Parkfield Bluegrass Festival started in 1999, under the name Camp
Rude Bluegrass Festival. I was attending
another May festival in Mariposa in those days, and did not go to the first two
Parkfield events. Since then I have missed only one. This year was
the 20th, and maybe my last one. But
that's a decision for later.
the last few years it has been necessary to make reservations for an
electrical hook-up the day they are announced, and overall
attendance has increased annually for the last few years. This year
it was hard to find enough space for everyone's lawn chairs, and
camping space was nearly full.
first day of the festival always falls on the day of our retirement
association board meeting, and previously I attended the meeting and
then left Fresno about 10:30. This meant the music was getting
started by the time I got parked and set up, so this time I skipped
the meeting and got an early start. I had about an hour and a half
from arrival time till the first band went on.
year there have been a couple of groups I was not familiar with that that
really stood out and became new favorites. Probably the best this
year was the Sonoran Dogs from Arizona. They were actually at Parkfield
in 2015 but apparently did not make much of an impression on me;
I didn't even mention them in my report. This year I rated them the
number two band at the festival, behind only Jeff Scroggins &
Colorado, making their third appearance.
other bands new to me were in contention for "not
previously heard but amazing." Echo
Mountain, an old-time music group from
southern California was excellent, as was another band playing a
similar style, Molsky's Mountain Drifters. This band is apparently
famous in bluegrass and old-time circles, but I had not heard of
them. FY5, another Colorado band, was very good, as was
and the Kin Folks. Phil appeared at the first four or five Parkfield
festivals, but I did not recall much about him. He's a first rate
fiddle player with a pretty good band.
returning band also got high ratings from me. AJ Lee and Blue Summit
is led by Ayissa Lee, who I first saw at Brown
Barn when she was about 11 years old. Her voice was amazing
then, and now at age 20 she has developed a mature sound that makes
her a standout. It does not hurt that her band includes Sullivan
Tuttle, one of the hottest young guitar players in the state.
rest of the groups fell into the good not not great category.
Perhaps the most famous artist there was Missy
with two other musicians as the New Hip. She has a beautiful voice,
but the music this group is doing is way beyond bluegrass. It was
skillful and interesting, which does not mean enjoyable.
the first time since 2009, after eight consecutive appearances, the
line-up did NOT include Snap Jackson and the Knock on Wood Players.
This was moderately disappointing, but I've seen them at least a
dozen times, so I guess I will survive. However, a couple we met at
our first Parkfield event, Rad and Tele Spurlock, were there as
usual. We started chatting at the 2001 festival when they asked
about my grandson Mikie, who was folded up in a little wagon
sleeping, and my daughter and I have kept up with their family as
they have with ours. Tele has experienced some recent health
problems and is undergoing treatment, but she was in good spirits
and carrying out her usual volunteer work fixing and serving food
for the bands.
weather cooperated this year - not too hot, no rain, and very cool
in the evening. Friday morning it got down to 37 degrees at 6 a.m.
Thursday afternoon was a little warmer than I like, but it cooled
off the next three days A worrisome overcast Saturday and
Sunday mornings cleared off by mid-morning.
may have noticed from my other travel reports that hiking is always
included, even if the main purpose is camping or bluegrass. What I
do at Parkfield is not really hiking, but I do manage to get in a
mile or more of walking each day. The location is a flat valley, so
the only up and down is on the steps of the motor home. The
first morning I walked to the rodeo grounds and around the far
reaches of the boondocks camping area, a walk of .84 miles. The next
day I walked around the streets close to the stage, but kept my
walking app on throughout the day. Adding all the times I go back
and forth from camp to the stage, I got in 1.15 miles. The final
morning I did my now traditional walk to a bridge north of town on
Road, a round trip of 1.71 miles.
had decided to head home after breakfast, having already
seen all the groups scheduled for Sunday. Of course, I don't rush.
Walking, eating, washing dishes, and getting things ready to travel
put me on the road home a little after 11 a.m.
I like camping in my motor home a lot more than I like driving it,
and I'm not sure I will take it on longer trips any more. I'd like
to attend a couple of other California festivals at least once more
(Good Old Fashioned in Hollister and Summergrass in San Diego
County), so we'll see what the future brings.
Estel, May 2018