Nevada County Fairgrounds: Home to signature music festivals

THE NEVADA COUNTY FAIRGROUNDS in Grass Valley is home to the Nevada County Fair, the Draft Horse Classic and the Country Christmas Faire. Situated among hundreds of towering pine trees on nearly 100 acres, the fairgrounds are commonly referred to as “California’s most beautiful fairgrounds.”

But that’s not all: The fairgrounds is the venue of choice for some of the region’s iconic music festivals, including the Strawberry Music Festival, CBA Father’s Day Bluegrass Festival, Music in the Mountains’ SummerFest, California WorldFest and KVMR’s Celtic Festival & Marketplace. It also hosts the Sierra BrewFest, one of California’s oldest brewfests.

On Memorial Day weekend, 10-time Grammy winner Bonnie Raitt will perform at the fairgrounds during the Strawberry Music Festival. The iconic festival moved to the fairgrounds from Camp Mather just outside of Yosemite.

Much of the credit for a full year-round “dance card” at the fairgrounds goes to Sandy Woods, chief executive officer of the Nevada County Fairgrounds, as well as the staff and board. Sandy’s keen business acumen, which includes 20 years at the fairgrounds, as well as a previous experience in finance, has helped the Nevada County Fairgrounds thrive at a time when other fairs are struggling.

Sandy has built strong relationships with performing arts groups, such as The Center for the Arts, Music in the Mountains and others, to host their performances. That was nowhere more apparent than in summer 2012, when music legend Willie Nelson performed at the fairgrounds, dazzling a sold-out crowd. Merle Haggard performed the next night.

This winter, Woods was inducted into Western Fairs Association Hall of Fame. Woods also has been Chair of the California Fairs Alliance, which provides advocacy and resource development for California fairs.

After serving 20 years at the fairgrounds, Woods recently announced her retirement as CEO. Recruitment for a new CEO has begun, and Woods will continue in her role until a replacement is found.

Festivals at the Fairgrounds

MAY 21-25

California Bluegrass Association
JUNE 18-21

Music in the Mountains

JULY 16-19

KVMR 19th Annual

*Some earlier concerts are at Peace Lutheran Church in Grass Valley

(Photo: Maria Chavez)

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