Pickin’ on Picknic 2021 Review: Magic in Missouri
Pickin’ on Picknic 2021 was held over 4 days / 3 nights (July 8-11, 2021) at Lost Hill Lake in St Clair, Missouri.
Damn, it feels good to go to a music festival!
And Pickin’ on Picknic had everything I needed to revive the festival passion deep inside me. An incredible lineup of musicians, a beautiful riverside setting, and the small-festival vibe that I prefer.
This festival gets bonus points for allowing BYO food and drinks at the stages, and for being super dog-friendly and family-friendly.
Pickin’ on Picknic: Traveling to St. Clair, MO
Traveling to music festivals seemed a bit out of reach this year, even though it has been truly exciting to see festival season springing back to life. But when I found out I had to go to St Louis, MO for work the same week as Pickin’ On, it provided me the perfect opportunity to extend my trip and head down to St. Clair for the night.
For out-of-towners, getting to and from Pickin’ On festivals is easy.
Fly into St Louis Lambert International Airport, and then make the beautiful hour-long drive down I-44 towards St. Clair.
Stock up along the way, because this small town has limited options for food and drinks. Once you drive through town, it’s a short 10 minutes to Lost Hill Lake – the perfect venue for Pickin’ on Picknic.
No tent? No problem!
Since I flew into St Louis, I opted for booking a hotel room not far from Lost Hill Lake. Budget Lodging was recommended on the festival website, so I snagged a room at a reasonable rate. (There is also a Super8 in St. Clair). Don’t let the word “budget” scare you away from this hotel. The rooms are clean and spacious, the check-in was friendly, and the breakfast was – well, free.
I had a great surprise when I walked into the room to find a Bible opened up under the desk lamp, with a verse highlighted. Psalms 4:8 “In peace, I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.”
Well – praise God, let’s get to this damn music festival!!
Campers should be excited to discover that the festival grounds are spread throughout a 50-acre walnut grove, so you get a lovely spot whether you are bringing a tent, van, or an RV. There are a plethora of shaded areas along the river, and lots of upgrade options to ensure you get the best camping experience.
There were plenty of volunteers working when I arrived. I was quickly parked in the Day Parking lot, a convenient option for those who choose to not stay overnight. They also handed me a Grinner’s Guide – a convenient little booklet with all the festival info at your fingertips. Music and workshop schedules, festival maps, a vendor directory and artist bios were all compiled into a handy pocket-sized guide.
After getting situated, I grabbed a cold beverage from my cooler and headed into the festival grounds.
Pickin’ on Picknic: A Festival Site To Be Seen
Pickin’ On Picknic is one of the few festivals that allow attendees to bring their own food and beverages into the festival grounds. So, pack a cooler, and bring a blanket or chair to set up your space.
There are two stages you can set up by.
The smaller Side Stage is in front of a covered pavilion and next to the VIP lounge and bathrooms.
The Main Stage is directly on the other side of the festival grounds and surrounded by a Shady Grove. The psychedelic trees provide tons of shade throughout the day, and lots of visual play as the evening sets in.
You are welcome to throw down a blanket or set up your chairs to leave throughout the festival weekend, but know that they will be used by others if you are not around. This musical-chairs concept is seen at many music festivals and is typically a welcomed seating system for all. Just kindly get up when the owners return – and don’t set up in the main dancing areas, as that can get pretty tricky once the sun goes down.
The main festival area is lined with food and craft vendors, and local craft beers and cocktails are also available for purchase.
Be sure to bring cash (not everyone accepts credit cards, and phone/internet service is pretty terrible) and support the small business owners working hard all weekend long.
Pickin’ On Picknic: Plenty of Entertainment for the Whole Gang
This festival is family-friendly and dog-friendly, so bring the whole gang. There is plenty of space to spread out throughout the shade and plenty of options for everyone to keep entertained all day long.
Hang your hammock in the trees. Bring your hula hoop to spin in the Shady Grove. Play a game of washers or bag toss. Take the little ones to the Kid’s Zone for a full day of art and activities. Check out the amazing live artists. Join a morning yoga session. Learn blacksmithing basics. Take a dip in the river or cool off in the lake.
