Dozens of campers and teachers mill about the outdoor kitchen as musicians chop and mash ingredients into edible works of art. Camp organizer Tara Nevins is there, having briefly sat in on fellow Donna the Buffalo legend Jeb Puryear’s songwriting class earlier in the day. Each is discussing their craft with campers of varying skill and experience levels. Bobby Henrie, whose Rockabilly stylings are the subject of Nevins’s raving, talks flat picking with an aspiring artist. Smiles abound.
The vibe is festive as everyone seems to have left their anxieties or hang-ups outside the gates. Dinner is coming soon, followed by the dance. This can only be GrassRoots Culture Camp.
Shows I Go To recently spoke with Tara Nevins about the GrassRoots Culture Camp experience. GrassRoots Culture Camp takes place just before the Finger Lakes GrassRoots Music and Dance Festival in Trumansburg, NY this month. The Culture Camp is a chance for ordinary folks to take classes from expert musicians in everything from guitar to yoga, fiddle, and even scrubboard.
Classes run all day culminating in a dinner and dance at the end of each night. It sounds like a music lovers dream.
Shows I Go to: What are you most excited about leading up to GrassRoots Culture Camp?
Tara Nevins: This year I am excited about the overall vibe. I’m really excited about the Louisiana presence that is going to be there with Balfa Tujours and Preston Frank. Just the fact that we will have Cajun fiddling, Cajun guitar, triangle, scrubboard, Cajun food.
We also have the Los Texmaniacs from San Antonio playing Tejano music and their influence and presence is going to be very beautiful. They are cooking a traditional Mexican meal one night with a special green chile stew and goat cheese quesadillas. Those guys are actually into doing the cooking in addition to playing the dance that night.
It’s going to be a great melding.
SIGT: What is the vibe like at the dance?
Nevins: The dinners and dances are open to the public. The dinners are fabulous. You can read the menus online. Cajun night is chicken and sausage jambalaya, red beans and rice, and all these other dishes. There’s a gumbo Wednesday night with Zydeco music and then Los Texmaniacs are doing their thing Thursday.
The vibe at the dinner is beautiful. The dinner is attended by the instructors and the campers, there is no separation. Usually at a festival you might see the musicians walking around but they are mostly backstage and you can’t get to them. There are no barriers whatsoever at the Culture Camp.
The kitchen is the place where everyone comes together. There is an outdoor kitchen and it’s a social area where people are chopping and cooking and making and having a great time. There are these long picnic tables where everyone gathers almost like the last supper.”
Last year we had traditional Mexican food and I made margaritas for the whole group. Everybody is sitting around talking about the day they have had and the dance coming that night. While everyone is eating, you can hear the band soundchecking under the dance tent.
Then everyone finishes eating and sort of wanders up to the dance. The band starts and it is a continuation of the day. You have met all these new people. You have gotten to know all these instructors, musicians you have known for years.
GrassRoots Culture Camp is such an intimate, community thing. There is something for everyone- yoga class, painting class, people jam around the campsite. I kinda feel like I’m planning the best party ever.
The best party ever rages from July 16-19. This year’s festival lineup is incredible in its own right, but the truly immersive experience will be found at GrassRoots Culture Camp.
Tara Nevins Interview and GrassRoots Culture Camp Preview by Jason Earle.
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