the 15 or so vendors. The Paris and Norway fire associations set up food booths along with other food vendors who were selling everything from pizza to lobster.
"It's a nice camp set-up," said Polly Sweet of Connecticut, a Max Creek follower. “It's good."
Other campers agreed, saying they were pleased with the camping facilities. For some, it was a reunion with the Oxford Hills after many years.
Billy Bohrer of Lyons, N.Y., a construction worker who came up from New York with his buddies, said he was in Oxford in 1988 at the Grateful Dead show at Oxford Plains Speedway. It was 100 degrees during the day, but the temperature dropped to 40 degrees at night, even though it was July, he said.
“It was crazy," he said. This year he and his friends set up a large tent to keep cool from the hot sun and possible rain showers.
While more than 10,000 people showed up for last year's Nateva Festival, this year's festival is much more low-key and expected to draw only a couple of thousand people.
Neighbors in the area who last year pulled out all the stops to take advantage of the thousands of visitors in their neighborhood were quiet this year, with the exception of a neighbor who had a $15 parking sign and another announcing a yard sale and $10 for event parking.
And organizer Frank Chandler? Festival spokesman Jim Britt said Chandler and his wife and children, Nate and Eva, for whom the Nateva Festival was named, will simply sit back and enjoy the show.