Things to Do in Fort Wayne and Beyond

Camping and music together at Andy Fest

Venerable Buck Lake Ranch Stage the Locale


Steve Penhollow

Whatzup Features Writer

Published July 29, 2020

The Andy Music Fest grew out of annual camping trips that the members of the band Sum Morz used to take together.

They were musical camping trips, to be specific — probably the sort of thing that just naturally happens when musicians go camping. 

One year, hardly anyone showed up. That upset lead singer Crystal “C-Note” Clouse so much that she created a festival as a way of compelling those no-shows to attend in the future.

In Memory of Andy

She called it the Andy Music Fest. It was named for Andy Hiatt, brother of Chad Hiatt, the band’s rhythm guitarist. Andy Haitt was a huge fan of the band and of the camping trips and he was quite sick at the time. 

He subsequently passed away in 2017. 

“He got brain cancer as a young teen,” Clouse said. “He survived it and went on to spend 30 years traveling and speaking. In the end, it was throat cancer. But, man, he really lived during the time in between.”

The Andy Music Fest continues in his memory.

And not even Covid-19 can stop it this year. 

The 2020 edition of the festival will happen at Buck Lake Ranch in Angola on Aug. 8 and 9. Tickets sales will be capped at 250. 

“Ron Weimer [co-owner of Buck Lake Ranch] and I decided to move forward with it,” Clouse said. “I was like, ‘As long as we’re safe. As long as we do it safely.’ This isn’t going to be a free-for-all. We’re going to make sure everybody’s social distancing.”

Brown Family Music

Andy Music Fest was, at least in part, created in the image of the Brown Family concerts that used to happen annually at Foellinger Theatre (Clouse is a former Brown). 

Several Brown Family bands will perform at Andy Fest this year, including Pop n Fresh (fronted by Clouse’s parents, Ted and Pamela Brown), Saric the Majestic Fuzzbeast (fronted by Clouse’s sister, Sarah Brown), and Plumdingo (fronted by Clouse’s sister, Dusty Brown).

Clouse also has a musical sister-in-law, Barbie Brown, who is a popular karaoke host. Barbie will be singing backup for Pop n Fresh during the festival. 

Non-Brown acts include Adam Baker and the Heartache, Clinton Kelly, and a venerable local group with a naughty name. Let’s just call the lead singer Big Richard.

A band from Indianapolis named Ramshackle will also appear, Clouse said. 

There will be vendors selling clothing, jewelry and art, and food trucks selling…well, food.

Both tent camping and RV camping can be accommodated at Buck Lake. 

Buck Lake Ranch Glory days

Buck Lake Ranch hasn’t exactly loomed large in our collective cultural consciousness in recent years. But it was once one of Indiana’s most famous music venues. “Nashville of the North” it was called. 

Among the artists who performed on its stages: Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton, Jerry Lee Lewis, Gene Autry, Johnny Cash, Loretta Lynn, Buddy Holly, George Jones, the Everly Brothers, Tammy Wynette, Elvis Presley, and Merle Haggard.

Among the comedians who appeared there: The Three Stooges.

“I actually scouted different places,” Clouse said. “Ron met with me and I was like, ‘This is perfect. This is music history and this is what we are.’ He’s really helped me build this because I had no idea what I was doing.”

Clouse said Weimer intends to return Buck Lake Ranch to its glory days.

“He’s putting a lot of work into it,” she said. “He has a vision for the place. I get excited every time to tells me about it. He’s making a green room for the band where he is going to cook for them. He wants to make band quarters where they can shower and stay.

“He’s breathing life into it,” Clouse said. “He’s constantly working. Every time I see him, he is hard-core working on some project.”

Clouse said Chilly Addams, a local musician who died last December at the age of 49, performed at the festival last year because a Buck Lake appearance had always been on his “bucket list.”

Like Andy Hiatt, Addams lost a battle with cancer. 

The Andy Music Fest exists as a tribute to musicians and music lovers who have been taken from us, but Clouse doesn’t want it to be seen as primarily a memorial.

“It’s not about people who have passed away,” she said. “It’s about celebrating music with friends. That’s it. That’s as simple as you can put it.” 

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