A Tip of My Hat

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As I was preparing for our week at Grass Valley, I found no less than 14 hats in various cubby holes in the camper. I was wondering why two people require so many hats, but now I think I know why.

I am finally feeling like I’ve caught up on my sleep since returning from the Thirty-seventh Annual Father’s Day Festival. This was my third year of attending this event. I tip my blue “Jimmy Rodgers” train engineer hat to the team of volunteers who put in countless hours to make this the highlight of my summer.

The first thing we did after leveling the camper was set up a space to jam. We brought two canopies and lighting and eight jamming chairs; they were full every night. We had one moment of excitement when my friend Cliff sat his chair down with one leg in a gopher hole; he was able to ride it out for the required 8 seconds like a pro rodeo bull rider. It made me want to break out into one of my old cowboy songs. Cliff earns a big “Yee Haw!” and a tip of my cowboy hat.

It was great to jam with some new friends. I met Raynae Redman and Bonnie Stewart who are both from Idaho. Some of you probably already know them. Raynae plays guitar, mandolin, bass, fiddle and sings. She is Bluegrass, through and through. Bonnie plays guitar and we had a great time swapping songs and she knows lots of them! A few of the jams went until 3:00 or 4:00 AM. Okay, these ladies earn a tip of my “Bad Hair Day” camouflage hat.

I spent a little time hanging out at Frank Solivan’s camp, observing him and his Kids on Bluegrass. I watched as proud parents brought their children in to meet Frank and “audition.” I saw the “deer in the headlights” look disappear as He greeted each one with a warm smile (under the handlebar) and a handshake that goes on for three or four minutes while he asks them questions about themselves. There are many “returnees” as well. Somehow, in just a couple days, Frank and his dedicated volunteers work some kind of magic with these kids, teaching them about stage presence, using a microphone, playing their instruments in unison and we in the audience have no idea how much effort has gone into the Kids on Bluegrass performances. These folks receive a deep bow and big tip of my wide brimmed palm fiber hat! Good work, my friends.

It’s always hard to decide which stage acts I want to attend. There are so many choices. This year, some of the choices were made for me by the heat. If they were held in the heat of the day, I missed some of them; I was in the camper taking a nap with the A/C going. I admire these performers who gave it their all, even though the weather was stifling hot. Big tip of the floppy, lacy, sun hat!

I’m going to put on my “Complaint Department” hat for a moment if you will indulge me. I loved Seldom Scene but there was a lady sitting behind me who felt the need to sing along with nearly every song they sang. She had a lovely voice but it wasn’t her that I came to hear. I realize that we may all get caught up in the moment when a band starts singing one of our all time favorites and we are tempted to sing along for a line or two. I turned around and made eye contact with her a couple times but it only stopped her momentarily. My suggestion to those who want to sing along with every song: sit way in the back where you’re out of ear shot and sing to your hearts content.

I would be hard pressed to say who my favorite performers were. I loved the Tuttles and AJ. They are all so gifted, each in their own way. I was amazed at the progress that AJ has made on her mandolin. Did you hear her pick the Beaumont Rag? She nailed it! I was mesmerized by Molly’s song, Walden, the one that won her the Merle Fest Songwriting Award. My pink train engineer’s hat is tipped to this talented, versatile band.

I am quite partial to the California Bands, many of whom have become my friends. Central Valley Boys caught everyone’s eyes and ears! I especially liked their Gospel set on Sunday morning. It was my first time to see and hear Rock Ridge; theirs was one of the few CDs I purchased. I always enjoy Snap and Knock on Wood, and was pleased to see them on the Main Stage this year. I remember the Turlock Camp-Out a few years ago when Chef Mike first hosted them in his camp and we all fell in love with them. I enjoyed Pine Ridge’s performance on Vern’s stage as well. If you missed them, they will be at King’s River and Plymouth this year. The Roustabouts have many years of combined musical experience and never disappoint. If I had a top hat, I’d throw it in the air for the California Bands.

Three of my friends bought new fiddles this year. Caroline Kuhn got a beautiful old one that sounds really good and is quite lovely with lots of mother-of-pearl inlay. As she played, I couldn’t help but wonder what stories that old fiddle could tell. Julie Cooper and Mikki Feeney both got fiddles from Frank Daniel. I can’t wait to hear them. Tip of my “Frank’s Fiddle” cap to my fiddlin’ friends.

I noticed that Dancin’ John was on the injured list. He was hobbling around with an Ace Bandage around his knee. The Thin Man took up some of the slack in the dance area. He couldn’t sit still when the Foghorn String Band was playing. My friends, Artie and Rose were there wearing their chicken hats. They are never in a fowl mood. If I had a Chicken Hat, I would tip it to the dancers.

It’s interesting to talk to folks who are experiencing The Father’s Day Festival for the first time. Every day, I sat next to a young woman named Stephanie as we watched the stage acts. She is a Grass Valley resident and this was her first time to come to the festival. It was fun to watch her as she was taking it all in; she especially loved the Navy Band, Country Current. I have no doubt she will return. Little Annie Alvira, Marcos’ daughter, was also a first time attendee. What a thrill for her to be invited to sing the National Anthem on Saturday morning! Good job Annie! My Welcome Hat goes off to the “Newcomers.” See you all at the next event.

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