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Redwood Mountain Faire: Santa Cruz Mountains Legacy

By Julie Horner

The first Redwood Mountain Faire festivals were single-day events held in April at Highlands Park in Ben Lomond as a way to showcase the local artist community. Originally called the Redwood Mountains Fine Arts & Crafts Faire and Music Festival, the Valley Women’s Club hosted the gatherings from 1980 through 1996. Eventually, the event grew to two days and was moved to August to take advantage of better weather. The Faire soon became a major fundraising source for the Santa Cruz Mountains nonprofit community. By the mid-nineties, however, production costs ballooned and Faire came to an end. In 2010 the idea rekindled and the event was resurrected at Roaring Camp where it now welcomes more than 3,000 music and art lovers per year, engages over 400 volunteers, and has raised $500,000 since springing back to life. Redwood Mountain Faire has inspired organizers of other California gatherings like Strawberry Music Festival and High Sierra Music Festival; many locally look at the Faire as a multigenerational family reunion, full of kids, friends, and neighbors.

Meet the Team

Redwood Mountain Faire organizers, l to r: Brackin Andrews, Tyler Armstrong, Hallie Greene, Traci-lin Buntz, Jim Coffis, Steven Shabry

Festival Director Hallie Greene runs the Boulder Creek Recreation and Parks Department and has been part of RMF since 2011, soon after the music festival began its new life at Roaring Camp Meadows in Felton. She became Director in 2014 and oversees all the moving parts of the Faire but predominantly focuses on the beneficiaries and what their jobs are within the production of the event. Most of the RMF Board became involved through the nonprofit beneficiaries that they represented. The organization operates under the Valley Woman’s Club of San Lorenzo Valley 501-c-3 nonprofit. Hallie said, “The highlight of all of this, for us, is that it really is nonprofit. I don’t know any other events that are run like this. Where literally the entire event is put on by volunteers and that 100% of the proceeds are donated to the year’s receiving beneficiaries.

Traci-lin Buntz has been on the Board since 2017 and started out as a volunteer for her kid’s school. An expert booking agent, she found a niche at RMF in marketing and contracting the bands. She is responsible for production and back stage coordination and is the musical artist liaison. She also runs Santa Cruz Mountains Learning Collective in Boulder Creek and is active in Jazzercise. Traci-lin also books the Brewgrass Festival at Roaring Camp held this year on September 14.

Steve Shabry is an originating member of the current RMF Board who joined in 2010, the year that the Faire came to Roaring Camp. Steve is the curator of Blue Sun Cafe & Catering Company and has been doing the festival circuit around California for 26 years, providing eats for festivals such as High Sierra, Lightning in a Bottle, and Strawberry Music Festival. He has watched RMF evolve and commends the current Board for their incredible organizational skills and ability to recognize what festival goers want. It’s the difference, he said, between what the event used to be and what it should be in a modern festival climate. Steven deals with all the food vendors and puts together the food court and the food for hospitality, and he and Traci-lin book the bands together.

Brackin Andrews is entering his second year on the RMF Board. He’s part of the Valley Women’s Club Environmental Committee and the PG&E Subcommittee. He’s also a CERT member, is on the board of directors with the San Lorenzo Valley Emergency Network (SLVEN), and volunteers with Highlands Park Senior and Community Center. At Faire he is part of the Guest Services team.

Jim Coffis is a longtime valley local very active on the music scene. As a member of the RMF Board he is focused on managing the logistics of setting up the Faire and tearing it down when the last guest has left. Jim is also part of the Guest Services team.

Full time on-site Operations Manager and Events Coordinator for Roaring Camp Railroads, Tyler Armstrong has been involved in the Faire since 2012. Working closely with the RMF Board, he is responsible for infrastructure and internet, and “you name it.”

Roaring Camp: Honoring an Incredible Venue

Caption: Festival goers enjoying the day at the Redwood Mountain Faire in 2023 | Photo by Paul Regen

Steven said, “When we first came on board here in 2010, how many other events took place that summer at Roaring Camp that brought 3,000 people? Not one. Fast forward 15 years later, and look at all the events that are going to be here this summer: Mushroom Fest, Locomotion Fest, Sol Fest, Brewgrass. It’s proof of how successful you can make an event at this site.”

