By Regina Elling
If you love bluegrass music of all types and the lifestyle of the historic Old West, you are sure to love one of the biggest events in Ramona — the annual Ramona Bluegrass and Old West Fest.
It’s a weekend full of great music, daytime jam sessions, fireside story telling, nighttime jam sessions, camping, good eats, music workshops and even more jam sessions.
The event takes over the Ramona Outdoor Community Center May 4 and 5. Event organizer Rob Lewallen says a lot of changes and new events are being planned.
“One of our big changes this year is that we will host three stages,” he said. “We will have two stages dedicated to the bands performing bluegrass and other music, and the bands will be more equally balanced between the two. And a third stage will be reserved for the Old West side of our event.”
More than a dozen leading bluegrass bands of all types will be performing over the two-day Bluegrass and Old West Fest. Major headliners include Hot Club of Cowtown, Head for the Hills, Chris Stuart and Janet Beasley, Next Generation, Lonesome Otis, Gone Tomorrow, Chris Clarke and Plow, Lacemakers, Shirthouse Bluegrass Band, Judy Taylor, Orchard Thieves, Prairie Sky, Taildraggers, Captain Cooper, Leatherman, and many more.
After the day’s performances on Saturday, a dance will finish events for the night. Hot Club of Cowtown will offer its Texas Swing style music to end the day.
“One of our new activities this year concerns the Old West part of our weekend. Over by the Rodeo arena, this year we will celebrate Old West history with an encampment. Mountain Men, Civil War Era soldiers and even cowboys will be holed up at our event as they make their way across the West,” said Lewallen. “Guests will be able to visit the camps, meet the re-enactors and learn about how life was lived in the past.“
Ramona resident Jim “Captain” Cooper is in charge of the Encampment portion of the event.
“The public will have an unparalleled learning opportunity,” Cooper said. “Most of the stuff you will see is authentic to the time period and has been carefully collected over many, many years. You will be able to talk to the enactors, to have your questions answered with full explanations, and view some items rarely seen outside of museums.”
Of course, the music of the Old West is not forgotten; a third stage will be dedicated to old ballads, trail songs, and cowboy music and poets.
Another change is the addition of Music Workshops.
“Both the band members from our lineup, as well as a host of other fine musicians, will be leading music workshops,” said Lewallen. “It’s a great way for kids and adults to bring their instruments and play along. Some of the planned workshops include fiddle, mandolin, guitar, banjo, and even a harmony workshop by Chris Stuart and Janet Beasley.”
Event organizers also plan activities for the younger set, including face painting, a petting zoo, and game area.
And the eats promise to be better than ever, with “a fabulous variety of food, and some ‘real’ barbecue,” Lewallen said with a laugh.
Numerous vendor booths will offer unique items as well.
The bluegrass event is not to be confused with Ramona Music Fest, another event that also takes place in Ramona. The two activities are a weekend apart, so for this year only, they will combine to form “Ramona Music Days & Nights.”
“The Ramona Music Days & Nights starts with the Ramona Music Fest on April 27, and there will be music activities all week long here in town,” said Lewallen. “We plan to have at least two musical events per day. It all culminates with the two-day Ramona Bluegrass and Old West Fest the following weekend.”
“We have so many different bands, everybody’s palate will be pleased,” he added. “We’ve really mixed it up this year.”
Ramona Outdoor Community Center is at 421 Aqua Lane. May 4 hours are from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.; May 5 hours are from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
For ticket prices and the schedule of events, visit Ramonabluegrassfest.com or call 760-789-6173.