Rick and Kathleen Heigh of Scottsdale have a yearly camping tradition. Every April they pack up their tent, gather up some supplies and meet up with some good friends in one particular campground in Scottsdale.
The campground? The McDowell Mountain Music Festival at WestWorld.
The supplies? Some beer and suntan lotion.
The Heighs are just two of thousands who attend the yearly festival that offers an eclectic music lineup. Last year the Black Crowes headlined, while this year, Grateful Dead co-founder Bob Weir and his band RatDog top the bill, along with Texas blues rockers Los Lonely Boys.
“It’s great music, good weather and good friends,” Kathleen Heigh, 37, said. “We have like 20 more friends here.”
The Heighs also know the emcee, Matty Traynor, who has hosted each festival in its four-year history. “Every year he tells everyone to meet at the Grateful Dead flag,” she said. “It’s a tradition.”
The growing music festival expects 10,000 people throughout the two-day event, which kicked off Friday at noon and ends today at 11 p.m.
“It’s about 36 hours of great music,” said Heather Rogers, event coordinator.
It’s the wide range of music that makes Rick Heigh, 50, love the show.
“Last year they had zydeco music from New Orleans, reggae and rock ‘n’ roll. A little bit of everything,” he said.
“All walks of life are here,” Kathleen Heigh said.
Three years ago, the first year the Heighs camped out at the festival, there were only 20 tents set up. But last year the festival sold out as hundreds of tents overwhelmed the campground.
“That’s the thing, it’s a camaraderie here that grows,” Rick Heigh said, just as a stranger returned a hammer he had borrowed earlier. Britt Brown, of Prescott, was shirtless and soaking up the sun. He had his two kids in a tent across from the Heighs. Brown formally introduced himself to the group, while Rick Heigh finished his point.
“It’s a great chance to meet new people,” he said.
The Heighs’ friends, Tom Smith, 56, and Sheryl Manchester, 49, were making their second appearance at the festival, having traveled from Spokane, Wash.
“We like it because we just finished ski season, and now we’re down here in the sunshine,” Smith said.
Rogers said 100 percent of the festival’s proceeds go to two children’s charities, Boys Hope Girls Hope of Arizona and Phoenix Day Child & Family Learning Center. The goal for this year’s festival was to give each charity $100,000.
McDowell Mountain Music Festival
Where: WestWorld of Scottsdale, 16601 N. Pima Road
Information: Call (480) 784-4444 or visit www.mmmf.net
11 a.m.: Azz Izz Band
Noon: Walt Richardson & the Peaceful Warriors
1:30 p.m.: Papa Mali
3 p.m.: Jackie Greene
5 p.m.: Railroad Earth
7 p.m.: Toots & the Maytals
9 p.m.: Los Lonely Boys