My two favorite times of any bluegrass festival or campout are 1) when I pull into the gate; and 2) when I pull out to go home. Great, great times in between of course, but nothing surpasses the anticipation that beats in my chest when I first see the campout grounds inhabited by friends banging on their instruments or the excitement I feel heading home after four a five days away from my family. And this year’s departure from Colusa was especially thrilling because I knew I was headed home to see my new pal Willy, a seven week old yellow Labrador Retriever Lynn picked up the day before. She and I had picked out and paid for the pup early last week, but he wasn’t ready to come home to Whiskey Creek till Saturday. What fun to pull up the gravel road toward the house and see three yellows charging toward the steel gate yelping welcome home. The pack, as they say, is officially back to its requisite strength. Now only six or eight months of cleaning up leavings, replacing chewed-up cherished possessions and instilling a true and abiding sense of reality to the word ‘no’, and we’ll be back to normal and ready to start the whole wonderful cycle again.
And speaking of starting a new and wonderful cycle, that’s just what we did last weekend at the 35th annual Fall Campout and Membership Meeting. Everything that needed to get done Association-wise got done. First, the members showed up, and in big numbers…..one of the largest turn outs we’ve had at a fall campout. Second, we achieved our quorum for the annual election with about one hundred and fifty votes to spare so, yes, we have a newly elected board. Notice I didn’t say a ‘new’ board, since eleven incumbents won eleven seats, but we’re legal in the eyes of the State Franchise Tax Board, and that counts for a lot. And lastly, we held our annual organization meeting Sunday and set our calendar for the year as well as appointed our officers for the 2009-2010 year. No surprises on the appointments (Darby’s still president, I’m still chairman, etc.), though we did add a few new names to our long, long list of volunteers. Following the appointments process, which takes longer than you might imagine, the board did cover several items that needed addressing. We accepted our IBMA Team’s recommendation for FDF Emerging Artist Band, Frank Solivan and Dirty Kitchen; we gave direction to our FDF Festival Director, Montie Elston, on negotiations with the Nevada County Fairgrounds; and we received reports on two recently completed, and very successful CBA undertakings, the Hobbs Grove Festival and our first ever Old Time Camp Out. Congratulations and thanks respectively to Kelly Broyles and Mark Hogan for those two events. And Lisa Burns provided the board with an update on the forthcoming CBA Winter Bluegrass Music Camp scheduled for February. As we hoped and expected, there’s great interest in the Petaluma camp; in a little less than three weeks of sign ups, we have enrolled just under ninety students, a third of them first-timers. (One first-timer would be me.)
Probably the most important decision made at the Sunday meeting concerned out Fathers Day Festival stage. For about three years now the board has grappled with the problem of an aging and outdated stage. In addition to a badly in need of replacement roof (about $20K worth) which, were it inundated with rain, would likely give way dropping several thousands of gallons of water onto unsuspecting performers and intensely expensive electronics, the stage suffers from a bad case of general obsolescence. Which is to say that it takes more than a dozen workers over a day to set up, and close to that to break down. So, after literally years of soul-searching, we eleven have decided it’s time to retire our old stage and begin renting a new one. If you attended the Plymouth festival you saw the type we’ll begin renting in June—three and a half hours up….three and a half hours down. Because we’ve been able to cut a great deal with the stage company by throwing in with L and S Productions on a bulk rental and by entering into a three year deal, we’re able to keep costs to a minimum. A huge thanks to Tim Edes and Larry Baker for making this happen.
A few other items were covered at the meeting—this year’s Morgan Hill Concert (hugely exciting headliner in negotiations so, keep your fingers crossed), new plans for a ‘youth hang-out’ at Fathers Day, finally some progress on moving our mercantile operation onto the CBA web site—and we were out of Colusa by 3:30. All in all not too bad.
And what of the campout itself? Just more fun than you can imagine. The weather was incredible, James King, now singing with Ron Spears, was just the absolute best, Mike’s spaghetti was divine, Snap Jackson and his boys did a mesmerizing opening for James, and there were dozens and dozens and dozens of pickers who for four days arranged themselves in different jamming configurations that made for just about the best musical experience imaginable…..if, of course, you like bluegrass, old time and gospel music. Otherwise it might have been a bit much.
And finally, it would be impossible to write about our 35th fall campout without mentioning the two people who made it run so smoothly. Steve and Mary Tilden haven’t been part of our bluegrass community for too horribly long, but in the time they’ve been with us the two have stepped up to the plate in an important and impressive way. Taking on the job of State Wide Activities Vice President, planning and scheduling our campouts, keeping them on budget and managing the events as they happen ‘on the ground’ is a big deal. A very big deal. Thanks to Steve and Mary for their dedication, hard work and forbearance.