Annual music festival started in 1999 returns Saturday, Aug. 16, at the Goble Tavern

Photo Credit: COURTNEY VAUGHN - Phil Walker shows a sticker with Goble's signature catchphrase, 'Where the Hell is Goble, OR?' Walker manages the bar at Goble Tavern, which will host its annual Goble Warming festival August 16.Locals swear by it. Tourists return every year. Despite its remote location about 13 miles north of St. Helens, the Goble Tavern has maintained an annual music festival since 1999 and homespun hospitality its patrons have grown to love.

The tavern has helped advance the small town’s signature catchphrase, “Where the hell is Goble, OR?”

Goble Tavern is host to Goble Warming, an annual music event that showcases the tavern's food and regional musicians.

Goble Warming has carried on, even after the tavern underwent renovations and new owners, thanks to the organizing efforts of Jay Looman.

Next Saturday, Aug. 16, the half-day festival will offer barbecued eats for purchase, at least three bands and, this year, a local musician spotlight competition.

“I think it was me who wanted to keep it going after the new owners took over,” Looman says.

Attendees can enjoy live music and purchase the tavern's signature barbecue from 3 to 11 p.m. Admission is $3 per person or $5 per couple.

Inside, Goble Tavern is steeped in sports bar décor, but it retains its historical charm via the local patrons and their stories about the tavern’s past.

To the back, a well-maintained patio and garden area hosts a bar, stage and smoke pit. A man in a gray beard with a liquor glass offers up memories of Willie Nelson living in the area while working as a disc jockey in nearby Vancouver, Washington. Rumor has it his mother used to tend bar at the tavern.

“I knew him because he used to come out to my dad’s dances all the time,” Harvey “Sonny” Myers says as two men prepared a large pit for the following night’s pig roast.

The Willie Nelson claim is maintained by the tavern’s bartender, Phil, who sets a scrapbook on the counter and opens to a page where a woman wrote her accounts of working with Nelson’s mother at the bar.

Regardless of whether the country singer ever did inhabit the area, the tavern is more appreciated for its burgers, beer and well-appointed, yet low-key element. Goble Tavern boasts a full dining area with video lottery machines in the back.

The jukebox churns out the likes of Stevie Nicks, Bob Dylan and The Rolling Stones as tourists dine next to blue collar workers stopping in for a beer.

“Whenever we come by here, we always stop and have lunch,” Lyle Brown of Sequim, Washington, says as he squares up with the bartender after his meal.

Goble Warming proves to be an extension of the tavern’s allure, offering live music in an intimate, laid back setting.

“We like to specialize in local musicians,” Looman says. “This year, we’re trying out our own Legacy Search for the Stars show.” Legacy Distilleries is sponsoring the talent competition.

Looman says bands and solo musicians will play to a crowd who determines which act should win a live recording gig at the tavern.

“There will be everything from folk music, to rock ‘n’ roll to sometimes hard rock,” he says. “So far, I’ve been lucky enough not to draw any rap.”

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