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WorldFest entertained nearly nonstop

Dan BurkhartVikki Simpson, a member of Australian band The Waifs, performs during WorldFest 2002 at the Nevada County Fairgrounds Saturday night.
ALL | GrassValleyArchive

The Nevada County Fairgrounds resembled a global summer camp Thursday through Sunday, as hundreds of smiling out-of-towners and locals chatted with each other, while counselors made sure everyone had a good time.

Nonstop music, dance and crafts activities ran from mid morning to night, followed by campers jamming until 4 each morning. Hula hoops were in ample supply; Frisbees were tossed by day and glow toys by night.

Organizers estimated 1,500 campers of all ages were on site Thursday, 3,000 Friday, 4,000 Saturday and 3,000 Sunday.



OK, so it really wasn’t camp, but the sixth annual California WorldFest. The four days still boiled down to a lot of fun. And instead of counselors, substitute the word “entertainers” (30 music and dance acts performed), who made sure everyone enjoyed themselves.

One of those entertainers was Nevada County’s own Alasdair Fraser, the Scottish fiddler who spends half the year on San Juan Ridge and the other half performing and teaching around the world.




“I do try to make this like camp,” Fraser said after his 9 p.m. performance Saturday, his last of three performances that day. He runs two fiddling camps, one in Santa Cruz and the other in Scotland; several of his campers attended the WorldFest.

Fraser was into the camp spirit; he jammed until 4 a.m. Saturday at the campsite and participated in a water fight before calling it a night, only to be up at 8 a.m. to enthusiastically join in the festivities again.

Fraser was the reason Thelma King and Gloria Rusch, friends who live in Orland and Modesto, respectively, were at the fairgrounds by 9:30 a.m. Saturday.

King, 83, got hooked on the fiddler after watching him at last year’s festival.

“I bought his CD ‘Dawn Dance’ and play it on the computer all the time,” said King, who had already seen Fraser perform twice Friday.

But she’d never seen him teach Celtic dancing. She made sure to arrive early at the fairgrounds Saturday so she wouldn’t miss the lessons.

King, whose grandchild and four great-grandchildren were also at the festival, heard Fraser had jammed until the wee hours that morning in the campgrounds.

As she watched Fraser Saturday morning, King considered staying with her family that night at the campgrounds instead of at Rusch’s daughter’s house in Grass Valley. She wanted to sit in on a potential after-hours jam.

“He’s partly the reason I came back this year. I love to hear Alasdair playing,” said King, who was here all four festival days. Last year, she stayed just one night.

Rusch didn’t mind arriving early at the festival; she was just as eager to catch Fraser’s first appearance that day.

“We have to see everything,” said Rusch, whose daughter and son-in-law would join her later that afternoon and night at the fairgrounds.

This was the first time Rusch, 77, attended the festival.

“It’s so different, the people are interesting to watch,” Rusch said. “I’ve never been to anything else like this. I came here Thursday and I’m going to stay till the end.”

Festival first-timers Mike Durkin, his wife and their two toddlers also arrived early Saturday morning.

Durkin actually preferred Friday’s lineup – the international guitarist lineup and Australia’s pop-rock band Fruit appealed to him – but he couldn’t take off work. That didn’t stop him, though, from driving up the next day to check out other world music acts new to him.

“We’re here to take in the sights,” Durkin added as he studied the schedule of festival performances.

Scott Long of Fair Oaks also couldn’t get off work Friday, so he did the second-best thing: He listened to live festival broadcasts courtesy of community radio station KVMR while repairing a roof in Sacramento – and then attended the festival Saturday.

Like Durkin, Long didn’t buy a ticket just because one of his favorite groups would be there.

“I just came for the festival,” said Long, who attended the event a few years ago.

“I took it for granted there would be good music,” he said as he waited for Inner Visions to take the stage. “I want to see it all.”


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