The fifth edition of the Plumas Homegrown Americana Festival filled the Plumas-Sierra County Fairgrounds in Quincy with singing, picking, playing, and dancing — and raindrops on metal roofs providing counterpoint.
Despite the rain, which was sometimes torrential, organizer John Steffanic reported that attendance stayed roughly the same as last year as 200-plus music lovers and square dancers gathered over Labor Day weekend. Steffanic, Plumas-Sierra County Fair manager, said camping increased 20 percent over last year.
“Attendees for this event tend to come early, and stay longer with an obvious affection for our community,” said Steffanic. “Many look forward to visiting the same restaurants from year to year and some come back to the area throughout the year to visit again.” The festival is presented by the Plumas-Sierra County Fairgrounds to boost economic development for the area, he said. Attendees came from as far away as Hawaii, Colorado, Oregon, and Michigan.
Headliners this year were Banana and the Bunch, featuring Lowell Levinger of The Youngbloods, and San Francisco–based Dirty Cello. Steffanic said that performers accustomed to playing much larger events are happy to perform in Quincy because the Plumas-Sierra County Fair treats them well. There’s also the festival’s vibe — “friendly, cozy, personal, and entertaining,” said Steffanic — and the natural beauty of Plumas County, which several performers mentioned during their shows. “We’re always looking for a reason to drive up to Quincy,” said Jason Eckl of Dirty Cello.
Ten-plus additional musical groups rounded out the two-day schedule, playing traditional bluegrass, classic rock covers, folk tunes, and original compositions. One group that got the audience up and dancing was Dust In My Coffee, from Auburn. Their lyrics included references to Sierra Nevada history, the Truckee River, and life in the mountains.
The festival, billed as “a celebration of rural life,” goes beyond musical entertainment to encourage development of festivalgoers’ own musical skills. An entire stage lineup, Barky’s Jam-O-Rama, was dedicated to workshops, jam sessions, local bands, and collaborative performances. The stage is named for Quincy resident and musician Lance Barker. He started by volunteering at the festival and “loved it so much” that he went on to become the host at Barky’s, he said.
“I especially enjoy creating jamming workshops for beginners,” said Barker. “I believe that everyone should have the opportunity to experience the joy of playing music together, and I love helping to create a culture of music making in our community.” Barker himself played with the local group The Candy Pickers, named for Carey Candy Company in Quincy, where the members meet to practice.
Taylorsville musicians Ken Cawley and Joe Tomaselli joined visiting duo Cactus Bob and Prairie Flower for a seamless performance. Their only preparation was a half-hour rehearsal, said Cawley. “That’s what I like, when it grows up from the people.” More spontaneous ensembles formed after hours, when attendees donned warm coats and brought out their instruments in impromptu jam circles.
Local groups and aspiring musicians had an additional chance for their moment in the spotlight during the Open Mic Night on Friday before the festival. Organizer Mike Miller reported a great evening with 24 acts taking the stage. Attendees enjoyed a spaghetti dinner, and a prize giveaway supported the festival.
“I love helping to create a culture of music making in our community.”Lance Barker, host, Barky’s Stage
In addition to a weekend of music, the festival hosted Square Dancing in the Mountains, drawing dancers from throughout Northern California and Nevada. Over the weekend, volunteers offered concessions such as wine, ice cream sundaes and coffee to support the nonprofit Plumas Sierra County Fair Foundation.
“Only two years after COVID and the Dixie fire, the Plumas Homegrown Americana Festival is still in the rebuilding phase,” said Steffanic. “With a full year of marketing, something that couldn’t happen last year, attendance is expected to increase next year.”
The event is always on the lookout for ambassadors, he said. Those interested in spreading the word or volunteering may contact him at email@example.com. In the meantime, Steffanic encourages everyone to set aside Labor Day weekend for the next 20 or 30 years and “be part of the best darn Americana festival in the West!”