Category Archives: Events & Happenings

Legendary County Folk Singer Iris DeMent

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On Thursday, October 23rd, Iris DeMent, one of the great voices in contemporary popular music, returns to the Miners Foundry Cultural Center, performing songs that span her twenty-two year career along with songs from from her most recent album Sing the Delta, a masterpiece sixteen years in the making. DeMent’s legendary voice sounds as if it comes from the previous century, but her songwriting has as much in common with Joni Mitchell as Hank Williams. This is one of only three California performances that also includes shows in Napa and Berkeley. Supporting DeMent on this tour is Pieta Brown, daughter of legendary troubadour Greg Brown.

The Grammy-award nominee is best known for her one of a kind voice that is “capable of both heartbreaking fragility and blow-your-ears-back-power”. DeMent was born in Paragould, Arkansas, the last of fourteen children in her family. Her parents were farmers, but after hitting hard times in 1964, they sold the farm and moved west to California. DeMent’s parents passed on to her their love of music: Her mom sang around the house and at church, and as a young man, her dad had played fiddle at dances around Arkansas. For a family that saw its share of hard times, music was a necessity of life, not just a pastime. Her older sisters formed a gospel group called The DeMent Sisters and eventually recorded an album. She grew up listening to traditional country and gospel music, which influenced her roots-folk sound, though she was twenty-five years old when she wrote her first song. While living in Kansas City, she taught herself to play the guitar. Her songs drew directly upon her own life and the people within it. Eventually, DeMent moved to Nashville, where her performances led to a recording contract.

Since her 1992 debut, DeMent has bloomed as a songwriter, finding her niche in folk and country, putting out four albums and performing with greats such as John Prine, Steve Earle, Emmylou Harris, and Merle Haggard. Haggard, who said of DeMent, “She’s the best singer I’ve ever heard,” invited her to sit in as his piano player touring with his legendary band The Strangers. He subsequently covered two of her songs “No Time To Cry” and the gospel-tinged “The Shores of Jordan.”

Along the way, several of DeMent’s songs became cultural touchstones. “Let The Mystery Be” found its way to MTV Unplugged as a duet by David Byrne and Natalie Merchant. “Our Town” was played over the farewell scene in the series finale of Northern Exposure. She has also made frequent appearances on Garrison Keillor’s radio show A Prairie Home Companion. Her album of gospel songs, “Lifeline”, which included her rendition of “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms” was later used in the closing credits of the Coen brothers’ film True Grit.

This rare performance is a family affair. Opening the show is her step-daughter Pieta Brown. Brown grew up in rural Iowa and Alabama and was exposed to traditional and rural folk music through her father. With a voice reviewers alternately describe as “rich,” “dark” and “dreamy,” and a musical style that ranges from haunting to rocking, Brown has released six critically acclaimed albums.

“When Pieta sings you’re aware of something effortless and natural, like rain on earth,” Mark Knopfler observed, while Don Was called her “a great singer-songwriter who possesses major star-power magnetism,” and DeMent described her as “the best poet I’ve heard in a long damn time.”

Brown is no stranger to superstar collaborations. She’s toured with Knopfler and shared the stage with John Prine, Brandi Carlisle, JJ Cale, Emmylou Harris and Amos Lee, just to name a few.

Her latest album, Paradise Outlaw (Red House), is Brown’s most emotionally resonant compositions, and some of her most expressive performances, to date. It was recorded at Bon Iver mastermind Justin Vernon’s April Base studio in Wisconsin, with a supporting cast that includes Vernon, Amos Lee, David Mansfield and her father.

“Paradise Outlaw came from a radically different place. I was thinking a lot about freedom, experimentation, poetry, folk songs, bending forms and voices. I also wrote and delivered half the songs on the banjo, which was completely new for me,” says Brown.

As Pieta puts it in the album’s dedication, “In the preface to a super cool book of photographs of the Beats called Paradise Outlaws, John Tytell says it well: ‘The notion of paradise may be one of our ultimate fictions, but it still motivates action in the world. While the way the Beats saw the world made them outlaws, they also shared a view of art that was unelitist, anti-hierarchical, egalitarian.’ That makes a lot of sense to me. I feel like my songs come from the same beat streets and off-kilter countrysides, and the same worlds where peace, love and freedom will always be worth exploring. So to all my fellow paradise outlaws, thank you for the hopeful illusions, the grit, the grace and above all, the songs and music that carry me through.”

Tickets are available online at, by phone (530) 265-5040, or in person at the Miners Foundry and at BriarPatch Co-Op.

Bridgeport’s Fall Festival on Sunday, October 26

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Sunday, October 26 is the Bridgeport Fall Festival at the South Yuba River State Park. There’ll be plenty of fun from hayrides and barn tours to blacksmithing and children’s games. Food and drinks will be available. This is a free event (parking $5) from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

To learn more about this festival, visit South Yuba State Park Association.

Sacramento Bee writes about Bridgeport Covered Bridge

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“The historic Bridgeport Covered Bridge on the South Yuba River is about to be fitted for a life-saving girdle.

