Crickett Lochner | Yuba, WI
I am the sixth generation to be raised on the family property formerly used as a 40-head milking dairy farm, but the government pretty much forced out family farms. It’s our goal to keep the property in the family, to keep it going even if it can’t be a dairy farm anymore. So we went from a farm that raised cattle to farming music.
My personal passion for music started back in the fourth grade. Like many rural fourth graders, my first introduction to an instrument was the recorder. In junior high, we got to choose an instrument and I wanted to play the saxophone. But everybody wanted to play the saxophone, so I ended up learning the trumpet. After a few years of renting the trumpet, my parents decided it was in our best financial interest for me to use the family clarinet. I shifted from brass instruments to woodwind, which eventually led me to play the saxophone in my high school jazz band, marching band, and pit band. But, after all that, I lost the passion to practice. What remained was an appreciation for music and the joy it brings to people.
When I was a senior in high school, in 2001, my cousin’s boyfriend was a promoter for the underground rave scene in Minneapolis. During that time, they were throwing underground parties in old warehouses in Minneapolis, Chicago, and the Milwaukee area. You had to be in the know, you had to know somebody in order to get the details for where the raves were happening. My cousin and her boyfriend came to my dad and asked, ‘What do you think about bringing 3,000 people to the farm and throwing a rave?’
At this time my dad had no clue what a rave was, nor did I. But we knew that there would be music and DJs coming from England and all across the United States to perform on our land. My parents said, ‘Oh Crickett, you can’t see this stuff.’ But curiosity got the best of me. On the day of the rave, we checked people in at the bottom of the hill and they had to walk up a quarter-mile of ridge road made of clay. A tractor pulled up a semi load of water, which then had to be unloaded from the truck onto a hay wagon in order to be taken to the top of the hill and resold to the consumers.
I snuck up there to take a peek. There were 3,000 people up on the ridge top ready for 18 hours of live music. Everything was run on generators. There were three big tents, and each tent had a different theme—light shows and acrobats in the trees performing aerial silk art. You can imagine for my first festival show ever, my mind was blown! It was everything that I could imagine or didn’t know to imagine. The event was called ‘Rejuvenation.’
One problem we encountered during Rejuvenation was that it rained cats and dogs. At four o’clock in the morning, a downpour began. From the farmhouse, we could see the DJs with their albums slipping down a clay path and it is slicker than snot. All these city kids dressed to the nines had to move through the mess in their once-white K-Swiss shoes. Their vehicles were stuck in the field. And when they all got out of the field, the road was caked with mud.
This situation ruffled the local municipalities because the fire department had to come wash off the roads. Besides that, the sound from the ridge top carries because there’s nothing blocking it. The music rumbled every window within 25 miles. So that also ruffled feathers in the community.
I was 18 years old when my cousin hosted Rejuvenation. Fifteen years later, in 2016, my husband and I, along with a close-knit team, produced our first Driftless Music Gardens event.
So, when I left Arizona, I moved to Madison and started working five different jobs. I worked two restaurant jobs, at Home Depot as a contractor, as a housekeeper at Hotel Ruby Marie, and I also worked at my uncle’s fish and bait shop in Dodgeville.
For fun, in 2003, I started hosting a little thing I called Crickett Fest. I would take my friends to the Kickapoo River in the Driftless region about 20 minutes away from the family land. We’d go canoeing and have coolers for the river, basically, it was a glorified camping trip.
I met my husband, Tim, five years later while he was hosting an open mic at the Comeback Inn in Madison. He plays guitar in a band called the People Brothers Band. While dating I started going on gig tours with him because I had a lot of flexibility and I was such a music junkie. Music was definitely my way of release, getting out there and shaking a tail feather. Together, we were very into hosting parties and loved camping, loved going to music festivals, and loved music. So, I invited Tim to Crickett Fest. He got the full experience of Crickett Fest and asked me, ‘What do you think about adding some music?’ And I said, ‘Yeah, that’d be great.’ Later that fall, we decided to stop focusing on Cricket Fest and we started hosting People Fest out in Dodgeville. And that was how it started.
We hosted People Fest in Dodgeville for two years and then in Hillsboro for five years at the Bull Pen. Then we decided we needed to find a new location because we felt that we had outgrown both venues. So I said, ‘Hey, I got my family farm.’
My dad has a smidge over 300 acres, and the 80 acres that we play on is a natural amphitheater. Back in the early 1900s, my ancestors installed a spring that still feeds the farmhouse and barn with natural flowing water. We created the Driftless Music Gardens in this spring pocket area, and it was in a raw state of beauty that first year. We cleared out a lot of brush, and also had to install a road and electricity. Now we have a near-complete bowl on a hillside that looks down into this amazing valley.
Because of the problems we had 15 years ago with Rejuvenation, we had to explain to the township why our events would be different. We learned from Rejuvenation that sound will carry up on a ridge, but our events were going to be in a valley. Also, we weren’t going to have 3,000 people out there per day.
We had to have very transparent communication for the first three years with the township, but now the county adores us. This will be our seventh season, which is really exciting. Richland Center tourism is using our images for their billboards to help pull people into the county.
This is what we want to invest in. This is what we believe in. We put in blood, sweat, and tears to get Driftless Music Gardens off the ground. It was a lot of work. We needed to organize special campground permits and insurance. We had to put in power and get a road in. During those early years, we were not able to sell alcohol because we were in a dry township. It is extremely important to me that the attendees at Driftless Music Gardens have a good experience. I want you to have a good experience from the moment you enter our grounds and are greeted by our entrance team, to finding our Port-O-Potties comfortable, all the way to the time that you’re buying your beer. We want you to have a smile on your face and enjoy what you came out to enjoy.
It’s quite the passion project that we have going on. I’m very proud that we have this land that we can share with people. Music is my personal passion and I love that it brings people together.