The flyer for this weekend''s Camp Rude Bluegrass Festival warns travelers to "watch out for roaming cattle and wild pigs on Cholame Rd." The festival, now in its fourth year, is held in Parkfield, which is about as far south and east in Monterey County as it''s possible to get. And there''s not much out there except for cattle and wildlife.
This weekend, however, the tiny community, with its rustic lodge and cafe, will be overrun with an anticipated 1,200 bluegrass lovers.
"We''ve shown about a 20 percent growth each year," says Pat Conway, festival founder. "And we''re expecting to about double this year. We''re going to have to cut off ticket sales so we can keep the same atmosphere."
People who''ve attended past Camp Rude Bluegrass Festivals say there''s a special atmosphere that pervades the event. Conway sums it up in Camp Rude''s motto: "Less Rules, More Fun."
"The main festivals you go to are overmanaged, micromanaged to the point it''s no fun. Even the people who work security, they could rip your throat out, but they''re really mellow."
According to Conway, some of the festival''s best music won''t be on stage. It''s the kind of festival where everyone brings their own instruments, and when they''re not listening to other people play, they''re picking and grinning at their own campsites.
"It''s like the jams 20 years ago," says Conway. "People are playing their balls off. You go from camp to camp and you hear the best music, and it lasts until six in the morning."
On the other hand, Conway says, there is a "quiet area" where families and others who value their sleep over non-stop music can get away from the fiddles, banjos and dobroes.
Conway takes pride in the festival''s congenial family atmosphere and makes special efforts to accommodate everyone. He waxes particularly prideful in talking about the festival''s attention to handicapped-accessibility-everything from special camping locations to bathrooms. "We even had a guy we needed to hook up to a breathing machine," says Conway. "It brings a tear to my eye. Some of these people are on their last legs but they still want to go to a bluegrass festival."
The accessibility and friendly vibe extends backstage, as well. By Monday, after most of the campers have gone, Conway says he and his wife will cook for whatever remaining musicians there may be.
"We don''t like to just give ''em their check and say goodbye," Conway says. "We treat everyone the way they like to be treated."
In order to accomplish that goal, there are a number of improvements to this year''s festival, Conway says, including additional camp sites, better restroom facilities and more vendors (everything from musical instruments to RV supplies). Perhaps the most important change is that the Parkfield Cafe, the only restaurant in town and which is located at the festival''s ground zero, will be serving food buffet style this year so as to speed up the feeding process.
This year''s festival features about 14 official bands, including Kane''s River, The Grasshoppers, Silverado, Sam Hill, The Cherryholmes Family, Grateful Dudes, Bear Ridge, Pea Hens, South Side, Uncle Slosh and the Drunkardnauts, Kickin'' Grass and Earthquake Country. Of course, those are only the official bands. In addition to the many jam groups that will get together, there will also be a band scramble (probably on Friday) where the musicians will throw their names in a hat, and bands will be created more or less at random.
As in years past, many music workshops will be offered throughout the weekend, there''ll be a special Mother''s Day gift-making workshop for kids, and there''ll be special presents for moms on Sunday.
The fourth annual Camp Rude Bluegrass Festival takes place in downtown Parkfield from Friday through Sunday. Three-day tickets: $60; two-day: $40; one-day: $25. More info: (559) 280-2054 or www.camprude.com.