“Crews last week were pouring foundations for what state parks officials describe as a steel girdle support system, to be constructed in the next three months, that will hold the 152-year-old bridge in place until a major rehabilitation project can get underway, possibly next year.

“The steel reinforcement system may be coming just in time. Bridge advocates at South Yuba River State Park in Nevada County say they fear the truss-and-arch bridge with the sugar pine shingles could collapse this winter if there’s significant snowfall or high water flow.

“The 229-foot-long bridge is the longest single-span, wood-covered bridge remaining in the United States, and perhaps the world. It draws thousands of fans of old bridges from around the world each year,” writes the Sacramento Bee in today’s Sunday edition.

To read the full article, click here.

(Source: Sacramento Bee, photos: Randy Pench)

Open Studios & Art Tour begins this weekend

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The annual Fall Colors Open Studios & Art Tour begins this weekend. The tour takes place over two weekends and gives art lovers the opportunity to see where art is made by 72 artists in 50 studios in western Nevada County. View and purchase original work in a wide variety of media and styles, watch live demonstrations, observe works in progress, and learn about an art process from concept to completion and experience first-hand how, why and where art is created.

View a list of participating artists and map to their studios below and visit The Center for the Arts for more information.

Poncho Sanchez performs this weekend in Grass Valley

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This Sunday, Grammy Award-winning Poncho Sanchez and His Latin Jazz Band will be in Grass Valley to perform a benefit concert for Bear Yuba Land Trust. It’s going to be the hottest dance party of the year.

Gates open at 5 p.m. followed by high energy Latin American music at 6:30 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 28. The stage is set in the courtyard of Grass Valley’s budding historic venue, the Julia Morgan-designed North Star House.

Sanchez’s touring band takes a traditional approach to Latin American music – paying attention to rhythm and history – to deliver a blend of infectious melodies and gritty soul music. Sanchez plays congas and is accompanied by band members on piano, saxophone, trumpet, trombone, bass and lots of drumming.

During the benefit, local dance instructors from Salsa Sierra will teach salsa dancing. Concert-goers can cast their black bean vote for the best local salsa made by area chefs: Antonio Ayestaran Catering, Christopher’s Catering Company, Briar Patch Co-op, Musa Musa, Diego’s Restaurant, Horn of the Bull Taqueria and Garden Girl Preserves.

At the Land Trust bar grab a daiquiri, wine from Coufos Cellars or a micro-brew from Sierra Nevada Brewing Company. Order food from vendors Horn of the Bull Taqueria and Musa Musa. Land Trust supporters can shop and bid on dozens of goods and services, outdoor adventures, entertainment and lodging during the Silent and Live Auctions.

This is the biggest fundraiser of the year and supports BYLT’s ongoing land conservation projects, trail building, outdoor education and popular trekking program. To date, BYLT has conserved 9,000 acres within the Bear and Yuba watersheds.

Learn more and purchase tickets at or call 272-5994. General Admission tickets are also available at Briar Patch Co-op and Clock Tower Records in Grass Valley.

Draft Horse Classic this weekend!

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The Draft Horse Classic is this weekend at the Nevada County Fairgrounds. Featuring six performances by the beautiful Draft Horses, this event has become the premier Draft Horse show in the western United States. The Classic spotlights a variety of horses, teams, and performances; featuring everything from farm wagons, carriages, and driving competitions to dancing horses and racing mules. The stars of the show are the horses, and with more than 120 horses stabled on the grounds, the Classic offers a unique chance to observe them in a multitude of settings.

Watch a video from the 2013 Draft Horse Classic here.

Tickets can be purchased by calling (530-273-6217), faxing (530-273-1146), or visiting the Fair Office on McCourtney Road. Tickets can also be purchased on-line at

Awesome Nevada City Dirt Bike Classic video!

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Grab your bike and your kids and hit the dirt trails with the Take A Kid Mountain Biking Day on Saturday, October 4, 2014.

This event begins with a helmet and bike check before you head out on the trails and is followed with a caterer lunch. There will be t-shirt painting, skills clinic, fender blender demo and goodie bags for participants. Preregistration required. For more information check out their website,

You can read more about this organization here. Meanwhile, check out the video of the 2014 Nevada City Dirt Classic, a 3-race summer series:

(Filmed and edited by Matteo Pierrazi)

Nisenan Heritage Day is September 6

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“Honoring Our Past, Envisioning Our Future” The indigenous people of Nevada County – the Nisenan – in partnership with Sierra College-Nevada County Campus, and the California Heritage: Indigenous Research Project (CHIRP), invites the public to attend their fifth annual Nisenan Heritage Day which will be held on Saturday, September 6th, 2014, from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at the Nevada County Campus of Sierra College, located at 250 Sierra College Drive, in Grass Valley, California.

Nisenan Heritage Day presents a unique opportunity to experience a taste of living history, and a day of community building with cultural education as the Nisenan, CHIRP, and Sierra College celebrate this year’s theme: “Honoring Our Past Envisioning our Future.” The event will take place in the Multipurpose Center, Building N12, and will host California Native American artisans, speakers, Traditional Dancers, and more.

