facebook tracking pixel Nevada County’s music festivals look to virtual events to build community, recoup finances | TheUnion.com

Nevada County’s music festivals look to virtual events to build community, recoup finances

By the numbers

As of May 27

Number of COVID-19 cases: 41

Number tested: 2,857

Number in western county: 12

Number in eastern county: 29

Number of active cases: zero

Number of recoveries: 40

Number of deaths: 1

Learn more at http://www.theunion.com/coronavirus

For many music lovers, heading to one or more of the many music festivals set at the Nevada County Fairgrounds is a tradition that kicks off their summer. Dedicated visitors come back year after year from across the state and beyond for the Strawberry Music Festival, which kicks off the season on Memorial Day weekend, then look forward to the Father’s Day Bluegrass Festival and Music in the Mountains’ SummerFest in June, WorldFest in July, and Celtic Festival in September.

So the postponement of all such gatherings until next year has hit the music community hard.

“The fests are our biggest source of entertainment, they go on the calendar first,” said Sue Haislet, adding, “I feel awful for bands and vendors.”

Haislet has amassed memories galore over the years, it’s clear.

“Each event is a bit different, but we always enjoy ourselves,” she said in an email. “Sun, music, (beer), food and happy people are a recipe for fun. The little kids running around joyfully, especially at the Celtic Fest, make me smile. … Dancing to bands like Achilles Wheel, discovering new musicians, sitting under the trees and watching the stars at night — what is not to love?”

Judith Hill-Weld met her husband at Music in the Mountains when he was on the board and she was on staff — and she considers the entire organization part of her extended family.

“The part that’s the hardest is that we’re so aware of the impact on the musicians,” she said of the concert cancellations. “This is a big part of their annual income … It’s heartbreaking to think of them having to cope without that.”

Hill-Weld said she is also dedicated to WorldFest, and has gone every year for three full days since her son was a toddler.

“It’s important to us musically and socially,” she said. “It’s been a great place to have family time together, with other families we see there every year.”

Festival organizers also cite that community feel as the biggest loss.

“It’s kind of our annual gathering,” said KVMR’s Peter Wilson of the Celtic Festival. “I think of it as the gathering of the tribes. I think we’re all going to miss that.”

KVMR General Manager Ali Lightfoot agreed, calling the postponement of the “beloved community event” a big blow.

“We’ve been doing it for 25 years,” Lightfoot said. “It’s a part of our yearly ritual.”


The monetary impact to the county of losing these festivals is almost incalculable.

To date, more than 70 events have been canceled or postponed at the Nevada County Fairgrounds, including the Strawberry Music Festival, Father’s Day California Bluegrass Festival, California WorldFest, and Celtic Fest, said fairgrounds Deputy Manager Wendy Oaks.

Oaks said the cancellations have amounted to almost $400,000 in lost revenue overall, with approximately $175,000 of that due to music festival postponements.

“Beyond the negative impacts to the fairgrounds, there is a direct financial loss to the community, including a financial loss to restaurants, lodging, RV Parks, supplies and services,” Oaks said in an email. “Based on the California Department of Food and Agriculture’s economic impact study, events at the Nevada County Fairgrounds, including music festivals, created a total annual spending impact of approximately $28 million on the local economy.”

“Certainly there is a trickle-down effect,” said John Taber, who is contracted to produce both the Celtic Festival and WorldFest. “The fairgrounds loses the rental income, all the various contractors for sound and light, the sanitary people, all the vendors that come out — their whole seasons are gone, because they go from event to event to sell food and merchandise. …This is really unfortunate that it’s impacting so many people, including the artists who perform — just everybody. It really is a large snowball effect.”

KVMR’s Celtic Festival is a major fundraiser for the nonprofit community radio station. The three-day festival hopes to return next September, Taber said.

“We feel pretty confident that should be able to happen,” he said, adding, “A lot of people have held their tickets rather than request refunds.”

Both Wilson and Taber acknowledged the loss of the festival is a huge economic hit.

KVMR does three membership drives every year, and the festival revenue equals or exceeds any one of those, Taber said.

