Strawberry Music Fest moves to Nevada County |

Strawberry Music Fest moves to Nevada County

Brett Bentley
Staff Writer

One of the nation's most prestigious folk/Americana/bluegrass festivals will relocate to Nevada County this September.

The Strawberry Music Festival learned last week it needed to secure a new home when the San Francisco Parks and Recreation District denied its permit to host the 33rd annual festival at Camp Mather, near Yosemite National Park.

That new home will be the Nevada County Fairgrounds, according to the festival's Facebook page and the Nevada County Fair — although a contract with the Small Business Administration is still under review.

The fairgrounds is well-versed in housing large festivals. Annually it plays host to the Bluegrass Festival, the California WorldFest, KVMR's Celtic Festival and the Music in the Mountains SummerFest events, not to mention large one-time acts such as Willie Nelson and Bill Cosby in recent years.

For the past 32 years, Strawberry Music Festival maintained a lease to present the event at Camp Mather, owned by the city of San Francisco. In its previous home, the Strawberry Music Festival had a capacity of 4,050 adults camping tickets, up to 250 one-day tickets and about 900 children's tickets, according to its website.

"Dependent on the layout and the configuration of the festival, the fairgrounds is able to accommodate 3,000 to 4,000 campers," said Wendy Oaks, publicist for the Nevada County Fairgrounds.

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But unlike Camp Mather, the fairgrounds is accessible for day traffic, which will allow day travelers from our own community and surrounding communities, Oaks added.

The annual Nevada County Fair accommodates approximately 90,000 people over a five-day period and WorldFest hosts up to 15,000-16,000 during the four-day event — an average of about 6,000 people a day.

Rumors of the festival coming to Nevada County spread quickly in the community Thursday.

The festival brings with it a reputation for top musical talent, an established audience and a potential financial windfall to the area.

Dan DeWayne, who co-founded the Strawberry Music Festival and now produces WorldFest, says it will bring lots of money to the community from outside the area.

Up to 80 percent of the attendees at WorldFest hail from outside Nevada County, from as far south as Bakersfield to Ashland, Ore., in the north and east to Reno, he said.

Those visitors use the campgrounds, get hotel rooms, buy gas, food and more.

"It adds up to a pretty penny dropping into the community," DeWayne said.

DeWayne says the Strawberry Music Festival landing in Nevada County is a great complement to the existing festivals at the fairgrounds.

Strawberry Music typically hosts two festivals a year, one at Memorial Day and a fall festival on Labor Day weekend.

Last year, the fall festival was canceled due to the Rim Fire that burned around their festival home near Yosemite.

This year's line-up of festivals at the Fairgrounds includes the California Bluegrass Festival, June 12-15; Music in the Mountain's SummerFest Outdoor Series, June 26-July 3; California WorldFest, July 10-13; and the Celtic Fest, Sept. 26-28.

For more information about the Strawberry Music Festival, call 209-984-8630 or visit

Features Editor Brett Bentley can be reached at or by calling 530-477-4219.

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