Local farmer hosts music fest every year

BY EVAN CLARK | JULY 21, 2011 7:20 AM

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Jerry Hotz was born about four miles up the road from his current residence, a farm near Lone Tree. His passion for farming drew him back home after serving in the military, and he has worked on the land day and night for 30 years.

But once a year, he shares his farm with a very different crowd. During July, groups of local musicians and traveling bands descend on his farm for the Camp Euforia music festival, and they have been doing so for the past eight years.

Hotz compares the preparation for the festival to his time spent growing and harvesting crops on his farm.

"It kind of goes hand in hand with farming, especially because it's a lull time in the summer," he said. "We talk about it all year long, what's working, what we've screwed up on and want to change, and it when it all comes together, it just works out well."

Given the repetitive and at times tedious work of farming, he embraces the change of pace involved in making the arrangements for the layout of Camp Euforia on his farm. And after eight years under his belt, he has witnessed the music festival evolve since its début in 2003.

"When it first started, it was only a few of us, and we pulled two hayracks together, which was basically the stage for the all the bands to play on," Hotz said. "Now we got enough power to run two stages, and there's a ton of people involved in every aspect of it, from setting up all the equipment to cleaning everything up when it's all over."

Director of Camp Euforia events Eric Quiner first met Hotz while Quiner was a member of Eufórquestra in Iowa City. He recalls how Hotz volunteered his farm for the location of Camp Euforia with little hesitation.

"When the word got out that we were going to do a music festival somewhere, I remember Jerry saying to me, 'I think we can do that at my place,' and the problem was solved," Quiner said. "This place has come incredibly far, and Jerry just loves to make it better and better every year."

Along with the hard work Hotz puts into the festival every year comes the opportunity for the 61-year-old to sit back, listen to good music, and enjoy the company of the youth who flock to his farm every summer.

University of Iowa School of Music project assistant Rita Schmidt met Hotz at a concert seven years ago. After attending a number of Camp Euforia shows, she's seen firsthand the effect it has on Hotz, who lives and works on the farm by himself.

"This festival means a lot to him," Schmidt said. "Jerry loves the music, he loves meeting all the people who come to it, and it's great that he's willing to open that up for everyone."

Hotz agrees that Camp Euforia seems to bring out his youthful side and doesn't seem to think that there's anything wrong with letting loose and having a good time.

"I believe that you're only as old as you feel," he said. "Being around young people, there are some days where you can have too much of that, but I think it's good for you. If you can't listen to new ideas about anything, that's when you know you're over the hill."

As far as how long he will continue to share his home with thousands of young music listeners for one weekend in July, he doesn't see the festival moving from his home anytime soon.

"It could go on forever for all I care," he said. "I see no reason to stop it ever. If I kick the bucket someday, someone else is going to do it, plain and simple."

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