Monday, August 2, 2010

China Cat Sunflower Festival - Remembering Jerry Garcia

This week, fifteen years ago, Jerry Garcia left this world.  For those who loved him, it was a tragic loss.  Few musicians in history can claim such a devoted following and to this day, no other musical group has filled as many venues as often as the Grateful Dead in their 30-year career.
photo by: Bruce Lipsky, FL Times-Union
One of the most devoted Deadheads I know is my dear friend Brenda Starr Walker; yoga instructor, massage therapist, earth mother.  Not long after Jerry's death, Brenda decided to celebrate his life with a festival celebrating his birthday, August 1st, and so the China Cat Sunflower Festival was born.

 Fifteen years later, it's still going.  Although this year's claims to be the last.

Patterned after the famous parking lot villages at Grateful Dead concerts, fondly known as Shakedown Street, the festivals are pretty much a free-for-all.  Musicians, bands, street performers, vendors are all welcome but it's every man for himself.  This isn't a highly organized event.

There are, of course, all of the usual suspects:

Music from the Dead fills the air as the hoola-hoopers keep time.  This girl was pretty good, although not on par with the one over at Punch's.


No Dead tribute would be complete without a drum circle and dancers.

A tribute to Jerry.

It wasn't long before the sky clouded over and a summer afternoon thunderstorm formed, right on top of the party or course.

The festival was held in a really nice city park built under the I-95 bridge, but it wasn't cover enough for sideways rain and pretty soon the tell-tale rain drops began to appear.

This year's festival probably will be the last as Brenda is moving deep into the country where she's built herself a Yurt and intends to develop a yoga and holistic health center.  It's probably just as well that it's the last festival as a goodly percentage of the crowd at this year's event were curiosity seekers there because of a feature article in the local newspaper, not for the music or the memories.

It's the passing of an era which, to me, is sad on several fronts.  For one, I miss the "good vibes" Deadhead community which seems to be largely missing in today's music and culture, and, I really miss Jerry Garcia.  Jerry had just reunited with David Grisman a year or so before his death and the music these two giants made together promised to become the pinnacle of the Americana-folk genre.  Acoustic eclectic at its best.

I miss you Jerry, but I am eternally grateful for what you left behind.


  1. We love the idea of a yurt! And oh my, has it really been 15 years? That makes me feel old as hell. I remember attending a GD concert with my brother. The 30 minute drum solo nearly killed us, but absorbing the crowd and the music--the whole atmosphere of it all--was quite the experience. They were truckin' it for a long time.

  2. We'll just have to keep truckin' for him.

  3. A fine tribute.

    "Let it be known
    there is a fountain
    that was not made
    by the hands of man."

  4. Gropius... You can relax, it's really only been 14 years. I decided to look it up and found he died in 1991. But you are right about the concerts, no experience like them.

    Holte... I think my truck has a flat.

  5. wonderful post, deep into the country...that sounds nice.

    much love and thanks for stopping by...

  6. Sorry Punch... we must have been posting at the same time. My favorite line from the song as well.

    StacyJ... I knew you would connect.

  7. I always wanted to go to one of their concerts.
    I use to have a friend that looked a lot like Jerry Garcia he too is grateful now.

  8. Wow, yeah he died the year I graduated high school. I remember it vividly since they had their revival when I was a teen with the "Touch of Grey" video and all. It was because of that (their lesser work) that I went back and listened to the stuff that made them legends. But to me, most of the music from the sixties has NEVER been surpassed. Definitely the best decade for musical creativity and the biggest difference to me about then and now was that folks from the sixties took all of that adversity and made great music. We have just as much crap going on now if not more and most of the bands are just so plastic and undefined.

  9. Very nice post C. Not to dwell in the past, but the promise of those days, as well as the people of those days seems to have passed as well...sadly.

  10. I remember dancing with my wife to Sugar Magnolia.


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