While southern Humboldt County’s longstanding, riverside reggae music festival may now be managed by a new production company, organizers says festivalgoers can expect the same vibe in what will be the Reggae on the River’s 34th year running.
However, they said there will be some notable changes to the schedule and security.
“The layout is the same, music will start a little later in the day giving folks an opportunity to enjoy the Eel River, food and crafts,” the festival’s media coordinator Kaati Gaffney wrote to the Times-Standard on Friday.
With the festival’s longtime operator, the Mateel Community Center, facing debt and financial difficulties, High Times Productions — the production side of the New York-based High Times Media — took on operations of the three-day festival earlier this year and aims to breathe new life into it.
“We’re really excited,” High Times’ spokesman Jon Cappetta said Friday. “We’re bringing world class talent and we’re looking forward to a world class party.”
The festival will take place at French’s Camp near the Humboldt-Mendocino County line about 10 miles south of Garberville from Aug. 3-5.
Cappetta said High Times has regularly attended the festival and wants to keep it a community-driven event. While this year’s festival should feel familiar to regulars, Cappetta said there will be some changes.
This includes “doubling down” on the musical talent and security, Cappetta said.
Headliners include the Santa Barbara-based sunshine reggae group Iration; The Original Wailers, which was founded by Al Anderson and Junior Marvin of Bob Marley & The Wailers; Jamaican dancehall reggae artist Busy Signal; and the Atlanta hip-hop group Arrested Development.
“We’re definitely swinging for the fences with this lineup,” Cappetta said.
High Times also is seeking to address security concerns that have been raised in previous years. In the past there have been reports of incident of sexual assault and rapes near the festival or at campgrounds.
The Times-Standard contacted the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office for more information, but did not receive a response by Friday evening.
Cappetta said they have hired a national security team from Miller Security Services and will have an in-house team “who has extensive event production and security experience.”
A local rape crisis team will also be on site, Cappetta said.
“People have had some uneasy feelings about the nighttime security in the past and we’re doubling down to make sure that everyone feels safe in the best possible situation,” Cappetta said.
The festival’s longstanding JahMed medical support team, Briceland Fire and other local volunteer fire departments will also be on site, according to Cappetta.
The festival will also retain local vendors while also bringing in other food, sponsors and merchandising vendors.
There also won’t be a live broadcast by KMUD, but there will be a post-festival broadcast and interviews on site, Cappetta said.
“Other than that we’re trying really hard to keep to the true spirit on Reggae on the River,” Cappetta said.
While the festival is being run by a cannabis-centered media company and this being the first year in California’s recreational cannabis industry, there will be no cannabis for sale at the event. Cappetta said there will be some vendors there for educational purposes, but no cannabis for sale.
“It’s not a cannabis cup,” he said.
Another bridge that had to be crossed before the festival began was actually getting a temporary, flat car bridge permitted that would allow vehicles and pedestrians to cross over the Eel River to the festival site.
While there was some concern that the bridge would not be able to get permitted in time, Mateel Board of Directors Vice President Dusty Hughston said Friday that the bridge has been fully permitted and will be installed under the supervision of a California Fish and Wildlife Department biologist.
Whether this will be High Times’ only year running the festival or whether it hopes to continue operating it into the future, Cappetta said, “We’re looking for a lasting partnership.”
More information about the festival and ticket purchases can be found online www.reggaeontheriver.com
Disclaimer: The Times-Standard’s and Redwood Times’ sister publication The Cannifornian is a sponsor of the festival.
Will Houston can be reached at 707-441-0504.