The fate of the Strawberry Music Festivals at Camp Mather near Yosemite now hangs in the balance and the support of the event’s many Northern California Bluegrass Society fans and their friends is now needed.
Background: The hugely successful eclectic roots music festival (including steady regular doses of high quality bluegrass), held on Memorial Day Weekend and Labor Day Weekend since 1982, has been brought to its knees, first by the economic recession and a run of bad Sierra spring weather, and then by the devastating Rim Fire that forced the last-minute cancellation of the Fall 2013 festival.
The fire resulted in huge losses to the festival — and left Strawberry Music, Inc. either owing a large number of ticket refunds (after the money had already been spent on staging the festival that never took place) or a replacement festival (which Strawberry has not yet been able to stage).
A Small Business Administration federal loan was arranged as part of the fire disaster recovery for Tuolumne County. This loan would enable the Strawberry company to present a festival that will allow it to fulfill its obligations to holders of outstanding tickets and to make some money that will permit the business to continue to operate and present future festivals. This loan is strictly contingent upon Strawberry presenting a 2014 festival in Tuolumne County. The loan was approved too late to allow a Memorial Day Weekend festival, so as a practical matter, the last chance to use the disaster recovery loan funding will be for a festival held on Labor Day Weekend in 2014.
The City of San Francisco, owner of Camp Mather, has repaired the camp’s water system that was damaged by the Rim Fire (and also other less severe damage to the camp itself) and will hold its family camping sessions this summer. However, the serious drought affecting California has significantly reduced the water flow in the creek that supplies water for the camp. In addition, the US Forest Service has expressed concern that pre-festival camping outside of Camp Mather’s boundaries, where the Rim Fire seriously damaged many trees, may not be safe.
Strawberry has announced that it will answer these concerns by (1) asking festival attendees to bring some water with them to the festival, (2) asking campers to carefully reduce water use, (3) by having the festival bring water in trucks to the event, and (4) to strictly prohibit any pre-event camping outside of Camp Mather.
However, the City of San Francisco has not yet agreed to allow the Fall 2014 festival to go forward. A favorable decision is needed soon to allow time to plan and execute a festival on Labor Day Weekend.
The likely outcome of the failure to hold a Fall event is that the company and the festival will be wiped out and everyone involved — the company, ticketholders, Tuolumne County businesses, and fans — will lose everything they have invested in this unique, quality music event. In addition, San Francisco will lose substantial future rental revenue, the local area will lose future business from the festival — and the area music community will be the poorer for the event’s demise.
Action Needed: Strawberry has asked that festival supporters send positive communications to San Francisco city officials in support of the 2014 Labor Day festival, and that people planning to attend the event pledge their cooperation regarding water conservation and camping.
Here is the Official Strawberry Announcement with the address for your correspondence:
April 22, 2014
It has recently come to our attention that the permit for the Fall 2014 Festival at Camp Mather is in question due to concerns that have been raised over potable water supply and forest closure conditions on Evergreen Road. Last Tuesday, the Tuolumne County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a letter to San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department requesting that a permit be issued for the Fall 2014 Festival with language allowing the option for us to mitigate these concerns.
For over 30 years, we have worked with the Tuolumne County Public Works Department and Cal Trans to insure the safe entry and exit of festival goers on Evergreen Road. We are confident in our ability to inform festival participants of the Forest Closure and the importance of complying with Forest Service regulations. Additionally, we are willing to supply potable water, as needed, at the Fall 2014 Festival. We are capable of dealing with all of the issues that have been raised and have done so successfully in the past. We also believe that those of you who wish to attend the Fall Festival will be willing to pack extra water, if necessary, as well as observe the Forest Closure along Evergreen Road and surrounding Camp Mather.
As you know, the permit for the Fall 2014 Festival is required for us to receive previously approved disaster relief funding from the Small Business Administration. Our loan with the SBA was approved, in part, because Strawberry Music Festival is an essential part of the economic recovery of the Groveland area and Hwy 120 corridor businesses. The residents and business owners of this community have suffered enough as a result of the Rim Fire and again during the month long closure of Yosemite National Park. Tuolumne County Board of Supervisors and the County Administrator’s office have lent us their full support, because of the positive impact Strawberry has had on the economy and the integrity with which we have conducted our business for over three decades.
It is imperative that we get a permit that allows for us to mitigate issues at Camp Mather so that we can refund our customers and continue to produce future festivals. We remain committed to doing everything possible to make this happen.
Please support us in our endeavor to hold the Fall 2014 Festival at Camp Mather by writing positive letters of support and sending them to San Francisco Mayor Edwin Lee. It is time to let our representatives and those who represent the residents of San Francisco know who we are and what Strawberry means to us.
The Strawberry Staff
Please send your letter to:
Mayor Edwin Lee
City Hall, Room 200
1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place
San Francisco, CA 94102
(Note: Strawberry edited this letter after it was sent earlier today to remove a section asking supporters to also write US Senator Diane Feinstein about this matter.)