Once a summer, in the heart of the Sierra Nevada, there’s a pop-up village that teaches beekeeping and sways to Afropop. Where steampunk medicine shows cozy up to Arab Spring arts instigators. Where hiking and farm stands meet Apple researchers practicing street magic.
Drawing on California’s many facets – its wild-eyed dreams, its cultural savvy and technological edge, its down-to-earth rugged legacies – the California WorldFest in Grass Valley shows how a small community can foster a friendly global arts hub. “Some people comment that it’s a strange place for a world music festival,” said Julie Baker, executive director of Grass Valley’s Center for the Arts. “But we’re pioneers and tend to be curious people.”
The festival feeds this curiosity with high-caliber global sounds, both established names (past headliners include Lucinda Williams, Richard Thompson, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Ani DiFranco, Ziggy Marley, Cake, Michael Franti, Los Lobos) and startling discoveries such as past artists DakhaBrakha, Beats Antique, Yemen Blues.
This vivid diversity rocks eight stages and has built a community of diehard fans.
WorldFest regulars often buy tickets and reserve campsites at the woodsy Nevada County Fairgrounds site before the festival’s first act is announced.
Yet the festival also creates a space that manages to be exploratory and challenging, as well as welcoming and friendly.
“We’ve struck a balance between family-friendly elements and activities, and opportunities for festival-goers to encounter something new, something that shakes their assumptions and makes them think,” Baker said. “We want people to hear something new, to learn something new, and to go away with a deeper understanding and connection to the world.”