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Take “The Strawberry Way” to great music this weekend

The fabled Strawberry Music Festival returns to the Nevada County Fairgrounds today through Sunday.
Photo by John R. Pierce |

KNOW & GO

What: The Strawberry Music Festival

Where: Nevada County Fairgrounds, 11228 McCourtney Rd., Grass Valley

When: 8 a.m. Thursday through 10 p.m. Sunday

Admission: It’s a wide range. The lowest gate price is for a one-day/no-camp pass for kids 5-12 at $25.

The highest price ticket is $265 at the gate for a four-day adult camping pass.

Visit http://strawberrymusic.com/tickets/ to see the full price list.

Tickets: Available online and at the gate

More information: http://strawberrymusic.com/

The fabled Strawberry Music Festival returns to the Nevada County Fairgrounds today through Sunday.

Iconic R&B singer and civil rights activist Mavis Staples tops a stellar lineup of musical acts that includes the David Grisman Sextet, Pokey LaFarge, The Wood Brothers, Mary Gauthier, Della Mae, Head for the Hills, Solas, Banana Slug String Band and more than a dozen other musical acts in concert over the next four days.

In addition to the music, the 63rd edition of the biannual festival offers all kinds of food and merchandise vendors, activities for kids and teens, audience participation, workshops, Hog Ranch Radio — and epic, all-night music jams in the camps.



The festival opens at 8 a.m. Thursday with Placerville’s MerryGold kicking off the live music at 5 p.m. Grammy Award winner Staples will close the festival Sunday night. And there’s a whole lot of music in between.

Tickets range from $250.00 for an adult, 4-day camping pass to $20 for a one-day/no-camp pass for kids 5 to 12 years old (under 5 are free). And there’re a whole lot of prices in between (see Know & Go).




Just announced: “An all-day ticket for Thursday, which is a shorter day for music, but a great evening show, is $55 at the gate, but for this Spring Festival you get two tickets for that price on Thursday,” Jodi Barnett, festival operations manager and spokesperson, told The Union.

The Strawberry Way

The Union interviewed Barnett by email last week.

We asked her how the move to the Nevada County Fairgrounds, which accommodates day-trippers, has changed the festival from its traditional, four-day, pack-in-pack-it-out campout.

“Some people may feel that the increase in day and evening attendance has changed the vibe of Strawberry,” she replied. But, “The ethic to treat people and the environment with kindness and consideration at Strawberry has not changed.

“Because the core of our community has been with us for over three decades, the Strawberry Way ends up having an impact on newcomers, instead of the other way around,” she said.

Live worldwide

For three decades, the only way to enjoy the legendary Strawberry Music Festival was to be there at its remote location in Tuolumne County.

When the Spring Festival first came to Nevada County in 2014, community radio station KVMR broadcast the festival live over the air and around the world via the Internet.

“We provide the only stream of the festival so people can still experience what everyone likes to call The Strawberry Way,” said KVMR Program Director Steve Baker. “Now you don’t have to be there to be there.” (See story Page 15 for more details.)

Including KVMR in the festival was easy, because many of the two dozen KVMR staff and volunteers who make up the broadcast crew are diehard Strawberrians.

DJ Eric Rice has been the chief electrician for Strawberry since the mid-1990s. DJs Wesley Robertson and Kim Patton Rogers are also decades-long Strawberrians who have been long involved with Hog Ranch Radio.

The Hog is a low-power, pirate radio station that only exists during Strawberry.

“With the Hog you hear the voices and the sounds of the festival,” explained Barnett. The Hog features camp jams, teen open mic, and other opportunities for audience participation,” she said.

Robertson confirmed that KVMR will patch into the Hog’s broadcasts in between the stage concerts.

Music before and after hours

For many Strawberrians, the food and music in the camps is the best part of the festival.

For years, Robertson has hosted Camp Pigout. By offering great food, he is able attract both stage musicians and festival players to his camp for all-night jam sessions.

Two players who are certain to show up are Juliet Gobert and Rogers from the local group the Heifer Belles.

Rogers said that in addition to jamming in the camps, she and Gobert plan to sign up to play at the popular Breakfast Club. The club is one of several informal venues where festival attendees put on their own concerts.

Many people have feared this would be the last Strawberry at the fairgrounds, because Strawberry organizers have located a new site for the Fall Festival in Tuolumne County where the festival originated.

Barnett put those fears to rest: “The Spring 2017 Festival is already set to take place at the Nevada County Fairgrounds. We love the forest setting, working with staff and the local community of music lovers in Nevada County.”

Tom Durkin is a freelance writer and photographer in Nevada County. He can be contacted at tdurkin@vfr.net.


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