Safety First Camp’ one of many to bloom through the years

Members of Safety First Camp gather under their camp signs. Front row, from left, Ruth Raborn, Rita Winger, Jean Cullum and Brendan French; back row, Jeff Landis, Ray Schmidt, Chris Hendrix, Anna Woodworth and Caroline Eddinger.


 Safety First Camp, in the Pecan Grove at the Walnut Valley Festival, “it’s better to correct an unsafe friend than to bury one,” according to the sign that hangs on a nearby tree.

The camp, which started 13 years ago, got its name because some of its founders worked in the safety departments at various manufacturing companies, camp member Chris Hendrix said.

Rita Winger, of Wichita, said she’s been attending the festival since 1984. Jean Cullum, of Wellington, began attending around 1975.

Cullum has four generations of her family attending this year — her mother, herself, her daughter and her granddaughter. This isn’t the first time they’ve all been here together, although Cullum said it’s been 10 years since her mother was here, and her granddaughter was just a couple weeks old when she attended for the first time.

Asked what they like most about the festival, Winger said she likes reuniting with friends. Jeff Landis, another camper, echoed this, saying that when he asks off for work to go to the festival he says it’s for a family reunion.

“It’s the best kind of family reunion, because no one is mad at each other,” Cullum said.

The list of campers’ preferred musicians also varies. Landis said he likes Tommy Emmanuel, The Wilders and Split Lip Rayfield, while Cullum likes the Stage 5 bands.

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