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When All the World’s a Stage: Grass Valley’s WorldFest

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Info: Thursday, July 11 to Sunday, July 14, ticket prices range from $75 for an adult day ticket to $185 for a four-day camping ticket. A $5 to $15 discount applies to tickets purchased before Wednesday, July 10,

From the chanting of the Tibetan Monks to the Afro-American beats of Mamajowali, the 17th annual California WorldFest offers a little something for everyone. This four-day camping festival beneath the tall pines of the Nevada County Fairgrounds in Grass Valley is hot. Literally.

With eight different stages cycling performers and workshops throughout the day, it’s sometimes tough to choose where you want to be. And the popular picks during the heat of mid-day might well be whoever is setting up in the air-conditioned comfort of the Discovery Stage. (One of my faves when the mercury is climbing is the Sierra Stage, a shaded alcove next to the beer deck with overhead hoses spraying partygoers with a cool mist of water.)

One of the coolest things about WorldFest (water misting aside) is that you can literally wander the fairgrounds day and night with no set plan for the day and stumble on some of the most amazing musicians and shows as if by sheer accident. WorldFest prides itself on discovering new talent, and the wandering approach can be full of surprises, as I discovered one morning in 2009 when I chanced upon a songwriting workshop.

It was Morley, a woman I’d never heard of, telling people that the polar bears were dying and the above was the same as below. She repeated it. A lot. Sometimes you have to repeat words to hear them. A singer/songwriter from New York, Morley sings her social activism into existence, and that bright July morning she was going to teach us how to do it.

She began with a question — did anyone in the audience have someone to whom they would like to dedicate a song? We would start our lyrics with a name. One man raised his hand and said through tears that his daughter had died in a car crash on her way to the festival the day before.

Over the next half hour a few dozen of us composed a song for her, part tribute, part eulogy. There wasn’t one dry eye in the house when we were done, and many of us embraced the stranger and shared his loss in some small way.

Word spread quickly, and it wasn’t long before WorldFest Co-Director Dan DeWayne was hearing about the transformational experience at the Oak Grove stage. “The thing I love the most about the arts is the ability to allow someone to share a story like that and have it become cathartic,” he said.

This year’s workshops include yoga and tai chi, and a host of dance classes ranging from salsa to samba to Afro-Brazilian. For the kids, there will be hula hooping, juggling instruction, the annual parade, and more. The music lineup includes multi-Grammy-winner Bruce Hornsby appearing with The Noisemakers (Friday); Dehli 2 Dublin, a mix of Bhangra, Celtic, and dub reggae that promises to get the audience grooving (Friday and Saturday); and Jeffery Broussard and the Creole Cowboys, who bring the sounds of the Bayou to life with accordion-infused Zydeco (Saturday & Sunday).

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February 14, 2019