For 18 years, the California WorldFest, which begins today at the Nevada County Fairgrounds in Grass Valley, has been arguably the highlight of the summer music festival season in the Sierra Foothills. The four-day event is expected to draw 6,000 concert goers each day and features world-class performers on eight stages. The event also includes dancing, workshops, crafts and games for all ages. Festival master-mind Dan Dewayne is extremely excited about the returning acts from years past, as well as the great list of performers making a first-time appearance at this year’s WorldFest. The list of diverse artists includes Los Lonely Boys, Mamajowali, Matt Anderson, Ozomatli, Antsy McLain, Delhi 2 Dublin and local favorites Achilles Wheel. Dan spoke with me earlier in the week as stages were being constructed and final preparations completed for WordFest.
TK: Please tell me about the genesis of California WorldFest and your efforts to make it a reality here in Grass Valley.
DD: My wife (Christine Myers) and I were the co-founders of WorldFest and owners of the festival from the beginning. What we both love is bringing folks together from all over the world to perform for us here. In a way, it’s like taking a vacation without leaving the Sierra Foothills. It’s great because we’re being exposed to great artists from areas as diverse as Mali, China, Brazil and all points in between. It gives us exposure to the many cultures in the world. Our hope and belief is that the more we understand each other’s cultures, languages and music, the greater the opportunity for us to support each other and make the world a slight bit better. That’s our ultimate goal.
TK: Dan, when did the festival begin?
DD: It began in 1997, starting with three stages and now we have eight stages. The Festival runs four days, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. It’s fantastic and the opportunity to see the artists more than once is one of the unique features of WorldFest. You get to see them on one stage, hopefully fall in love with them and then follow them when they play the next day, or later the same day. It’s a chance to get to know the artists a little bit more intimately than you would in a normal concert setting.
TK: Thinking back on the years that you’ve been heading California WorldFest, what have been some of the highlights for you?
DD: Well it’s easy to point to the artists who have been at the festival who are really phenomenal. Youssou N’Dour, Ziggy Marley, Pink Martini last year. That’s the easy thing to do because we’re always guaranteed to have wonderful artists from all over the world. But for me the real highlight of it is watching the audience grow. You have grandchildren, children, the parents of the children, the grandparents of the children all at the event at the same time. I think that’s an atypical kind of environment. Most festivals are genre specific, a reggae festival, a blues festival, that kind of thing, or age specific meant to draw an audience of 20 year olds or 30 year olds…For us, the young at heart and the young all come to this. Watching grandma dancing with grandchild is pretty fantastic.
TK: You have a long history in festival promotion, don’t you?
DD: I got started in 1982, when three partners and I founded the Strawberry Music Festival and I worked with it for 10 years and was really happy with it, but also wanted to move in other directions. WorldFest sort of gives a broader scope of performance, so it was a natural transition for me to move from the Americana and folk side of things, to a festival like WorldFest, which incorporates everything from rock and roll to classical music. I also had another career working at California State University at Chico where I ran the Chico Performances Presenting Program. We brought in music and dance and spoken word from all over the world and had a large lecture series also. I’ve gotten to experience a very broad breadth and scope of performance and all of that has gone into what we do at WorldFest. We strive really hard to make it a great experience for everyone. I think we’ve been really successful and we’re really looking forward to it again this year.
TK: Speaking of this year’s version of WorldFest, what excites you about the coming event?
DD: Personally, one of the things that I really love about California WorldFest is the “sense of discovery,” meaning you may come to WorldFest this year to see Los Lonely Boys or Ozomotli and leave talking about someone you had never heard of before. It exposes people to new music, performance and points of view. I remember last year, I was standing next to this fellow, who was maybe in his late 50s and he was saying how much he enjoyed Delhi 2 Dublin. Delhi 2 Dublin does Bollywood, with a little bit of hip-hop and electronica mixed in and they always have a phenomenal crowd response. So this guy was saying “I didn’t even know I liked hip-hop, but god, my calves are killing me, because I’ve been dancing so long.” That’s the ultimate thing. Exposing somebody to an artist that thy can fall in love with and perhaps knew nothing about the day before. That’s a pretty exciting thing for us.
Tickets for the 18th annual WorldFest range in price from $15 for a youth one-day pass up to $400 for a four-day camping pass. One day adult tickets are $65 at the gate. For more detailed information on times, bands and ticket pricing, go to http://www.worldfest.net/.
Tom Kellar is a freelance writer in Grass Valley.