“Outside of the revenue from listener supporters and underwriters, this is a pretty big piece of the pie,” he said.

Lightfoot estimated the Celtic Festival alone brings in about $50,000 to $80,000. But KVMR is also losing revenue due to other festivals canceling this year, because it typically has a booth at every live event in a 100-mile radius and planned to sell raffle tickets at those events, she said.

Losing the Celtic Fest and its annual birthday bash, as well as the raffle sales, means KVMR is about $200,000 short of its budget projections, Lightfoot said.

The Center for the Arts also will take a serious economic hit. The Center’s disaster economic injury has estimated a projected a loss of $342,500 from the cancellation of WorldFest.

Finding the ‘silver lining’

This would have been the 45th year of the Father’s Day Bluegrass Festival, with headliners including Laurie Lewis and the Right Hands, and the Tim O’Brien Band. Having to postpone the three-day festival, along with a music camp and youth academy, was a “tough decision” for the California Bluegrass Association, said board chairman Geoff Sargent.

“I think every festival, every organization that does something like this, was waiting until the absolute last minute to make that decision,” he said. “But it would take only a few people shedding the virus and be asymptomatic, and you can be a headline.”

The festival is the biggest fundraiser of the year for the nonprofit, Sargent said.

“This is the event that pays most of the bills, that lets us put on educational programs,” he said. “That’s the bad news, that’s what we have to mitigate as best as possible. … For nonprofits, it’s really, really hard. We’re fortunate in that virtually everything we do is volunteer driven. It helps to have a very frugal bottom line.”

Many music festivals are going “virtual” in different ways. Strawberry, for example, created special online content to run during what would have been the spring festival. WorldFest has been posting on Facebook and Instagram to highlight past performances, connect its audience with artists and showcase vendors.

Music in the Mountains, which had a series of shows scheduled for June, has taken SummerFest virtual, with live concerts, curated recordings, and interactive educational programs.

Some of the volunteers for the bluegrass association have created a livestream performance webcast series, Turn Your Radio Online, at http://www.turnyourradio.online. The first show is Saturday and will feature The Kody Norris Show, The Gillygirls, and Plaid Strangers.

“This will be a series of weekend shows that will lead up to a bigger event happening about the time of the festival,” Sargent said. “We’ll be able to serve the bluegrass community (this) way, both getting the entertainment and helping to pay some of the musicians. If there is any silver lining, that’s what we have.”


Regional housing trust fund in the works for Nevada County

Nevada County looks to emphasize smaller units

No fears of housing density among planning officials

COVID-19 protocols strain Nevada County homeless shelter’s budget

Tenants, landlords arrange payment options during COVID-19 eviction ban

Patchwork of tenant protections intact for now

The high cost of homelessness in Nevada County

Nevada City collaborates with county and nonprofits to move campers off Sugarloaf Mountain

Nevada County housing market sees increased demand, limited inventory

‘I may have now but I might not tomorrow’: No uptick in Nevada County homelessness amid COVID-19, but future concerns linger

Nevada County graduates consider options in wake of COVID-19

Nevada County students receive more than $800,000 in scholarships

Graduating seniors in Nevada county weigh financial, academic concerns for college

Career education program adapts to meet needs of students

‘I just want to play’: Players, coaches, ADs and officials eye safe, speedy return of high school sports

‘Should I jump into a career?’ Many questions remain for students, teachers and administrators as the future draws nearer

Nevada County middle schoolers, high school underclassmen unsure what to expect next year

Support systems for Nevada County teens go virtual during pandemic

Sierra College summer enrollment not slowing

‘The best they could’: Nevada County Superintendent of Schools reflects on the school year, ponders what’s to come this fall

‘I can’t see the bottom now’: Administrators consider where and whether to make layoffs amid revenue shortage

‘These kids want to ball’: Youth sports organizations grapple with tough decisions regarding COVID-19 safety

Hamstrung: Nevada County summer sports scene hit hard by COVID-19 pandemic

Nevada County theaters go dark for the year

Movie theaters struggle to cover rent, utilities in an industry that typically operates with narrow profit margin

‘Planning for all of it’: Nevada City Film Festival moves online for this year’s event

