Bluegrass Al Fresco

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Bluegrass music is outdoor music. There are hundreds of bluegrass songs about hills, valleys, fields, streams, and other features of the landscape. Bluegrass jams always sound better outdoors, under the shade of pine trees on a hot summer day. And bluegrass fans wait all year for outdoor festival season to begin.

It’s no wonder that the Bluegrass for the Greenbelt Festival has been gaining in popularity since it began in 2007. The 6th annual festival is Saturday, June 4 at the Dunsmuir-Hellman estate in Oakland. Performers include Jimmie Dale Gilmore with the Wronglers, Laurie Lewis and her Right Hands, the Kathy Kallick Band, Marley’s Ghost, the Tuttles and AJ Lee, and Arran Harris and the Farm Band.

This year, the organizers have expanded the festival to include a Friday night campout on June 3. It’s an opportunity for city folks to get a little taste of the outdoor festival experience.

The campout will feature performances by local fave Nell Robinson teaming up with flatpicker extraordinaire Jim Nunally to sing country and bluegrass duets, plus the Greenbelt Bluegrass Band, with me and Jeanie, Pat Campbell, Jonathan Schiele and Ray Bierl. Once the performances are over, the GBB will lead campers in a bluegrass jam. For those who don’t play an instrument but want to participate in the jam, the band will back them up on a bluegrass standard of their choice. It’s Bluegrass Karaoke!

It’s a great festival and I’m proud to be associated with it, having emceed the event the past three years. Greenbelt Alliance has been around since 1958, when a group of concerned citizens realized that some of the most majestic and pristine natural areas in the Bay Area were in danger of being paved over. “Protecting open spaces and creating vibrant places” is more than just their motto – it’s their mission.

A few of the noteworthy places Greenbelt Alliance has helped protect are Cowell Ranch in Contra Costa County, Bear Creek Redwoods in Santa Clara County, Pleasanton Ridge in Alameda County, and Fort Funston in San Francisco. Greenbelt Alliance was also part of the efforts to protect the Marin Headlands and Angel Island.

We are truly blessed to have such a bounty of natural beauty in the region – and just as fortunate to have so much bluegrass music around too. The Bluegrass for the Greenbelt Festival and Campout gives us a chance to enjoy both, right in our back yard.

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