International Jug Band Festival returns to Sutter Creek

Ghost Town Gospel and other jug bands will perform on Saturday in Sutter Creek. (Courtesy)

The historic Sutter Creek Inn will play host to the 17th annual International Jug Band Festival on Saturday. This year’s festival will feature old favorites and new bands showcasing the variety and exuberance that is jug band music.

Organizers promise a “kick in the pants” fun time with music that will get feet tapping and set listeners’ souls free. Dance the day away or just sit under the shade tents on the lawn and enjoy the unusual music, performed by bands from near and far. The music festival will feature nine jug bands from California, other states and around the world.

The International Jug Band Festival was first held in Sutter Creek 17 years ago. For the past decade, it has had its home base on the lawn of the historic Sutter Creek Inn, the first bed-and-breakfast inn in California.

What is jug band music? It is the grass roots of blues, played with any item that will produce music, including spoons, saws, fiddles, banjos, wash boards, acoustic guitars, upright bass, homemade bass and — obviously — jugs.

This annual gathering of Jug Bands began in 2002 when Andy Fahrenwald and Wayne Hagen brought a variety of jug bands from Northern and Southern California together in Sutter Creek’s Minnie Provis Park. It gave California jug bands the rare chance to gather, hear and meet other jug bands.

Over the years, the festival grew and the California Jug Band Association was born. Now jug band festivals are held in San Francisco and Santa Cruz, and a network of jug band musicians has grown.

While Fahrenwald has passed away, but his dream of a festival celebrating and spreading the joy of jug band music lives on, with Hagen still playing a major role in organizing the yearly event.

Admission to the festival is free, but donations are appreciated, as it serves as a fundraiser for the California Jug Band Association. Performers travel from far and near to participate out of the love of their music.

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