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The Show Must Go On

Boulder Creek Art, Wine and Music Festival carries on--in face of Caltrans' opposition to the wine part

By Peter Koht

Boulder Creek has always had an anarchic streak. Incorporated as a village in 1902, it actually voted its city government out of existence in 1905. During its early years as a logging camp, it featured no less than 26 establishments that functioned as saloons, gambling houses or les maisons derrières.

Even its Art, Wine and Music Festival, a family-based affair that highlights local business and culture, has a rebellious streak. While most vinophiles would rejoice at the opportunity to sample the wares of such local producers as Storrs, Pelican Ranch and Trout Gulch Vineyards, some state officials want to put the spirits back in the barrel. In fact, Caltrans has decided that this is the last year that the festival will be allowed to function under a permit that allows the sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages on state property. The entire festival is held on the main drag of Boulder Creek, which just happens to be state Highway 9. Colin Jones from Caltrans sums up the state's concerns: "The highway is actually open during the festival and this causes a huge safety issue. Any time that you mix alcohol and traffic we have concerns."

While Jones admits that the annual party "usually goes smoothly," when it rolls around again next year, the feel of the festival will probably be quite different--if it is held at all.

The limitations on where and how the wine part of the Art, Wine and Music Festival will be carried out in the future are vexing. Organizers will either have to open up side streets or construct beer gardens to contain all those souls raising a glass to the gifts of Bacchus.

While the relationship between the event and Caltrans has been constructive in tone, some of the performers have a bad feeling about the coming changes. Lady Bo, San Lorenzo Valley resident and guitarist for Bo Diddley, has this to say:"The festival is a yearly function and no one has ever created a problem before. Now they [Caltrans] are up on their horse trying to jump into the scene."

Bo's sentiments are echoed by Susan Bayer, cellist for the Latin music group Con Corazon. "It's a great event, and there are too many really good events or venues that changed dramatically or have just shut down."

Soul Jazz organ player Steve Czarnecki is another featured performer who loves that atmosphere at the festival, where vendors and musicians vie for the attention of the public. "It's a nice small-town feel," he says, "It's very concentrated, and we have a good time every time we play out there."

This is the 16th annual Boulder Creek Art, Wine and Music Festival, but the Memorial Day festivities go back about a quarter century. Through the years, the festival has adapted to changing tastes and financial situations, and this latest concern over permits is unlikely to keep the show from going on in the future.


Boulder Creek Art, Wine and Music Festival. Memorial Day Weekend, Saturday-Monday, (May 28-30), 11am-6pm, free; no cans, bottles, coolers or dogs allowed; call 831.338.7099 or check www.BCBA.net.

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From the May 25-June 1, 2005 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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