By: Brenden Clemente

“It’s not where but who you’re with that really matters.”

As I stood outside our freshly set tent and the cool Monterey breeze blew through the trees, one of our camping neighbors came up to introduce himself.

“This is our first year at Cali Roots,” he said to me. “We’re here to celebrate our friend Wes’s birthday.”

He was talking about Wesley Finley, the drummer for Rebelution, whose close friends are gathered at the festival to celebrate his birthday this weekend.

As we chatted about the fest and what he could expect, I tried to pull together the words to describe the festival for someone who had never been here. What’s so special about Cali Roots anyways? Why do so many people faithfully show up here year after year to come celebrate, and how do you describe that to someone in just a few words?

Obviously the insanely talented lineups are amazing. And there’s the venue itself – the beautiful history pulsing through the historic fairground’s veins, echoes of the Monterey Pop Festival whispering on the wind like long-forgotten secrets. These are truly wonderful things, but they aren’t necessarily the icing on the cake – they’re not the true reason for the festival’s brilliance.

No, at the end of the day, there’s only one word that keeps coming to mind:

“Family.”

Coming to California Roots feels like you’ve finally arrived home. Walking on the paths around the fairgrounds strangers smile at each other and exchange warm “Hellos” like old friends. It doesn’t really matter if you’ve been coming here every year or if you’re stopping by for the first time; everyone is welcomed just the same.

The special thing about Cali Roots is the people who come to be a part of it.

Everyone from the bands, to the fans, to the vendors and staff can’t help but feel pure bliss as they look around at the magic happening right before their eyes. The easy pleasure of sharing a smile, not because you’re friends, but because you’re here, bonded by the ups and downs of life that make up the human experience. It’s something so simple, but so often overlooked as we find ourselves caught in routines.

If only for a few wonderful days, you get the chance to sit back, relax, and soak in some of the best parts of being alive. Whether you’ve been coming every year, this is your first time, or you’re sitting at home thinking about coming, Cali Roots welcomes you like a warm hug, and reminds you of the things that really matter in life.

Thank you Cali Roots for providing a place where like-minded people can come together and create something so much bigger than just the sum of the parts. California Roots will forever hold a special place and time in my heart, and the hearts of the tens of thousand of people who gather each year to experience it. Make sure you take the time to sit back, smile, and take in the moment while you’re here.

And don’t forget…

Although we all come from many different places, everyone’s family this weekend.

Much love,

Brendan