Still want more?
This year, the festival included a secondary mini-festival. The Show-Me Hemp Fest was under a huge tent, and featured hemp-focused vendors, workshops and speakers. On Friday and Saturday, you could also catch up-and-coming bands playing the stage between the demos and presentations.
Whatever you choose, there is something for everyone to enjoy at Pickin’ on Picknic.
Everybody Stay Cool
You should note that Missouri is HOT and HUMID in July!
But do not fret, my festival pets.
You can cool off during the day in the lake or river. Since I arrived a little late, I wanted to take full advantage of the water activities. So, I quickly changed into my bathing suit and headed towards the lake. Just a short walk down a trail, Lost Hill Lake is an unexpected oasis at this countryside property which is used throughout the rest of the year for weddings and special events. There are even several glamping spots with lake views, including vintage campers and a Volkswagen Bus.
You’ll find kayaks and canoes lining the shore and available for you to use, but it’s a short swim out to the 3-story dock with a rope swing and plenty of platforms for taking the plunge.
I rinsed off at the lake’s bathhouse – 6 shower rooms with hot water – and then chased down the ice cream truck for an after-swim treat. (The ice cream truck circled the festival grounds, so you don’t have to make a fool of yourself like I did. There are plenty of opportunities to get a refreshing ice cream treat to cool you down.)
A quick dip was the perfect way to transition into the evening. After making a quick costume change into my dry clothes, I was ready to check out the festival grounds and find some good grub to fill my belly.
It was hard to decide on dinner with so many amazing food options, but the General Tso’s Cauliflower hit the spot. From heady grilled cheese to chicken tacos to fried chicken dinners, there were lots of options for attendees of any age. I was even able to grab a french bread veggie pizza after midnight, because one of the vendors is open 24 hours for all the hungry hippies.
Pickin’ on Picknic: It’s Time to Boogie
With all of the extracurricular activities at this festival, I almost forgot the best part – the music!
The 2021 Pickin’ on Picknic festival brought in an incredible lineup of musicians and bands.
Thursday showcased several bands on the Side Stage, including Yard Eagle, Jimbo Darville & The Truckadours, Dale Watson, Magnificent Mullets of Lonedell and MK Ultra.
Friday afternoon kicked off with Willi Carlisle, Chain Station, and Feed the Dog before I even got to the show. However, getting to see MarleyGrass, The Dillards, The Hillbenders and Leftover Salmon in the evening just proves how good the lineup was this year.
It didn’t slow down on Saturday, as the day started off with a Mullet Competition followed by a Band Competition. Then more amazing musical acts rocked the stages, including Stringus Khan, Amarugia Ridge Runners, and Barbaro in the afternoon. Once the day started to cool, the stages started to heat up with Julian Davis & The Situation, followed by One Way Traffic, Jerry Douglas Band, Leftover Salmon, and Armchair Boogie.
Something that makes any festival stand out is just how late the music continues on, and Pickin’ on Picknic did not disappoint.
Leftover Salmon headlined the Main Stage on both Friday and Saturday night, but once they wrapped up their set, the music could be heard late into the night. Chicken Wire Empire and Armchair Boogie provided tunes on the Side Stage until 2 AM.
Once the stages close down, everyone is invited to the festival’s huge campfire for even more late-night jams. It seems like the music just doesn’t stop with this festival’s multiple stages and spontaneous late-night picks.
Even as the festival came to a close on Sunday, Xaris Waltman provided some easy folk music during the day on the Side Stage. It seemed like a perfect way to wrap up the weekend.
Pickin’ on Picknic: A Full Festival Experience
With 7 years of festivals under their belts, the good folks at Pickin’ On have certainly put a lot of consideration into creating a festival experience that will make an impression.
You can sense that they take great pride in their attention to the smallest details, and their hard work has certainly paid off over the years.
I know that I will be keeping their festivals on my radar for next year, and I’ll be looking forward to an easy trip from Colorado to the beautiful banks of Missouri’s Meramec River.
We’re getting ready for Strings and Sol 2021, December 9-13th in Puerto Morelos, Mexico. There’s something special about this festival.
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