After a venerable, and memorable, run over the last four decades, the Huck Finn Bluegrass Festival has been laid to rest with its 2016 event being its last. Rest in peace. The Huck Finn Jubilee Bluegrass Music Festival was founded by Don Tucker and his family in 1976, although its early genesis began with events in Norco, California, several years earlier. Those beginnings were contributed to by Don and his wife Barbara, along with several others including David “Russ” and Maureen Russell, and Steve and Sandy Perault. But, Don Tucker was the key visionary who took the event’s humble beginnings and moved it to Victorville in 1976, where it found a home at the Mojave Narrows Regional Park.
The three-day festival was held over every Father’s Day weekend throughout its long run. It found early success featuring mostly local bluegrass talent reaching attendance as high as 7,000. In 1989 things changed when Bobby Osborne, of the famous Osborne Brothers, called Don Tucker and wanted to play his festival while the group was on the West Coast. Don booked them and the show was a great success. In following years Don booked other big name bluegrass bands.
As it grew in stature the event would program bluegrass acts throughout most of the weekend and on one evening feature county acts, drawing the best of the best from both worlds. The festival also featured activities such as greased pole climbing, tomahawk throwing, pie eating, arm wrestling championships, river rafting, country dancing, and arts and crafts. The event was for many years the West Coast’s biggest bluegrass festival. To give you an idea how important this festival became, here is a partial list of its performers:
Sam Bush, the String Cheese Incident, Ralph Stanley, Rhonda Vincent, Del McCoury Band, David Byrne, Johnny Cash, Cherryholmes, Elvis Costello, John Fogerty, Dixie Chicks, New Monsoon, Sharon Gilchrist, Railroad Earth, New Grass Revival, Emmylou Harris, Alison Krauss and Union Station, Willie Nelson, Robert Plant, John Prine, Yonder Mountain String Band, Mumford & Sons, Peter Rowan, Leftover Salmon, Béla Fleck, Chris Thile, Noam Pikelny, Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band, Tim O’Brien, Counting Crows, Nickel Creek, Lyle Lovett, Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers, Merle Haggard, the Country Gentlemen, the Seldom Scene, Jimmy Martin, J.D. Crowe, Larry Sparks, Tony Rice, Earl Scruggs, Ricky Skaggs, Lonesome River Band, and Blue Highway among others.
In 2001 Huck Finn won the coveted IBMA Award for Bluegrass Event of the Year. Then, with the death of Don Tucker in 2012, the festival was moved to Cucamonga-Guasti Regional Park in Ontario where it struggled for two years. In 2014 the festival was acquired by the Greater Ontario Convention and Visitors Bureau which produced it through its final year in 2016 when the Convention and Visitors’ Bureau concluded it no longer met their mission.
Sideline Concert November 4.
Outstanding national bluegrass band Sideline will be presented in concert in San Diego on Friday, November 4, by the non-profit San Diego Bluegrass Society. Sideline is a powerful group of seasoned pros which has been getting busier and busier since this “side project” became a main gig for its members. Sideline consists of Steve Dilling (banjo), Skip Cherryholmes (guitar), Jason Moore (bass), Brian Aldridge (mandolin), Nathan Aldridge (fiddle) and Brad Hudson (dobro). Here are the concert details:
7 pm: Mojave Soul Opening Act
7:30 pm: SIDELINE
La Jolla Christian Fellowship Church
627 Genter St, La Jolla, CA 92037
Admission: FREE; donations solicited