In collaboration with Symphony in the Flint Hills, on Saturday, September 26th Camp Wood YMCA welcomed families and musicians to enjoy free range music and fun on Camp Wood’s 864 acres of beautiful Tallgrass Prairie.

More than 400 people attended the day-long event, which culminated with a twilight concert on Hi-Y Hill by Grammy-award winning cellist, Eugene Friesen, renowned musicians from throughout the country, and the folk trio, the Cherokee Maidens.

We think WoodFest is one of the best events for families in Kansas. Here’s why.

The top 10 reasons you should make WoodFest your family’s newest fall tradition.

10. “Camp Wood is yummy!” according to a 3 year-old WoodFest participant. How right he is. Camp Wood YMCA’s kitchen staff prepare three mouthwatering meals for WoodFest participants. A highlight for many (especially among carb-loading toddlers) are the fluffy, homemade rolls served with the pre-concert roast beef dinner. Yummy, indeed.

9. Camping under the stars: While most families choose to return home after the twilight concert, save yourself the late night drive and stay the night at Camp Wood YMCA. In our opinion, you can’t beat a tent or sleeping bag under the impossibly starry Flint Hills sky. But if camping isn’t your thing, we also offer comfortable cabins and rooms to help you and your family get a good night’s sleep after an active day outdoors. WoodFest participants who choose to stay the night also get to enjoy a mini-concert and delicious breakfast the following morning. Go ahead, make it a weekend getaway.

8. Photo opportunities: The only thing better than a Flint Hills vista is a Flint Hills vista with a cute kid in front of it. No need to pay a professional photographer for that perfect holiday shot. Snap a picture of your kid marching in the prairie drum line or shooting their first arrow or riding their first horse and BAM—instant Christmas card material. You’re welcome.

7. The views: Talk about a photo opportunity! The Flint Hills were made for panoramic pictures and are one of Kansas’ most beautiful places–if not THE most beautiful (but maybe we’re biased). Camp Wood YMCA is located in the very heart of this special place and everywhere you look is a perfect postcard view.

6. Extra tall tallgrass: This year the Big Bluestem and Indian Grass were exceptionally tall, even for the Tallgrass prairie. Their wispy seedheads and rustling stalks towered over even our tallest WoodFest participants. Walking through the Tallgrass prairie is an experience most families will never have since only 4% of this once great ecosystem remains today. At Camp Wood YMCA, you’ll get to explore 864 acres of this last stand of Tallgrass Prairie. Bring your kids and teach them to be advocates for this very rare, very special piece of earth.

5. Horses: If you’re on the prairie, you’ve got to experience it on horseback. Sit astride one of Camp Wood’s gentle trail horses looking out over the surrounding hills and, we’re not sure how it happens, but the soundtrack to Lonesome Dove automatically begins to play in your head. Or maybe that’s just us?

4. The Sunsets: Your first sunset in the Flint Hills is an event to remember. The colors in the sky, set against the rolling green hills—it’s like nothing you’ve ever seen before. At WoodFest, your family gets to enjoy that spectacular Flint Hills sunset from Camp Wood’s Hi-Y Hill. Oh, and did we mention that while the sun sets, there’s a small SYMPHONY playing! It’s the perfect soundtrack to one of nature’s most breathtaking scenes.

3. Free range music: The only thing better than music, is free range music. What is free range music? It’s a ragtag drumline of first-time percussionists—age 4-74—marching across the prairie in time to their instructor’s lead. It’s the soft, lonesome sound of a Woody Guthrie song carried on the wind to your daughter as she rides a horse for the first time. It’s the sound of kids laughing while they decorate home-made instruments at a picnic table. It’s a sunset with a classical music soundtrack. It’s a middle school band student playing side by side with a master musician. There really is something for every music lover in your family at WoodFest.

2. New Friends: After a day spent exploring the prairie and making music together—friendships happen. Friendships between young families who watched their energetic preschoolers play a drum together. Friendships between master musicians from different genres and different states. Friendships between two little girls dancing at twilight—more in tune to one another than the music or the sunsets.

1. Your family: WoodFest is an amazing event but it wouldn’t be quite so special without the many families that journey to Camp Wood each fall to play and learn together. In late September, just as school schedules are starting to pick up and parents feel like the only time they see their kids is while running them from activity to activity—WoodFest is just the thing they need. There’s no TV or videogames, no homework battles or lawns to be mowed. WoodFest is your chance to leave the busy world behind and simply enjoy time together as a family. Isn’t that the kind of fall tradition your family really needs?

WoodFest is always held the last week of September at Camp Wood YMCA. It’s the perfect fall tradition for you and your family to get out into nature, make memories and music together, and experience the beauty of the Flint Hills. Watch for more information at