California WorldFest turns 20 in Grass Valley

CALIFORNIA WORLDFEST BEGAN IN 1996 to showcase the world’s finest artists performing music and dance. The summertime jam at the Nevada County Fairgrounds in Grass Valley was founded by longtime Chico residents Dan DeWayne and Christine Myers.

The couple also co-founded the popular Strawberry Music Festival and pioneered the concept of bringing the Bluegrass festival formula, where much of the audience camps out and plays music themselves, to a wider audience. Dan’s motto: “Music and festivals unite.”

WorldFest celebrates its 20th anniversary this year in the hands of The Center for the Arts, which bought the festival in December 2014. The Center has been a catalyst for our region’s booming arts and culture scene. This pop-up village for music and dance, which attracts thousands of people from all over, is July 14-17 at the Fairgrounds.

“A perfect match for The Center’s mission, California WorldFest is 4-day festival with 8 stages of music, youth and family programs, workshops, a global village highlighting multi-cultural awareness and engagement, shopping with quality arts and crafts and food vendors,” says The Center’s Executive Director Julie Baker. Julie has more than 25 years of arts marketing and management experience in California and New York City, has been an art gallery owner, and serves on the board of California Arts Advocates and Californians for the Arts.

“Over 5000 people per day attend the festival with over 60 percent coming from outside Nevada County. The Center continues to be an economic engine while bringing people together through music and the arts.”

WorldFest’s music runs the gamut: AfroPop, Bulgarian harmonies, Latin American, bluegrass, Scottish fiddle tunes, rock and roll, jumpin’ jazz, gypsy, folk, new acoustic, mariachi, Russian folk, swing jazz, gospel, Bollywood and Celtic.

Boz Scaggs

This year’s California WorldFest has an imimpressive lineup of artists. They include Boz Scaggs, Delhi 2 Dublin, Mariachi Flor de Toloache, Awa Sangho from Mali, Nahko & Medicine for the People, Third World from Jamaica, Emel Mathlouthi from Tunisia, Peter Mawanga & the Amaravi Movement from Malawi, Terrance Simien & The Zydeco Experience from New Orleans, Liz Vice, Dead Winter Carpenters, Sahba Motallebi, The Suitcase Junket, Eva Salina, Boogat, Rita Hosking, Grass Valley Taiko and the Banana Slug String Band.

WorldFest attendees also enjoy vocal, instrumental, percussion and songwriting workshops hosted by many of the performers and invited workshop presenters. Drummers and dancers join the late night drumming circles in the Welcome Stage.

At a World Marketplace, festival goers can shop for stone and silver jewelry and clothing from Africa, Indonesia, Central and South America. This year’s food artisans include Spiro’s Gyros, India Gourmet, Fatty Egg Roll, How You Bean, Sankofa, Lazy Dog Ice Cream, Hula Huts, and Jardin Del Rio fruit stand in the campgrounds, featuring fresh, local fruits and veggies.

This year WorldFest is expanding its Global Indigenous Peoples Village. Included will be more workshops, demonstrations, music and dance. Attendees can enjoy live entertainment, meet the artists, learn about traditional instruments, dance, costume, and crafts.

At the WorldFest playground, children of all ages enjoy supervised activities, including workshops, art projects and a parade. “Games on the Green” includes activities such as a water slide, volleyball and “kiddie” pools.

Camping among the pines has become increasingly popular—each year more than 2000 folks camp out. Groups return each year creating elaborate collective campsites, sharing food and jamming (often joined by main stage performers) late into the night. For tickets and more information, visit

(Photo: Boz Scaggs by Rex via Zuma Press)

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