Monday, July 25, 2011

The Live Oak Way

In 2003, when V was still just a wee baby, the girls and I had our first taste of the Central Coast's biggest, live, single-weekend event - Live Oak Music Festival. I purchased the Friday evening pass to check it out, but at the gate they'd run out of the Friday wristband, so opted to give me the full-weekend pass. We had a family gathering slated in SLO County Saturday, so we headed home late Friday evening. But Sunday morning saw us back at the dusty, hot, musical extravaganza, and we've returned most years for the full festival weekend, complete with camping. (You can read about 2008 here, and 2009 here.)

It's not an inexpensive festival. A family shells out a few hundred bucks for the priviledge of camping side-by-side, tent-to-tent with thousands of their "closets friends." But the weekend pass and related expenses benefit our local public radio station, and also buys hours of entertainment, featuring musical performances throughout the day from 9 a.m. until after midnight. Plus there's the kids' area, thankfully placed in line with the stage so parents like me who look after their children don't miss a moment of the musical action, and there are crafts for kids and adults alike, artists on display, and a variety of vendors including healthy eateries and snack spots. The volunteers are friendly and the overall vibe is relaxed and friendly.

Last year, in an effort to help save money for our Kauai vacation, we opted to skip Live Oak for the first time in 7 years. But even with their Live Oak memory nearly two years old this year, the girls were still talking about the festival, and planning ahead for their next weekend in the dirt. In fact, they even began raising their own money so they'd have some to spend at the vendors.

They made a small fortune with their pre-festival lemonade stand which featured not only homemade lemonade and brownies, but also their handmade crafts: necklaces, bracelets, rings, bookmarks and greeting cards. The Saturday morning event pulled in garage salers cruising the neighborhood for deals, neighbors, and friends who'd caught wind of the event. One couple pulled over to donate cash to the cause simply because they appreciated the entrepreneurial effort, and the creative flag waving into which the girls threw their energy during the last hour.

Live Oak Friends and Neighbors
We typically arrive at Live Oak one day before the gates open. There's a pre-party, of sorts, in the parking lot where early arrivals line up for early access to the campground which is already largely dominated by volunteers who setup their camps, and their incoming friends' camps. While packed onto the dirt staging area within feet of each other, campers get to know their one-night neighbors, meet up with old friends and wander from one jam session to another. This year, we brought chili to share with some of our Live Oak friends. (They provided the wine.) Others provide stew to any passers by in trade for beer, music or a good story. A giant sycamore tree at the front of the line provides shade for a jam circle or two.

This year, we were 13th in line, almost our earliest arrival. (We were only a few cars behind a long-time friend who, for years, scored the first-car slot.) Within minutes of arrival, we ran into a pair of now-teenage girls with whom E and V had spent much of the festival two years prior. Once we placed each other (the teens didn't recognize me, but immediately remembered the girls when they popped out of the van), one of the girls trotted away. A few minutes later she returned with a visor V had left in their camper. The teens had held onto the visor for two years, carting it to Live Oak with the belief that they'd see us again. THAT is the Live Oak way.

By arriving early, we'd hoped to return to a shady spot away from the teeming masses. But even with a spot so high in line, we were thwarted; some of the volunteers who were granted early arrival priviledges (in trade for the hours upon hours of work they do to prep the grounds) had taken over that entire corner of the campground. So, back out to the main drag we went, and ultimately found ourselves parked at one of the major pedestrian crossroads of the campground.

I was a little disappointed at first. This area is notoriously loud, particularly Saturday night when stages on both ends of the campground are running simultaneously. But it turned out to be among my favorite spots. The girls are just the right age to be in a social spot; the trailer drew a lot of
interest (funky is TOTALLY in vogue at Live Oak); and the noise wasn't that bad since the girls and I didn't even try to sleep through it this year - bedtime, shmedtime!

The girls quickly made friend with a little girl camped about 15 feet from our door. By Saturday night, her parents and I had visited enough that they felt comfortable leaving her to play with my girls while I watched them. (The concerts are all broadcast throughout the camp on super-short-range FM radio, so I wasn't going to miss anything, and I knew it was a band my girls wouldn't enjoy.) They played with the bubble treasure box that Aunty B brought with her during the 2009 festival (and left behind for us to share again), then moved on to creating their own light show with glow sticks.

As the three little girls stood back to back in the pitch dark waving their sticks to a blur, passers by offered words of appreciation for their creativity. One man brought me a new candle for my lantern so I wouldn't be sitting in the dark anymore. A young adult couple stopped by to try the bubble treasure chest again in the dark - because they just wanted to know what blowing bubble after dark would be like.

So, sure, it's an expensive weekend. But the memories are priceless. Next year: more lemonade and craft stands.


  1. Looks like a blast! Maybe we'll find a way out there (one of these years). The tree swing photos reminded me of the old tree swing up at Tingey Corner - good memories :)

  2. I am absolutely sure that I would love this festival! I want a bird seed box in my yard(my dog would eat it probably) Nice light show photos!


Blog featured with: