Handmade Soaps, Cows, and Poems at the Helsing Junction Sleepover

“Oh, it must be that farm fundraiser.”

I only hear the second part of an exchange between two bikers as they ride by, but I can only assume they were talking about the packed parking lot in front of the Helsing Junction Farm.

In simple terms, last weekend’s Helsing Junction Sleepover is a fundraiser, with proceeds from food sales going to the Thurston County Gleaners Coalition. But the Sleepover—a three-day music festival organized by K Records that I profiled last week —is so much more than that.

It’s an event where you can go from being wiped out after a six-hour drive to completely re-energized as soon as Vancouver’s KMVP jumps into “American Dream.”

Angelo Spencer and a friend can captivate the crowd without saying a word before Olympia’s Lois humors everyone with stories from that morning’s Pet Parade before playing songs like “Motorcycle Boy,” which she dedicated to her friend Jim, who was stuck in traffic, or reading “Binsley Poplars” by Gerard Manley Hopkins in celebration of her partner Eric’s birthday.

At Helsing, you can buy snacks and complete meals (tamales, anyone?) that don’t cost an arm and a leg. It’s the perfect place to buy both a record and some handmade soap from Austin-by-way-of-Olympia’s Ruby Fray frontwoman Emily Beanblossom at the merch table.

After watching the performers from the shade of the two giant willow trees or from one of the randomly placed hay bales, you can stretch your legs with a quick walk across the road to the Chehalis River, perfect for a quick dip or an afternoon of wading down the stream.

There’s also the option of playing soccer or Frisbee behind the hay bale pyramid or just watching as children, many enjoying the festival with their parents and/or grandparents, experience the joys of jumping off said pyramid into a loose pile of hay over and over again.

The Sleepover is also where you can listen as some of the area’s most talented writers read original pieces during the event’s first NW Literary Showcase. (Saturday’s lineup: Ariel Birks, Chloe Caldwell, Michael Heald, Gaia Thomas, Casey Fuller, Kevin Sampsell, and K Record’s own Danielle Ruse, plus showcase host Joshua James Amberson.)

It’s where you can listen as Shana Cleveland and the Sandcastles, playing its first show in a year, provide the soundtrack for a group of cows as they headed back to the barn after a long day of grazing. You can listen as Portland duo Girls in Trouble usher in the setting sun over the 30-acre farm.

At Helsing, you can join the half-dozen or so children, plus most everyone else in attendance, who were shaking their groove things to Lovers Without Borders, or clap along to the Shivas, while string lights flash in time to the music and illuminate the hay bale stage.

And at the end of an exquisitely exhausting day, you can walk back to your tent in the apple orchard, with the moon lighting your path and the sound of Arrington de Dionyso’s Malaikat dan Singa growing fainter and fainter.

So yes, Inquisitive Bike Man, the Sleepover is a farm fundraiser. But that’s just the beginning. With a solid lineup, idyllic setting, and feel-good atmosphere, the Helsing Junction Sleepover is an event you can easily see yourself returning to year after year.

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