Parkfield Bluegrass 2005

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May 4, 2005: If I believed in signs and portents and other mythical baloney, I might think someone does not want me traveling with my trailer.

I have been rained on at the last three bluegrass festivals I attended Ė Plymouth CA in September, Bullhead City AZ in February, and Parker AZ in March. Now Iím at Parkfield, with clouds overhead and possible showers and thunderstorms in the forecast.

At the last festival, in Parker, I had two flat tires. As most of you know, ten days after I returned from that month-long trip, my father passed away in Mesa AZ, so I returned there by plane to drive their car and my mother home (she does not drive).

At the end of March I went on a two day camping trip up the Kings River with my grandson Mikie. When we arrived home, I discovered that a bolt holding the trailer suspension had broken, allowing the front and back tires on one side to rub against each other, and bending the suspension spring on the other side.

Getting the trailer in for repair was an adventure in itself. I had to hitch it up and drive up onto a long flat bed truck from the tow company. The truck and trailer were then hauled to the repair facility, where I backed the trailer down off the truck. I was not sure I would have it in time for this trip, but it was ready a week before my departure date.

Then to make things interesting during my last two days of getting ready, my home computer acquired a virus and a spyware infection. Getting rid of the virus involved uninstalling and reinstalling my virus program, downloading and installing two additions to it, and downloading and running a repair tool program. This got rid of the virus, but not the other problem, so I downloaded and installed an update to my spyware removal program. I was able to remove part of the problem, but I still had one bad file when I left home this morning.

But enough of that Ė on to the 2005 Parkfield Bluegrass Festival. This is the second annual Parkfield Festival, but the 5th one I have attended at Parkfield; previously it was the Camp Rude festival, which I believe started in 1999.

I left Fresno about 10:10 today for the 100-mile drive, and arrived here about 12:30. It was warm and cloudy, so I nervously watched the sky while I sweated getting everything set up.

Joe, the promoter, is a great guy, but not very well organized. I was talking with him and he asked me if I would help him set up a canopy over the ticket table. I agreed, and went back to my trailer to do a couple of my own set-up jobs first. When I returned, he was nowhere to be seen, so I asked his wife to have him give me a holler when he was ready, and continued setting up my own camp.

Later I went over to the front entrance again and found him working with the people setting up the sound system. He said he was ready to get started, so we got the framework put together. Then he had to go to his trailer, about a quarter mile away, to get the tarp. Soon he returned, but without the tarp; he brought a fire barrel to someone. Then he went back to get the tarp. Soon his vehicle returned, with the tarp, but with someone else driving, so we waited some more, not knowing how to put the thing together.

When he finally returned, the people setting up the sound had questions for him, and he finally told us to go about our business, and he would let us know when he was ready to finish the canopy. I went back to my trailer and had lunch, and when I went back out front, luckily most of the work had been done. I did help unload some of the sound equipment and related items, but I was then able to fix a drink, sit down, and relax.


May 5, 2005: The rain started around midnight. We had a hard rain with some thunder and lightning, then it stopped or slowed down a lot. It started up again about 6 a.m., and has been raining steadily since then (as of 9:45). The forecast is for scattered showers tomorrow, but right now itís strictly inside weather for me. I did sit out under the awning a while, reading and drinking a bloody Mary, but itís not very pleasant. I came in and had breakfast, and will probably do some reading and TV watching until further notice.

Thankfully, I have electric power, something almost no one else here in RVs can say. I ended up camped right next to a pump, which has an electrical outlet and water hookup. My next door neighbors were also able to get connected, so I guess this is the upper class area of the campground.

May 6, 2005: The rain finally stopped for a while about 11 yesterday. I went for a drive up the road that goes over to Coalinga. It turns to dirt about eight miles out of town, and in wet weather is impassable, so I turned around there and came back. I have to confess that I started up that muddy road, because it didn't look that bad. However, the dirt there has a composition that instantly turns slick when it gets wet. After just a few feet I realized I needed to turn around. Then I realized I should just go in reverse very slowly back on to the pavement, and even doing this, the truck slid around a bit (see photos below).