“We have a wonderful lineup of educational speakers again this year,” says Shelly Covert, Tribal Secretary of the Nevada City Rancheria, “a smattering of some of the best out there within the Native community such as Dugan Aguilar, Judith Lowry, Dr. Sheri Tatsch, Heyday Books with special guest Malcolm Margolin, Leanne Hinton an emerita professor of linguistics at the University of California at Berkeley, Advocates for Indigenous California Language Survival, and members of the Nevada City Rancheria Tribal Council will be talking about the history of the Nisenan, the Nevada City Rancheria, the Nisenan cultural revitalization happening now, and their vision for the future of the Nisenan people.”

‘Top notch’ Native Artisans and Basket Weavers have been personally invited to showcase their original creations. The 2014 Nisenan Heritage Day Tee-Shirt, with a fresh new logo designed by Judith Lowry, will also be available. Nisenan Heritage Day is an ‘all age’ friendly event – admission is free with parking available for free as well. Food and drink will be for sale on site courtesy of the BriarPatch Natural Foods Co-op. Visit for more information.

(Photo: Nevada City Rancheria)

Sierra Starr hosts a harvest party on September 20

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Sierra Starr Vineyard and Winery is hosting a Harvest Party open house and wine-club pick up on September 20 as its wine-grape harvest gets fully underway.

Visit the Grass Valley winery and see how Sierra Starr’s highly acclaimed wines are made. “See the sights, smell the amazing smells and maybe participate in the winemaking process and get your hands purple dirty,” said winemaker and vineyard manager Jackson Starr.

The Harvest Party includes winemaking demonstrations, tastings of gold- and silver-medal winning wines and “Harvest Special” wine sales.

The gathering is from noon-5 p.m. on September 20 at Sierra Starr Vineyards, 1179 Gibson Drive, Grass Valley. For more information, call 530-477-8282. Sierra Starr’s downtown Grass Valley tasting room will be closed this day.

Sierra Starr’s harvest is well underway. The winery just finished harvesting its Sauvignon Blanc grapes. “It is two weeks ahead of what used to be a normal harvest date and one week earlier than last year,” Starr said.

“The rest of the crops look good. I believe it’s going to be a beautiful growing season this year. We are convinced our vineyard is much happier with this warmer climate.” Sierra Starr will resume picking its estate fruit later this week.
Wine club members of Sierra Starr Vineyard recently had a chance to help with the grape harvest, and their reward was a free bottle of wine.

(Photo: Sierra Starr, video: KCRA)

Strawberry Music Festival at Nevada County Fairgrounds on Sept. 11-14

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Nevada County Fairgrounds hosts the Strawberry Music Festival in Grass Valley is home to the Nevada County Fair and the Draft Horse Classic. Located under tall pine trees, the fairgrounds are often referred to as “California’s most beautiful fairgrounds.”

But it also is gaining stature as a gathering place for music festivals and world-famous musicians. Two summers ago, on the same weekend, country music icons Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard performed at the Fairgrounds, thanks largely to The Center for the Arts.

This year the Nevada County Fairgrounds scored a coup, landing the Strawberry Music Festival on September 11-14 long considered the premiere music festival in the Sierra. Since 1982, the festival has brought musicians and festival-goers from throughout the world to the idyllic setting of Camp Mather, just outside the gates of Yosemite National Park.

A family festival—featuring four days of music, camping and recreation—features Americana, bluegrass, blues, folk, swing, rock, Cajun, Celtic and gospel. Lyle Lovett, K.D. Lang, Alasdair Fraser, and the late U. Utah Phillips have performed at the festival. It draws as many as 7,000 people.

The Tower of Power will perform at the Festival on September 13. More performers are listed here.

Last year, Strawberry Music’s Fall Festival was cancelled due to the Rim Fire that burned all around Camp Mather. After being denied a permit for this year’s fall festival at the site, they came to the Nevada County Fairgrounds to ask for sanctuary so the festival could continue.

The Strawberry Music Festival joins several popular music festivals held at the Nevada County Fairgrounds throughout the year.

This year’s line-up includes: CBA Father’s Day Bluegrass Festival, June 12-15; Music in the Mountains SummerFest, June 26-July 3; California WorldFest, July 10-13; and the KVMR Celtic Festival & Marketplace, Sept. 26-28.

KVMR’s 18th annual Celtic Festival & Marketplace debuted at the Fairgrounds in 1996. What began as a relatively simple gathering has now grown to include Scottish games, sheepdog trials, birds of prey, Claude the fire-breathing dragon, jam sessions, five stages of entertainment and a crowd upwards of 7,000.

Festival-goers enjoy camping at the Fairgrounds. The RV Park has 44 sites with full hook-ups, about 100 sites with water and power hook-ups, and numerous RV sites without hook-ups throughout the grounds.

(Source: Sierra FoodWineArt, photo: Strawberry Music Festival)