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» BREAKING NEWS, Featured » THE ORGANIZERS OF “REGGAE ON THE RIVER” REFLECT ON THE REASON FOR THIS YEAR’S LOW TURN-OUT AND THE FUTURE OF THE ANNUAL EVENT!

THE ORGANIZERS OF “REGGAE ON THE RIVER” REFLECT ON THE REASON FOR THIS YEAR’S LOW TURN-OUT AND THE FUTURE OF THE ANNUAL EVENT!

Justin Crellin, general manager of the nonprofit Mateel Community Center, isn’t quite sure why the organization’s trademark event and primary fundraiser, Reggae on the River, turned out to be such a financial dud this year. But he has some theories:

The low attendance may have had something to do with the lineup, with California-based acts such as Slightly Stoopid and Stick Figure proving less appealing to fans of old school roots reggae.

reggae fest

Or — a related theory — it may have to do with growing generational and cultural divides. Thirty-three years in, organizers of the annual festival are trying to appeal to young people and SoHum newcomers without alienating the fans who’ve been coming since the beginning. Plus there are now countless other music festivals to attend each year, including the Northern Lights Music Festival at Cooks Valley Campground.

And then there’s the financial component. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the local weed industry — long the lifeblood of Southern Humboldt — has cratered this season, with an overabundance of product leading to sharp declines in wholesale prices. If people are working harder for lower profits, they’re less likely to have disposable income for a four-day festival.

What’s clear, Crellin said, is that it was the local community that didn’t come out in its usual numbers to support the fest. In the weeks leading up to the Aug. 3-6 event, online ticket sales were strong, thanks largely to customers in the Bay Area and Sacramento.

Slightly Stoopid

Slightly Stoopid

“In the past with locals, the majority would either buy at local [ticket] outlets or come in [to the festival] for single-day tickets,” Crellin said. But the usual 11th-hour “Humboldt time” purchases didn’t materialize. “That’s definitely where we saw a reduction this year. I would certainly say Reggae this year didn’t have the local support we’ve had in past.”

Meanwhile, locals have been offering their own reasons for skipping Reggae. In a Garberville-focused Facebook group, popular explanations include the length of the four-day event, the quality of the lineup, the price of tickets and a change in atmosphere of the event.

Parents said it’s not a friendly place for children anymore, and several women said they fear sexual assault (for which there is a precedent).

Whatever the reasons, the result was a surprising and potentially devastating financial loss for the Mateel Community Center, an organization that offers everything from barbecues and music festivals to kids’ aikido lessons, fine art programs, comedy, theater and more.

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