It is very pretty country. The broad valley that holds the town narrows down, and there is a flat, lush creek bottom with brown hills rising abruptly about 40 feet from the stream. There are some yuccas in bloom, and overall it was a nice drive.

It rained off and on a couple more times in the afternoon. The music was supposed to start on Thursday, but there was very little of that. Did I mention that the promoter is disorganized? He did have two groups play from the porch of the Parkfield Inn, without sound amplification. (5/06 update: The 2006 festival was very well organized; everything started on time. Third time's the charm.)

During this time it started raining again, very lightly at first. I wandered over to the stage area about 7 (a half hour after the scheduled start of the evening show). They were testing the sound system, but no one was in the audience and it didnít look like anything was happening. After I returned to the trailer, it started raining hard, and kept it up until I went to bed about 10:30, so I donít know if there was an evening show or not. My guess is no. At times the rain was so hard I could not hear my TV over the sound of it pounding on the roof.

This morning is sunny with some clouds around, and a breeze that picks up now and then. Weíre just hoping it will blow the storm somewhere else.

My friend Janell, who I worked with at the Welfare/Social Services department for a number of years, will drive over this morning to join me. It will be her first bluegrass festival.


May 8, 2005: The music got started "only" two hours late on Friday, but the show was good. Janell arrived about 1 p.m., so didnít miss much. She enjoyed the location and the music and the people, and ended up buying three CDs from some of the better performers.

The show was only an hour late on Saturday, and almost on time on Sunday. The best groups, as expected, were the best known, all of which I had seen before Ė the Witcher Brothers, James King, and the Fox Family. The Fox Family, from upstate New York by way of Nashville, were terrific at Mariposa in 1998 and 1999, terrific here last year, and sensational this year. James King, one of the very biggest names in bluegrass, was also great.

When youíre waiting for the festival dates to arrive, or waiting at the site for the music to begin, it seems to take a long time, but once it gets going, it goes very fast. Itís all over, Sunday night at 7, and I will be staying tonight and trying to get an early start tomorrow. We didnít have any more rain until a very brief shower almost at the very end of the show today, but the sky is threatening. Iím hoping for no rain, since we donít need any more mud, and hitching up the trailer in the rain would definitely be a pain in the butt.

May 16, 2005: There was a little more rain during the night, and even a few misty drops while I was getting ready to go, but nothing too bad. There was lots of mud on the trailer and pickup, however. It sprinkled off and on all the way home (and if you live in the west, you are aware that itís still doing that, right up through this morning).

I got the trailer unloaded and took it to the storage lot, and got busy catching up on things and listening to the CD I had bought.

I won ďticketsĒ to a festival near Santa Cruz in June, but I have nothing to show for it; they just wrote my name and address on a piece of paper, and said they would notify the promoter. Knowing how disorganized the Parkfield promoter is, I think Iíll send an Email to the Santa Cruz folks if I donít hear from them in a few days (5/29/06 Update: I never was able to get these tickets that I "won," and heard from a friend that the festival might not have happened at all). Meanwhile, Iím also enjoying a Rhonda Vincent DVD I ordered on line a while back, something I can do without having to sit in the rain.

--Dick Estel, May 2005

(Photos open in a new window)

Barn on Parkfield-Coalinga Road The muddy road Yes, those are my tire tracks
Cholame Creek north of town

Looking northeast just outside of town

Home in downtown Parkfield
Pickin' on the Cafe Porch Dick listening on the porch Witcher Brothers
Eric Uglam & Sons Fox Family James King Band
Promoters Joe & Darlene Quealy  Joel, Kim & Barb Fox James King & Janell
Related Web Sites
Recommended CDs, DVDs, Books
James King Bluegrass Info Witcher Brothers
Parkfield Festival Parkfield CA Eric Uglam
Dick's Bluegrass Links Fox Family Bluegrass Festival Dick's Bluegrass T-Shirt Photos


James King Band

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