We were at Jazz Bash by the Bay in Monterey in 2022, living it up and enjoying the first live festival we had been to since 2019. We did not attend Fresno last year due to conflicts, so this was our first opportunity to get out and enjoy the music and company like we did before you-know-what.
We ran into Linda Shipp and Alfredo Montelongo, directors of the Fresno Festival. I had been told that that festival was on hard times and needed a financial boost. I was considering whether our club or ourselves should donate money and how much.
Then Linda informed us that one of their major costs was going to be the sound company, who had greatly increased their pricing from prior years. The amount that she told me they wanted was astonishing, especially for the size of that event; three indoor venues. On impulse, I told her that we would bring sound equipment for them and that Jeff would run it during their 2023 festival, but that they also needed to get more volunteers to operate it. This would save them thousands of dollars.
When we got home from Monterey, we called Jim Borland and asked him if he would help out and bring some of his equipment, as needed. He was all in. Over the course of the following year, we spoke to Alfredo occasionally to let them know that we were still committed to this offer. In October of 2022, I started to firm things up with Alfredo for Fresno, getting more specifics out of him as to what his needs were.
In November of 2022, we were putting the final details together for Jazz Jubilee by the Sea. We had lost some of our old site captains and volunteers. During one of my conversations with Alfredo, I told him that we would be happy to help them with their festival; but needed Site Captains for ours. A partnership was formed. Alfredo and Linda agreed to come and be Site Captains for Jazz Jubilee by the Sea in exchange for the Pismo crew to come and run sound for Fresno. We also contacted Sylvia Diaz and Robin Castro from Three Rivers. Sylvia had been Site Captain at the Vet’s in 2019 and had done an excellent job. It took some convincing, but they also agreed to come down. We put all of them up in some “comped” hotel rooms that we had obtained via the Pismo Beach Hospitality Association, for which they were very grateful. Linda Shipp was unable to make it, but Alfredo, Robin, and Sylvia manned the Grover Beach Community Center for the weekend. They brought decorations and enthusiasm to this venue and made it one of the happening places to be.
As soon as Pismo was concluded, it was time to concentrate on Fresno. A few things changed from what we had originally planned. The three-venue festival got closer to being a four-venue festival; the Atrium was going to be used for an All-Star High School band and they wanted a full sound system, instead of the limited system we were planning to put there. Some of the volunteers that Alfredo had expected to be there were not able to commit, due to unexpected circumstances.
I started to look for other volunteers. One of the ways that Alfredo sweetened the deal was by offering hotel rooms at the Doubletree (where the festival was taking place) for all participants. I was able to enlist the BSR members Borlands and the Bulls. Ronney Wong, who had volunteered at Pismo also said he wanted to participate. I still felt like we were short for a festival that ran from 10:00 in the morning until 11:30 at night on Friday and Saturday. Alfredo was getting nervous and was starting to re-initiate negotiations with the original sound company. I finally called Desmond Warren, the owner of DSR Audio. He rents us our sound equipment and helps us run it at Pismo every year. I told him what we were doing and that we really needed some more people to help us man the boards.
Desmond offered to bring a sound system for the biggest room and run it all weekend. He would not charge for this, but he wanted a hotel room and his expenses covered. The deal was made; and we were back in business. We now had enough people to have coverage at all of our venues.
A week later, Juliann Hemphill volunteered to come up for a day and a half, and she was able to bring David Venturini, who would join us as a trainee. We had our team.
On the Wednesday before the festival, Jeff and I rented a 9-foot van and loaded three systems worth equipment. Desmond loaded his van with his gear and we drove up and met at the Doubletree that evening. We had a nice dinner in the bar and retired to our rooms for the night.
Thursday, the work began in earnest, unloading and setting up all of the equipment. Ronney arrived early in the day and helped Desmond set up and later run his venue. I helped Jeff. At noon, the Borlands showed up and later on, the Bulls. By 6:00, when the Thursday night show started, everything was ready.
Friday was a long day, with the most total hours on the schedule. But what a fun festival Fresno is. They have two or three parades every day and at get at least 50% participation from the attendees, sporting very elaborate costumes and props. And Sylvia and Robin from Three Rivers, also volunteering, treated us very well, delivering special drinks as needed.
In fact, Fresno is the best party festival around and has the most audience participation that I have seen. They have honed their unique traditions for many years, including themes and lavish themed decorations, coronations, parades and overall mayhem. It is easier for them to do this, since all of their venues are in one establishment, especially for the parades. They just go from one venue to the next, hijacking each room when they arrive.
Being in one location means they have a bar they can meet up at afterwards, and they can schedule late sets since few people have to drive elsewhere at the end of the night. The organizers were very hospitable to the volunteers who were willing and able to stay up late; offering us drinks, pizza and snacks until well after midnight. In short, we had an excellent time.
Saturday was an easier day, with two of the venues shutting down after 6:00 p.m. The two remaining venues, however, stayed open until 11:30 p.m. Saturday evening, many of the Pismo sound people were able to have dinner together, due to the arrival of some of Alfredo’s friends from Arizona who were able to make it after all and sub for some of us.
On Sunday, one of the venues was open until 1:00 p.m., which Jeff ran. The Borlands and the Bulls started breaking the other two down Sunday morning. Desmond’s was open until 3:30. Ronney had to leave, but David assisted Desmond and got to run the board for part of that day.
The Borlands and the Bulls left Sunday afternoon, taking David with them. Jeff and I started loading all of our equipment into the van, which was not as big as it should have been. Trying to fit everything back in was a puzzle that was incredibly time consuming. We were not finished when Desmond’s venue shut down at 3:30, and then we went to help him button up his equipment. Of course, we had had to borrow equipment from each other at the start of the operation, complicating everything during the loading, unloading and reloading process. It was 6:00 p.m. before everything was back in the vehicles.
Desmond elected to stay Sunday night and get an early start on Monday. Jeff and I were ready to go home. After all, we had a house concert to prepare for on Thursday.
In summary, we did a lot of work and we had a lot of fun. There was a lot of camaraderie between all of the sound people and other volunteers, and the Fresno crew was very grateful and treated us very well. I believe we saved them about $5000, even with them paying our expenses and van rental.
Would we do it all again? Well, maybe we would let Desmond rent them the equipment and we would help run it. In spite of the work, it was a very rewarding experience for all of us and it helped out a festival in need, as they helped us.
The cooperation between the Directors of Pismo, Fresno and Three Rivers is a model for the future and will help us all continue to operate for at least a few more years. It gave us a glimpse into the management of other local festivals and an opportunity to contribute and have fun as well.
I expect that our relationship will only grow as time goes on.