WINDHAM -- What began as a weekend camping trip among friends -- though a large one -- has morphed into perhaps the premier music festival in Southern Vermont.
The fourth annual Frendly Gathering Music Festival will return to Timber Ridge from June 27 to 28 with a lineup of about 30 bands scheduled to play.
The festival began with a group of seven friends, the "Frends Crew," all professional snowboarders: Mason Aguirre, Danny Davis, Kier Dillon, Scotty Lago, Jack and Luke Mitrani and Kevin Pearce.
Around the time the 2010 Olympics were being held, Pearce and Davis both sustained injuries -- Pearce had a life-threatening crash while practicing in the halfpipe, and Davis broke his back. Lago, meanwhile, went on to win a bronze medal at the Olympic Games.
"It was just like a up and down, just crazy kind of snowboard season for us. So, at the end of the season we all wanted to have a big camping trip that just got us all back together in the same place so we could just kind of celebrate," said Davis. "So, we put on this big camping trip, and there was probably about 100 people that came, and then the idea just went from there."
The first festival was held in Mammoth Lakes, Calif. The next year, Davis said, they decided to include a lineup of 12 bands, which drew even more people.
Two years ago, they brought the festival to Vermont, where Davis said they continued to build on the idea.
One of those bands -- which has played at every festival and has become in essence the house band -- was Twiddle, whose music incorporates the genres of reggae, funk, jazz, classical and bluegrass. Twiddle became a mainstay at the festival after the first year when the "Frends" noticed the following the group had developed.
"Our fans came out and packed the place for us, for them too. They really showed us a lot of support," said guitarist and lead singer Mihali Savoulidis.
Each year the band has played an increasing number of sets. Savoulidis said that the band will be playing three to four "full blown" sets this year, not including his solo sets and the sets that he will play with Twiddle bassist Zdenek Gubb.
"I like to play. I play every night," said Savoulidis. "So I'll be playing a few times a day, every day."
About 3,000 people attended the festival last year, and while the festival may grow some, Davis said the intention is to keep it relatively small.
"We still want to keep it pretty intimate, pretty easy to find your friends and all that good stuff," he said.
The festival not only celebrates an appreciation for music but blends it with the love of snowboarding and the outdoors and includes activities like yoga. Savoulidis said he believes the blending of those elements make the festival unique.
"Frendly Gathering has a different vibe. It's really more about being friendly as a community and being kind to your fellow brother or human, whatever you want to call it. It just has a completely separate vibe," he said. "I don't know if it's the snowboard world mixing with the music world that has this different vibe, but it's really like no other festival I've been to and I have been to so many festivals."