2017-05-19 / Family

Topanga folk festival has plenty of pluck

By Sylvie Belmond


PICKIN’ AND GRINNIN’—The Topanga Banjo-Fiddle Contest and Folk Festival is famous for its acoustic jam sessions. This year’s fest takes place Sunday at Paramount Ranch south of Agoura Hills. 
ACORN FILE PHOTO PICKIN’ AND GRINNIN’—The Topanga Banjo-Fiddle Contest and Folk Festival is famous for its acoustic jam sessions. This year’s fest takes place Sunday at Paramount Ranch south of Agoura Hills. ACORN FILE PHOTO Music aficionados will once again gather at Paramount Ranch south of Agoura Hills on Sun., May 21 to socialize and listen to acoustic melodies during the 57th annual Topanga Banjo- Fiddle Contest and Folk Festival.

Founded in 1961, the daylong event attracts hundreds of musicians each year.

Paramount Ranch, with its Western movie sets in the heart of the Santa Monica Mountains, provides an appropriate setting for the festival, where people of all ages bring their violins, banjos, guitars and other instruments and band together in improvised groups to play a variety of acoustic songs.

Organized musical competitions where beginning, intermediate and advanced singers and musicians can showcase their talents will take place on three stages throughout the day.

Visitors can also take part in activities such as dance lessons and arts and crafts.

“Most people’s favorite part of the festival is bringing their instruments and jamming or watching others jam,” said Robert Peltzman, a banjo player who started volunteering for the fiddle fest in 2010.

Bonnie Clarfield-Bylin, a retired National Park Service ranger who is a board member and booths coordinator for the annual event, said the festival “brings old-time music and folk culture to the people of today, and it keeps the folk culture and music alive while people are having fun.”

The family-oriented festival has something for everyone.

“There is so much going on you can pretty much stay all day,” she said.

The nonprofit Topanga Banjo Fiddle Contest and Folk Festival is run by volunteers. Many well-known artists, including Jackson Browne, Taj Mahal and Steve Martin, have performed at the festival.

This year’s featured bands include Hot October, Conjunto Jardin and Skillet Licorice.

In addition to the traditional musical contests and band playoffs, there will be organized jams, sing-alongs and guitar workshops, as well as dance competitions and workshops.

About 50 exhibitors will sell handmade goods, Clarfield- Bylin said.

Park agencies and conservation groups will be on hand to provide information about parks and outdoor activities.

Visitors can bring coolers and picnics or buy food at the festival. Chairs and hats are recommended. Drum circles and amplified music are not allowed.

Advance tickets are $17 for adults and $13 for kids 10 to 17 and seniors 65 and over.

At the gate tickets are $23 for adults and $18 for kids and seniors. Entry is free for children under 10.

For more information, visit www.topangabanjofiddle.org.

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