Nevada County’s music festivals look to virtual events to build community, recoup finances

For Nevada County musicians, the show goes online

Nevada County artists adapt, host online galleries, concerts and workshops

Street fair cancellations in Nevada City, Grass Valley a huge economic hit

‘We are the recovery; we are essential’: Nevada County Arts Council survey reveals artists, art organizations are struggling

Who’s zooming whom? Creativity among Nevada County artists in the pandemic era

Nevada County Arts Council receives $112K Tahoe Truckee Excellence in Education grant for new project

Nevada County nonprofit funding in jeopardy

Nonprofits struggle to serve clients during pandemic shutdown

Nevada County animal rescue groups see surge in fosters, adoptions

Nevada County’s thrift stores move ahead with reopening

Possible postponement, cancellation of Nevada County Fair would negatively impact several Nevada County nonprofits

Local nonprofits feeling the effect of canceled, postponed fundraising events due to COVID-19

Feeding Nevada County: Effort to help those hungry bolstered by partnerships between nonprofits (VIDEO)

Nevada County youth organizations adjust to public health requirements

Volunteer work faces changes at Nevada County nonprofits amid restrictions

‘Do you have reserves?’ Still much uncertainty over how nonprofits will fare in coming months, years

Government business continues in isolation during COVID-19 pandemic

Nevada County, cities collaborate to reopen safely

Wildfire prep in Nevada County continues virtually during pandemic

‘This is why we signed up’: Librarian, homeless shelter manager continue working during pandemic

Financial aid offers much-needed relief in western Nevada County for those who can get it

Grass Valley trims staff in response to COVID-19 shutdown

Nevada County: Staffing, service reductions not yet needed

Nevada County property tax on par despite pandemic

Nevada County health workers say they currently have sufficient supply of personal protective equipment

Hospice of the Foothills continues providing end-of-life care during COVID-19 crisis

Senior care facilities on lockdown during COVID-19 pandemic

Residents of Nevada County senior living communities staying connected

‘Continue to plan and prepare’: Hospital analyzes finances, anticipates federal funding to ensure financial stability

Nurses in Nevada County and the region talk about why they love their jobs

Nevada County not planning to release more detailed COVID-19 case data

Officials: Testing is key in calls to reopen in Nevada County, across California

Nevada County doctors change approach to providing care due to COVID-19

The trifecta: Public health experts recommend testing, contact tracing and supported isolation to phase into a reopened world

Investigating the impact: Lack of revenue, uncertain return date causes concern for arts and entertainment venues

Impacts of Idaho-Maryland mine to be revealed soon

Nevada County artists discuss how COVID-19 shutdown has affected them

‘The arts are essential’: Center for the Arts launches emergency relief fund

Real estate sales strong in Nevada County despite challenges

No slowdown seen in Nevada County construction industry despite COVID-19 lockdown

Nevada County government, home improvement and real estate representatives talk business during COVID-19

‘I’d like to place an order’: In light of COVID-19, the demand for home delivery services in Nevada County is at an all-time high

Grass Valley, Nevada City first to feel COVID-19 economic hit

See you soon? Small business owners struggle, but are hopeful for a brighter tomorrow in Nevada County

Nevada County businesses struggle navigating economic relief

Nevada County health care providers pivot on financial tight rope

‘A sudden and dramatic downturn’: Nevada County economy will be hurt for longtime following coronavirus slowdown, expert says

‘A recession, let alone a depression’: Western Nevada County businesses apply for federal loans, but most have yet to receive money

Nevada County businesses, governments, nonprofits navigate uncertain times, worry what’s ahead




Coronavirus Guidance for Businesses/Employers

Nevada County Relief Fund for Covid-19

Contact reporter Liz Kellar at 530-477-4236 or by email at lizk@theunion.com.

More Like This, Tap A Topic

Nevada County Police Blotter

11:46 a.m. – A caller from Mill Street reported a male subject walking alone carrying a machete. He was swinging around the machete, but not in a threatening manner.

See more

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Grass Valley and Nevada County make The Union’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Your donation will help us continue to cover COVID-19 and our other vital local news.