116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Since 2004, Euforquestra has been cultivating a music festival in a farm field near Lone Tree, with bands and revelers reaping the rewards.
The time has come to pack up Camp Euforia, but not without one last blast.
The final festival was slated for 2020, but with the pandemic, camp went on hold for two years. While it might have been easier to write off 2019 as the endgame, the organizers weren’t ready to let it fade away without a proper goodbye.
They decided to come back, staging Camp Euforia from July 14 to 16 at Jerry’s Farm, 5335 Utah Ave. SE, north of Lone Tree. Gates open at 4 p.m. July 14, with music starting at 5 p.m.; at 10 a.m. July 15, with music starting at noon; and at 10 a.m. July 16, with music starting at 11 a.m. Music continues until 2 a.m. each night.
What: Camp Euforia
Where: Jerry Hotz farm, 5335 Utah Ave. SE, Lone Tree
When: July 14 to 16, 2022; gates open 4 p.m. July 14; music ends at 2 a.m. July 16
Tickets: $70 for Saturday only; $110 general admission for July 15 and 16; $130 for three-day pass; tent camping included in admission; $70 RV parking; bit.ly/33K1jyb
What triggered that comeback?
“Because of how important it is to so many people,” said Mike Tallman, 39, of Los Angeles. He’s the vocalist and guitarist for Euforquestra, a band described as blending “modern funk and roots with vintage soul.”
"I think everybody felt like it needs to happen again, it can't just fade out that way,“ he said, ”because the festival means a lot to a lot of people beyond just the band and our families and everything. It's really something that I think means a lot to a lot of people who have been attending for years and years.
“And so it just felt like we absolutely have to do it one more time to put the proper punctuation mark at the end.”
Euforquestra, with the tagline “think euphoria + orchestra,” has evolved from a group of seven high school friends in Des Moines to four who decided to attend the University of Iowa and keep the music flowing. Eventually, Euforquestra spun into a touring and recording group rooted first in Iowa City and now in Colorado. Tallman is the only original left from the high school even.
Likewise, Camp Euforia has grown from a fan appreciation party featuring four or five local bands to a two-day festival with more than 20 bands on three stages, tent and limited RV camping, and activities for all ages.
It all began when Euforquestra was kicking around the idea of thanking fans with an event. The group decided to run with it, and lined up several other bands to join in, including The Gglitch, another popular Iowa City group.
“We had everything pretty much in place, except we didn't have a place to do it,” Tallman said. “So we were scrambling to figure out where we were going to do it. We were looking at just big open fields where we would have to bring in a stage and a generator. It was pretty wild what we were trying to pull off.”
When Ty Byerly of The Gglitch learned they had everything but a venue, he called Tallman and said, “Hey, you should come meet my landlord. He's a pretty cool guy. And he's got this really beautiful farm and he might be into it.”
Byerly was renting a house from Lone Tree farmer Jerry Hotz, so Byerly and Tallman drove out to the farm and pitched the idea to Hotz. He jumped onboard “right then and there,” Tallman said, even though “he knew nothing about our music.”
“He saw us perform like two weeks later for the first time. And he was really into it,” Tallman added. “He took a big risk on his own just saying, ‘Yeah, let’s do it.’ We haven’t looked back.”
The first two years, admission was free. The musicians brought food and a grill, and stashed kegs in a barn.
“The first couple years, it was basically just a big party on a farm,” Tallman said. “We didn’t have the proper permits or anything — it was just ‘come and camp.’ It wasn’t really supposed to be a festival, it was just supposed to be a big party. …
“After having that go well for a couple of years, we decided we should probably have the permits to do this correctly, if we’re going to keep doing it,” Tallman said. “So I think it was a third year that it became a legitimate festival that had the proper permitting and all that.”
The location was ideal.
“Jerry’s farm is beautiful,” Tallman said, “and that is a big part of why it’s kept going for so long. If we hadn’t met Jerry and if he hadn’t been so generous with his property and resources, like, there’s just no way it would have gone on for so long.”
Hotz also has gone the extra mile to keep it going and evolving.
In the beginning the bands brought generators to power up the shows, but one year the generator failed on the outdoor mainstage, and Euforquestra’s headlining set had to be moved into a small barn. Luckily, Tallman’s dad is an electrician. He got the generator going again, so the band Public Property could play its set on the mainstage.
“And then the next year, Jerry had electrical put in for the outdoor stage so we would never have to rent a generator again,” Tallman said.
So now the festival has an outdoor mainstage, an indoor barn stage and Jerry’s Bar space, as well as food vendors, craft vendors that might sell clothing and photo buttons, and Saturday morning yoga on the lawn.
“It’s not a huge farm. It’s not a huge festival,” Tallman said, but the bands don’t overlap, so guests just follow the music from space to space. If they want to head back to their campsites or another spot to relax, they can still hear the music.
“It’s really something that is designed so that if you want to see every band, you absolutely can,” Tallman said.
Through all the years and all the changes, the core mission has remained constant.
“It’s a celebration of community and music,” Tallman said. “That’s been the main thing that we’ve wanted to emphasize with it. And it’s really become this big reunion party.”
The musicians’ family members come and bring friends and stay for the whole weekend, he noted, and lots of campers have been coming for a decade or more. One young girl “has been to Camp Euphoria every year of her life, and even in the womb,” he added. “It’s become very much a family affair for all of us.”
The spirit of the festival hasn’t changed, either.
“It still has the heart of kind of just the scrappy farm party,” Tallman said. “I think it’s just way better organized and put together. The overall spirit of it is still the same. And the people that come back know what they’re getting into, because of that. That’s been consistent the whole time, even though we’ve upgraded to a bigger stage over the years.
“And we’ve figured it out. We have more people involved that are professionals who helped produce events and do all that.
“But it still has the kind of scrappy heart of just a little party on a farm.”
So why bring it to an end?
“I think for everyone involved in producing the event, it’s definitely a bittersweet thing, because it is very special. And it’s kind of sacred to all of us in a lot of ways,” Tallman said. “But it also is a pretty big commitment. Even though it’s just once a year and it’s not a huge event, it takes a lot of work to put it together.”
A lot of the team members have other jobs, and dedicate their vacation days to the festival, instead of taking their families on vacations elsewhere, Tallman added.
“As much as we love it, and especially a lot of us that help organize it, have also just hit up a little bit of burnout too, because it is so much work,” he said.
“It’s still something that is very special to all of us and we hold it really near and dear, but it’s easy to get burnout on something after 17 years, as well.”
No giant finale is in the works for this final go-round.
“It’s more about just doing what we do,” Tallman said. “We have everything so dialed in that we’re just coming back to do what we do one more time. I don’t think there's anything necessarily over-the-top. It’s not like there’s gonna be a big fireworks show on Saturday night or something.
“It’s just a chance for us to all get together one more time and celebrate this thing that we’ve all built together.”
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