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Style Magazine

American River Music Festival

Aug 01, 2014 05:42PM ● By Style

Photo courtesy of Lisa Ferguson. Other photos courtesy of Betty Sederquist.

One of the best places to enjoy life’s calm and commotion is along our very own American River. “Life is like the river, sometimes it sweeps you gently along and sometimes the rapids come out of nowhere,” said 20th century author Emma Smith. Next month, from September 12-14, the American River Music Festival blends both the river and all types of music genres together for a weekend of fun and entertainment.
Now in its eighth season, this vibrant festival “brings world-renowned musicians and presents a wide range of music we like to call rokjambluroots,” says Matt Semonsen, the event’s executive director and organizer. “[American River Music’s] mission is to teach, inspire and enjoy music.” Semonsen, a musician and former river guide, brings his lifelong love of music and passion for the river alive with this festival each year.
In 2013, more than 1,500 people enjoyed tunes each day at the festival’s main stage—located in the beautiful Henningsen-Lotus Park in Lotus. About 1,000 people camped at area campgrounds all three days. “Over the years,” Semonsen explains, “we’ve had music enthusiasts from around the globe.” The organizers of this annual event anticipate even more attendees this year. “The park is a beautiful riverfront location with green grass, a great swimming hole on the river and lots of shade,” Semonsen notes.
Thirty-three live performances at nine locations are scheduled for next month’s three-day festival. American River Music, a non-profit group, has more than 150 passionate volunteers who help with behind-the-scenes planning and staffing the multiple venues. “Our volunteers are an amazing group,” Semonsen says. “They are totally committed to this event.” What’s more, over 30 local businesses and El Dorado County collaborate closely with the group to make the event possible.
The organizers promote this family-friendly festival as a celebration of music and moving water. Three campgrounds—conveniently located in the lovely Lotus/Coloma area—have a different educational focus. “When folks actively participate, they [become] inspired,” Semonsen says. “We encourage this because it fosters creativity.” Activities for kids are also planned—from sandboxes to face painting.
Many months prior to the event, Semonsen must pore over the nearly 250 applications he receives from local and international bands and musicians. “We want the vibe of the festival to be all about smiles,” Semonsen snares. The music, which ranges from folk to vintage rock and roll, is the main focus for the festival. However, there is more to enjoy: Local artists, plus local, regional and global vendors all sell their work; and high-quality, affordable food trucks satisfy the appetites of vegetarians and carnivores alike.

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