According to Tylor, Roaring Camp pulled through the pandemic with flying colors and has remained successful as a business venue and is ready for the summer packed full of events. Noting that the 173 acres is a challenge to keep track of and care for, he said, “Finding a team that’s willing, like these guys, is hard to do. Events like these bring a unique group of people who are super energized to do a good thing for a great community. We’re very lucky to have a group of people who are constantly active and doing things, we hope that continues.”

Jim said, “Every year we try to figure out what we can do better. That’s sort of exciting. On Sunday, when it’s over, we look at ourselves and say ‘well that’s the best one we’ve ever done.’ That’s the way it’s been, and every year has gotten better. We’re proud of what we’ve done, but we’re always looking to see how we can improve.”

An Economic Balance

Hallie indicated that costs to put on any large event have increased dramatically in recent years. “We’ve been hit with the reality that bands, and pretty much everything, the price has gone up significantly on most of our budget.” They do their best to keep prices as low as possible while still raising necessary funds for the participating nonprofits. Ticket prices for this year’s event have risen only slightly since last year, she said. Steven said, “We could sit here and talk for two hours about how the economy is different from what it was,” he said, and pointed out that Santa Cruz County has a long history of great music festivals that just couldn’t make it. “And here we still are.”

Finances are tricky from a nonprofit standpoint. It’s a fine line economically keeping the Faire affordable for San Lorenzo Valley families. Steven said that he made a spreadsheet comparing similar festivals around the state like Wildflower Arts and Music Festival in Chico and Mill Valley Music Festival, and he realized that Redwood Mountain Faire is priced below half of what the others charge. Costs include renting the main stage from Bliss Point Productions and negotiating overflow parking from Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park next door, among other local property owners.

Celebrating Community

Traci-lin said, “We have a third stage now and one of the reason we started that stage was because we wanted to give more local bands an opportunity to play. Different types of bands, maybe they’re a little more on the acoustic side, maybe they’re a smaller group.” The team gets over 300 band submissions a year all eager to play to this wide, welcoming audience in a beautiful outdoor setting. “We go through every single band, I watch all those videos!”

Jim said that nearly all of the musicians and the artisans who display their wares at Faire are local; there are 150 crafters and merchants whose booths line the perimeter of the meadow. Jim said that the impetus for creating the original Redwood Mountain Faire at Highlands Park was to facilitate local artists who were looking for a place to sell their goods. Music, he said, was kind of an afterthought. “I’m always impressed that each of these vendors that come are very happy, very satisfied, and very anxious to come back.” And because these transactions are staying local and not going to Santa Cruz, there is significant positive economic impact to the mountains. “This is the gift that this festival brings to the valley,” Steven said.

Discretion Brewing Company provides the baseline brews. Hallcrest Vineyards is the primary vintner and provider of ciders. Other locals are definitely in the running. The decision has been to stick with kegs rather than cans mostly to reduce the recycling load. The festival encourages guests to purchase glassware sponsored by a variety of local venues and businesses. “We’re trying to be as green as possible,” Hallie said, “so we’re not wasting plastic cups.”

Hallie said that one of the most important parts of putting on the Faire is that sense of connectivity as a working unit of volunteers and to make sure that everyone feels like they are part of the family. Each of the nonprofits has a role in the production of the event. With 32 support tasks to fill, some manage customer parking, others host the band hospitality area or pour beer for festival guests. Some welcome visitors at the front gate or help with recycling. Everybody goes above and beyond. They had 18 nonprofits participate last year, a similar number will benefit from the Faire this year, and each will have teams dedicated to helping make sure the event runs smoothly. With 85% of festival goers coming from the greater Santa Cruz area, Steven says people are blown away by the quality of the music and how the stages are run, the availability of guest amenities, and how upbeat and helpful everybody is. Based on mutual trust and years of networking and growth as a team, Tylor said, “We have a good thing.”

Early bird tickets are on sale now; prices increase after May 30. All sales benefit this year’s selected nonprofits. Volunteers welcome.

$50 Single-day Adult Ticket
$90 Weekend Pass Adult Ticket
$30 Senior (65+) / Teen Ticket (16-18)
Kids 15 and under are free with parent or legal guardian

Roaring Camp 5401 Graham Hill Road, Felton. Rain or shine. Gates Open at 10:30am. No pets or coolers. Pre-paid parking pass: $20 | Day of parking: $25

Featured photo by Paul Regen: Aerial view of the Redwood Mountain Faire in 2019

Julie Horner writes about music, festivals, and the people of the Santa Cruz Mountains.


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