The Strawberry Way: Faithful fans come for more than music in Grass Valley | TheUnion.com

The Strawberry Way: Faithful fans come for more than music in Grass Valley

Katrina Paz
Special to Prospector

The Strawberry Music Festival makes its way back to Grass Valley this weekend, welcoming some familiar faces back to the stage, along with big name newcomers and legions of faithful followers. The four-day festival launches Thursday evening and plays on through Sunday with a closing performance by Bruce Cockburn.

Making their Strawberry debut this year is Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real. Nelson, son of Willie Nelson, has developed an "underground following" over the past decade and contributed three songs and vocals to his father's 2012 album "Heroes." Not long after, Neil Young made the group his touring and studio band. They released a self-titled album last year.

"I knew I had a lot of good songs that transcended the cultural boundaries between rock & roll and country," Nelson said in his bio. "I wanted to get the songs as pure as they could be. We owe a lot to Neil; we made this record after coming off the road with him for two years. Neil's been mentoring us, and we've been absorbing that energy, and I think it shows. We got acclimated to a different level of artistic expression. We've grown."

Jodi Barnett, operations manager for the festival, said that everyone is excited about Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real, but that organizers are equally excited for returning faces, like Anders Osborne & Jackie Greene, who will be taking the stage together for the first time.

"I'm really excited about Frazey Ford, who is bold and passionate," Barnett said. "And the Taj Mahal Trio is like an old friend returning."

What Barnett's most looking forward to, however, is what's old about the festival.

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"We're settled," she said. "It's becoming home. We're becoming ourselves."

It was a stroke of bad luck that initially brought the Strawberry Music Festival to Grass Valley five years ago, but dedicated fans and followers continued to find their way to this four-day gathering, which has had no problem making a new home in Grass Valley. The festival moved after the Rim Fire forced the cancellation of the 2013 event. Organizers had to quickly relocate the 2014 spring festival and found themselves at the Nevada County Fairgrounds.

"Everyone at the (Nevada County) campground was warm and welcome, as was everyone in the community," said Barnett. "It was a safe haven, and we've really grown into place."

It's a culture

It's not just the music that draws legions of fans every year. Barnett notes that people may come for the performances but return for the friendship and spirit of cooperation.

The loyal attendees are referred to as "Strawberrians" and have embraced The Strawberry Way, a philosophy and atmosphere that have been cultivated throughout the festival's 37 years. It embraces consideration, cooperation, kindness and generosity.

The gathering is essentially a pop-up community, with many attendees staying on site at the campground for the duration of the event. Festivalgoers will take part in numerous events, including a "Band Scramble" and "Breakfast Club"; an open mic for kids and teens; Q&A performances; music, dance, yoga, photography and art workshops; shopping and picnicking.

Sunday morning's "food for the soul" revival is a longstanding tradition with Strawberrians. The slower paced event, which attracts mainly campers and festival staff, is a "reverent" gathering at the forest amphitheater. The morning kicks off with a storytelling and culminates with a kids' parade.

A number of kids' activities will be held throughout the weekend, including yoga, dance workshops, Fiddle for Kids, games, nature programs, and family sing-alongs.

More than 20 artists will take the stage throughout the weekend, including Todd Snider, Dave Alvin and Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Ghost of Paul Revere, The Suitcase Junket, Lindsay Lou, Marley's Ghost, Keith Little and the Little Band, and The Revelers. A full lineup and schedule is available at http://www.strawberrymusic.com.

Katrina Paz is a freelance writer for Prospector and is a resident of Grass Valley.

KNOW & GO

WHAT: The Strawberry Music Festival

WHEN: May 24-28

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

TICKETS: $40-$85/adults in advance, $50-$90 at the gate, children $15/advance $25/gate, and teens $30/advance $40/gate.

INFO: Call 209-984-8630 or visit http://www.strawberrymusic.com for more information