Parkfield Bluegrass 2018


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The 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.

In 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.

The 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.

Every 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.

Several 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 Phil Salazar 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.

Another 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.

The rest of the groups fell into the good not not great category. Perhaps the most famous artist there was Missy Raines, performing 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.

For 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.  

The 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.

You 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 the Parkfield-Coalinga Road, a round trip of 1.71 miles.

I 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.

Unfortunately, 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. 

--Dick Estel, May 2018 


(Click on the thumbnail to open full size photo; pictures open in a new window)
Travel bag Promoter/MC Dave Schwartz Parkfield 2018 Program Cover
Bean Creek Goat Hill Girls Echo Mountain
Sonoran Dogs FY5 Missy Raines & the New Hip
Honeysuckle Possums Phil Salazar & the Kin Folk Jeff Scroggins & Colorado 
Molsky's Mountain Drifters Amber Cross Band AJ Lee & Blue Summit
Sunset clouds The old Shell water tower, now a rental cabin Woodpecker on the valley oak
Scenes along Coalinga-Parkfield Rod north of town
Fence and hills along Coalinga-Parkfield Road
Flowers near the edge of town The green bridge (from 2016) Lonely Heartstring Band (from 2017)
Related Links
Bean Creek Goat Hill Girls Echo Mountain
The Sonoran Dogs FY5 Missy Raines &  the New Hip
Lonely Heartstring Band Honeysuckle Possums Phil Salazar & the Kin Folk
Jeff Scroggins & Colorado Molsky's Mountain Drifters Amber Cross
Blue Summit Snap Jackson & the Knock on Wood Players History of Parkfield
Bluegrass Music Society of the Central Coast Dick's Bluegrass Links Bluegrass T-Shirts
Bluegrass in the Park (Clovis) Northern California Bluegrass Society San Andreas Fault
Parkfield Quake of 2004 Dick's Parkfield Photos Other Bluegrass Festivals
You Tube (& other) Videos
Lonely Heartstring Band Goat Hill Girls Echo Mountain
FY5 Honeysuckle Possums Blue Summit     More
Molsky's Mountain Drifters Missy Raines Phil Salazar
Amber Cross Jeff Scroggins Parkfield 2011
Sonoran Dogs Bean Creek Tuttles and AJ Lee & Kathy Kallick






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Updated May 24, 2018