Mountain Magic

Strawberry Music Festival returns
By VIRGINIA STILL

The Annual Fall Strawberry Music Festival is a family getaway dream. The event offers live music, children’s activities, art workshops, teen events, shopping and camping, from Aug. 30 through Sept. 3 in Tuolumne. While the multitude of activities make the event special, it’s the music that gathers people from around the region and the country to the festival year after year. The four-day event will include 22 acts on the Main Stage and several additional live performances on side stages throughout the venue.

“Like everything else at Strawberry, planning the entertainment is organic,” said Jodi Barnett, marketing director. “We are fortunate to have a great network of people and performers to work with and draw from. Of course, we get lots and lots of suggestions in our festival surveys, too.”

The very first festival was held in 1982 at Leland Meadows in the town of Strawberry and was originally called the “Strawberry Bluegrass Festival.” The second year the festival relocated to Camp Mather which is on the border of Yosemite National Park. In 1986, the name was changed to the “Strawberry Music Festival” due to the diversity of genres that are played at the four-day festival. After the Rim Fire in 2013 the festival had to relocate once again so the Spring Festival is held at the Nevada County Fairgrounds in Grass Valley and the Fall Festival is held at Westside in Tuolumne.

“Strawberry was among the first camping music festivals,” added Barnett. “Most returning attendees were initially drawn to Strawberry for the lineup of music being featured on the main stage, with a diverse range of nationally renowned artists being paired with local and/or up and coming talent. The reason why many people return year after year, and even plan their lives around the bi-annual event, is just as much about the people who attend, and their culture of kindness and cooperation, as it is about the featured artists scheduled to play.”

The Westside Pavilion is the new outdoor venue presented by Black Oak that has 2,700 seats as well as a lawn area for blankets and low chairs. The venue opened in late May and has already hosted a variety of acts including country music artists, comedians and other entertainers.

“We are thrilled to be using the new Westside Pavilion for this year’s Fall Festival,” expressed Barnett. “The main stage seating area and the concessions area has been expanded and transformed into a beautiful park-like setting, so we are really looking forward to seeing the Strawberry landscape take shape in this new space. Westside is a very special place with a rich history and we are so happy that it has become a premier outdoor setting for live music in Tuolumne County.”

Along with hearing a little folk, Americana, blues, bluegrass, roots, funk, rock and roll, and western swing, Barnett said there will also be world fusion for guests to enjoy. Many of the returning Strawberry Festival attendees camp out and enjoy cooking within their own  camp. The festival is open to all that may just want to come for the day or a night of outdoor entertainment under the stars. There will be a food court available for guests to purchase entrees, sides, desserts and beverages along with beer and wine.

Barnett shared that there will be one-of-a-kind shopping opportunities including festival merchandise, artist CDs, instruments, a music supply store, luthier services, an assortment of handmade art and other services like information booths, the Med tent, and the Strawberry Way Café along with the Hog Ranch Radio station that has been informing and entertaining festival goers since 1985.

“There will be programming additions, first time performers, new faces and unplanned for moments of magic and musical serendipity, but it is still what is old about Strawberry that really makes it special,” explained Barnett about some new things this year. “With this fourth return, we are becoming more settled at Westside, which allows for the best of Strawberry and our traditions to flourish. That means more familiar faces, more kids and teens, more gold standard programming, more camp jams, more food, more opportunities to be authentic, more of all things Strawberry.”

With a nice community of people, creativity, live music, and many activities for all ages, the Strawberry Festival may be a great destination to take the family or friends. Tucked away surrounded by nature and filled with opportunity for adults and kids to enjoy, learn and perform live music is one thing that makes the Strawberry Festival so special.

“Early on, the youth were recognized as being the festival’s future and the development of an extensive program of recreational activities, for all ages, has been integral to creating the family friendly atmosphere that Strawberry is famous for,” stated Barnett. “Many of the adults who are staff and/or are bringing their children to the festival now used to be Strawberry Kids themselves. Being able to camp in comfort and to settle in for multiple days of entertainment has contributed to the strong bonds, cherished memories, and special traditions formed over nearly four decades’ time. Campers return to the same sites every time, forming the same familiar neighborhoods year after year, and playing host to a legendary camp jam culture that is central to the Strawberry experience.”

Strawberry Music Inc. produces two full four-day camping festivals per year and is headquartered in Jamestown. The Strawberry office is open and available to assist customers 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, at 209 984-8630 or visit strawberrymusic.com.

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