Performers from across the globe converge on Grass Valley for WorldFest |

Performers from across the globe converge on Grass Valley for WorldFest

Hollie Grimaldi Flores
Special to Prospector

Know & Go

WHAT: California WorldFest 2019

WHEN: 4-11 p.m. Thursday; 9 a,m,-midnight Friday and Saturday; 9 a.m.-11 p.m. Sunday

WHERE: Nevada County Fairgrounds, 11228 McCourtney Road, Grass Valley

ADMISSION: Ticket and camping packages available from $25-$585. Now available at

It has been five years since The Center For The Arts took ownership of WorldFest, which will celebrate its 23rd iteration July 11-14 with some 60 musical acts from around the world making their way to the Nevada County Fairgrounds.

Center For The Arts Executive Director Amber Jo Manuel said the four-day music festival celebrates diversity, world music and brings our community closer together. It also brings people of different backgrounds together to meet in unexpected ways.

“Last year, we did a reception where (Indian classical musician, composer and daughter of the late guru Ravi Shankar) Anoushka Shankar met our mayor and they talked about the arts together,” Manuel said. “What an incredible thing, because that made an impression on her about this place, Grass Valley, and, he (the mayor) was able to have this experience with this great artist who had never been here before. The global exchange that happens is incredible also.”

Festival Director John Taber has been involved in putting on WorldFest, in some capacity, for many years, even before the Center For The Arts took over — be it building stages or capturing moments with his camera — but this is his first year at the helm. He says some of the challenges include drawing a crowd interested in the genre.

“I think you do that by presenting a couple of well-known names, but also by doing your curating to the point that you get high quality acts that people are not familiar with,” Taber said. “The tag for this festival for a long, long time has been ‘Come to the festival and discover your new favorite bands’ and that is what the emphasis is, on having this kind of event.”

Manuel added, “And because this is world music, of course it’s challenging in that we are a remote location. It’s not easy for some of these people to travel here. We have people coming from France, Mexico, the Middle East, Japan, so it is a lot of coordination. It adds a different layer, for sure.”

While putting on any major event will have challenges; the rewards are plenty, however.

“We are in a tumultuous time right now with understanding each other in our community and in our society,” Manuel said. “The more we are exposed to people that are from elsewhere, the better we will be able to understand, sympathize and have empathy for our neighbors.”

The intangible rewards include name recognition.

“Worldfest definitely helps us with our programming of the new season,” Manuel added. “I think they (artists, booking agents) look at us and say Grass Valley is on the map for some world-class talent. So that helps us book our new season, which we will announce on Sept. 16.“

Tabor added, “The Center for the Arts, being a nonprofit and having a face on this festival, is a good thing for the community. People will come back to the community for another Center For The Arts production if they come to Worldfest and it’s done in a professional way, and that is good because any time somebody comes to the community from outside, it’s restaurants, it’s hotels and shopping that benefit from those visits.”

Of course, the locals also benefit from having a music festival in their own town. Taber said, adding, “It gives them (locals) the opportunity to take a break at is what is arguably the most beautiful fairgrounds in Northern California — maybe in the whole state — and have some time there and enjoy something that is rarely available to them all in one place.”

In that spirit, Thursday is priced as a 2-for-1 for Nevada County residents. The opening ceremony is hosted by Shelly Covert and the Nevada City Rancheria Nisenan at the Global Indigenous Peoples Village. The musical acts include Mariachi Herencia de Mexico, Pura Fe and Raye Zaragoza, with Turkuaz headlining the first day.

Manuel said instead of having one headliner on Sunday evening, as has been tradition, this year they are featuring a headlining act each night of the run.

“We want to be hot every night!,” she joked. “We have Trombone Shorty on Friday, Toots and the Maytals on Saturday, and (Mexican American singer) Lila Downs will headline Sunday, but there are so many great bands on the stage every day as well.”

Fan favorite Delhi 2 Dublin is returning.

Manuel added, “The Puerto Rican mystical band `IFE` is coming. The Boston Herald Tribune just lauded them as the highlight of the Lightning in a Bottle festival. Ayla Nereo is from here and is really hot right now. She just sold out the University Theatre in Berkeley and is just kind of going off right now so that is exciting. We have rocking middle Eastern fusion with The Turbans. There is just so much.”

When asked if they could only pick one day, which would they attend, both Taber and Manuel agree it would be impossible to choose. Manuel said, “If you had to choose between seeing the best trombone player in the world (Trombone Shorty) or Lila Downs, a trained opera singer that was the number one Latin-pop music artist of 2017, or one of our oldest reggae bands that has ever existed (Toots) … I mean, what are your choices there?”

Her advice is to buy a four-day pass and enjoy them all.

For those who would like to enjoy an extra-special experience, the Center is also selling a “Best of the Fest” add-on ticket. It comes with a reserved seat, a backstage tour, a meet and greet with a headliner, drink tickets, and other perks. All tickets, the full schedule and more information about the acts can be found at

Taber said there is a simply a lot of talent coming to Nevada County.

“I can’t claim to be familiar with much of it, but I have seen clips here and there,” he said. “The exciting thing for me is that I know — I just know — this is going to be one of those festivals that just blow people away.”

Hollie Grimaldi Flores is a Nevada County resident and freelance writer for hire. She can be reached at

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