Live Oak Music Festival Moves to San Luis Obispo

Organizers Cite Wildfire Concerns, Pricing

Live Oak Music Festival
Photo Credit: From File
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The Live Oak Music Festival, where tie-dyed oldsters have celebrated “peace, love, and dirt” every Father’s Day weekend for nearly the past 30 years, is moving out of its digs in Santa Barbara County in large measure because of increased fire risk. The festival’s current location at the Live Oak Campground, just off Highway 154, is designated an official base camp for firefighters. In the event of a fire, the music festival would get bumped, and its organizer ​— ​public radio station KCBX, out of San Luis Obispo ​— ​would not be eligible to get insurance compensation caused by loss of revenue. “We’d be bankrupt,” explained Marisa Waddell, the station’s program director. With fire season becoming a yearlong event, Waddell said the probability of getting bumped had become untenable. “We’ve already had a couple of close calls,” she said. “One time we came within two days.”

The music festival ​— ​a three-day celebration of folk and roots music from around the world ​— ​is the single biggest fundraiser for KCBX outside of its regular pledge drives. On any given day, about 3,000 people attended the festival, about half of whom camped there. Most hailed from San Luis Obispo County. Waddell said the festival will be moving to El Chorro Park along Highway 1 between San Luis Obispo and Morro Bay.

The name of the festival will remain unchanged, however. Waddell noted that the campsite ​— ​formerly known as San Marcos Campground ​— ​changed its name to Live Oak only after the festival located there. “That’s ours,” Waddell said. “We’re keeping it.” She added costs have gone up at Live Oak as well. The County of Santa Barbara, she noted, tripled the per-ticket fees it charged the festival this past year alone. The new location will also be considerably cooler than the Live Oak site, she said, by about 15 degrees during the day and five degrees at night.

Still, the decision to move was anything but easy. “It’s very bittersweet,” she said. “We love this place. A lot of us feel we grew up with the festival here. It’s very beautiful.”

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