Author: Ramos, Jean

Memories Are Made of This

On Sunday, June 13, I climbed behind the wheel of my car and headed for Grass Valley; crazy thoughts spinning through my brain; my mind was flipping back and forth between anticipation and apprehension. My first Father’s Day Festival at Grass Valley was filling my horizon. Many of my Facebook friends were adding to the hype with all their good natured banter concerning the event. I had heard that this was the Mother of All Festivals in California and about the crowds of campers, the diversity of attendees, the hot shot musicians and top notch entertainers so I tried my best to prepare for the event. I was filled with all the usual anxious thoughts that accompany a first time experience. Alone with my “what ifs” and with my EZ-Up and folding chairs rattling around in the back of my Jeep, I tuned the Sirius Satellite to some Serious Bluegrass and headed north.

We arrived early in the day and began to see many familiar faces and my anxieties gave way to pure excitement. Rick Cornish greeted us and said, “You are in for a life changing experience.” I’m thankful to P.J. Elson who camped behind us, she took me on a walking tour of the fairgrounds on the first day, and it was so helpful. I found the scenery changed day by day as more and more trailers, motor homes and tents began to fill every nook and cranny. By Thursday, it bore no resemblance to what I saw the previous Sunday. I decided that at the next festival, I’m going to single out some first timers and take them on a tour the way P.J. did for me.

I began getting emails and Facebook messages from friends that were already there telling me of their locations and encouraging me to come and jam. My first jam was well within my comfort zone with Cliff, Val, Trish and Ruth, a great way to kick things off. I saw Rick Cornish later and he encouraged me to branch out and jam with strangers and make some new acquaintances. That night I went to his camp and did just that. I met Chuck and Jeanie Poling and others and had a great time. I sat in on several other jams with new acquaintances, one that stands out was with Bluegrass Bob Baumert and his friends. One of my favorite jams was at Pat and George Calhoun’s camp. It was so good to be with them and their family, to see her smiling face, and to hear her singing and playing her “squeeze box” once again.

After the first day, I gave some thought to one of Bruce Campbell’s previous welcome columns; Preparing for Grass Valley, and I was wishing he had said something about the toll that the Grass Valley dirt takes on white pants and socks. He was right about the “hat” thing; we all need to make a statement. Many people associate me with my Jimmie Rodgers songs and there was a man named Warren around all week who wore a Train Engineer hat which I coveted. I even offered to buy it but he wouldn’t give it up. I seriously needed that hat when I do my Jimmie Rodgers songs. I learned about a train museum in Nevada City and Terry and I took a ride and sure enough, they sell the Train Engineer hats. Exercising my woman’s prerogative as a serious shopper, I bought a blue one and a pink one. Speaking of hats, I’m sure that most of you saw the couple, Artie and Rose, who wear the “chicken hats.” I took their picture and got acquainted with them. He plays Dobro, mandolin, guitar and bass, she is learning the banjo and “strum stick.” I don’t know what a “strum stick” is but it must be a close relative to a “drum stick.” They like wearing the hats because it puts a smile on so many faces. They love hearing the “chicken” jokes and remarked that it’s hard to be in a “fowl” mood when you wear a hat like that. While enjoying themselves in the “dance area,” they overheard one man refer to them as “poultry in motion.”

I had the pleasure of volunteering in the CBA Mercantile booth with Jack Hyland and others. When you volunteer, you get a name tag. People came up to the Mercantile booth and said things like, “So, you’re Jeanie Ramos.” They had either read my columns or seen my posts on the Message Board, just another way to make new friends. I encourage you to volunteer, there’s an opportunity for everyone. If you do volunteer, I would urge you to come a few days early and get in lots of jamming so that when it’s your time to work, you can devote yourself to the commitment you’ve made.

Many of you know that Terry and I celebrated our forty-fifth wedding anniversary on Friday. He encouraged me to take a look at Gary Garcia’s hand crafted guitars. I balked and told him that if I saw them or played them, I’d want one. Well the bottom line is, I saw, I played, and I took one home. I’m so blessed! Now I feel like I need to really work on my guitar skills.

What an incredible line-up of entertainers on stage. There was truly something for everyone. I especially enjoyed watching the kids, and loved the Anderson Family’s performances. It would be hard for me to pick out a favorite, but I’m partial to James King. Besides, he complimented me on my new pink hat and we had a picture taken together. That’s another wonderful thing about the Bluegrass Artists; they are so personable and accessible. One special memory I’ll always have is singing “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” with Rhonda Vincent in the jam she hosted out in the camping area. I admire the way she interacts with her fans, especially the kids.

The Father’s Day Festival was a wonderful experience, from the first jam on the first Sunday to the church service the following Sunday and everything in between. As I made my way home, I left the radio off and just relived all the happy moments of the seven days of bliss. I said a silent prayer of thanksgiving. Thankful for all the hard working people who put this together, thankful for the gift of music, thankful for the restored health of my friend, thankful for the return of a treasured fiddle, thankful for a loving husband of forty-five years and especially thankful for my bluegrass family. I’m blessed indeed.

Posted:  6/27/2010

Copyright © 2002 California Bluegrass Association. All rights reserved.
Comments? Questions? Please email