Author: Alvira, Marco

Looking Back

It feels like I’ve been writing about the Kings River Bluegrass Festival for half a year, and that might just be accurate—i.e., two Welcome Columns and two Breakdown articles since February. I can’t let this festival get too far behind us however without publicly thanking all those who made this year’s event a smashing success. For those of you who are not aware, this festival began over ten years ago as a gathering of local bands to pick and picnic. The Sunday afternoon picnic feeling of the festival hasn’t changed, but the line-up certainly has. While still featuring the best of regional talent, top-notch talent form across the street has since been included to the stage show.

Enough cannot be said about the performances of Evie Ladin and Evil Diane, the Get Down Boys, and Bean Creek, and the Anderson Family. This is first-rate talent that I would put on any stage…anywhere! In fact, three of those four bands have played the main stage at Grass Valley. Add to that mix, the red suited Central Valley Boys with their energy and drive and the incredible well crafted rhythms and melodies of the Rock Ridge Bluegrass Band, one can say that we were blessed with an embarrassing cornucopia of talent (I always like to use that word when we autumn rolls around).

I was extremely proud, however, of our local bands. Red Dog Ash, The Grasskickers, and Grassfire just flat out played bluegrass the way it’s meant to be done. The two former bands, in particular, absolutely torched the stage Saturday afternoon and had my adrenaline spiking. Other perennial local bands gave lively shows: Uncle Ephus, a Fresno group, provided a fun and spirited old-time, front-porch jam sound. The Kings River Gospelaires had folks clapping their hands in rhythm to old time gospel on Sunday morning. The Kids on Bluegrass, as usual, stole the Sunday show. Sam Criswell announced that this was the last performance for his group, Groundspeed. Sam, and his lovely bride Mildred, are like grandparents to many of us Valley musicians. It’s sad to think that they will no longer grace our stage at the Grove.

I would like to extend a special thanks to all those volunteers who made this festival possible: Julie Broyles (never has a festival been donned with more red, white, and blue!), Candy Sponhaltz, Annie Alvira (has my daughter found a calling in promotions?), Barbara Gray (who, according to most every band, ran the best band hospitality they’ve ever seen), Kevin Cambell, Ann Munson, Mona Anacleto (is there a better raffle anywhere?), Stan Allen, Frank Solivan, Cliff Compton, Henry Zuniga, Java Joe Machado (started out as a vendor and became everyone’s best friend and right hand man), Jason Sponhaltz, Kent Kinney, Dave Hickingbottom , Jerry Turner (the world’s best tee-shirt guy!), Rainey Escobar, Sam Criswell (loaning Kelly his electric car to stop him from running so much after surgery). I pray that I didn’t leave anyone out of the mix. Each one of these folks is part of our Kings River family and they know how Kelly and I feel about all that they have done for us.

I cannot say enough about my gracious and hardworking partner and Co-Director Kelly Broyles. He was just days removed from surgery, but was there he was at the festival with shirt sleeves rolled –up and getting to work. I feel blessed to be part of this festival. I started out as a regular attendee five years ago. This festival is where I first joined the CBA, voted in an election, got into my first festival jam, and did my first volunteering. I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to have hosted so many of you to our little party in this quiet corner of the San Joaquin Valley heartland. Kelly and I look forward to seeing all of you again next year. Until then, happy picking, and we’ll see you at the Fall Jam in Colusa.
Posted:  10/2/2011

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