For years the Huck Finn Jubilee was a Father's Day staple in the High Desert. With national acts from Randy Travis to Roy Clark gracing the stage at Mojave Narrows Regional Park, bluegrass fans reveled in a weekend full of music, workshops and fun.
But the Huck Finn left the High Desert in 2013 and it folded after last year's festival at Cucamonga-Guasti Regional Park in Ontario.
But there is no reason for bluegrass fans to despair. High Desert resident Eric Nordbeck founded his annual Route 66 Bluegrass Festival three years ago and this weekend moves it into the Father's Day spot traditionally reserved for the Huck Finn Jubilee. Nordbeck said the event has been successful enough to warrant its continuation at the High Desert Event Center, 14800 Seventh St. in Victorville.
This year, it will take place Friday through Sunday and feature appearances by national bluegrass touring acts, as well as local bands and solo artists in the genre. Nordbeck is expecting his biggest turnout to date.
“Now that the Huck Finn Jubilee is gone completely, I am sure we are going to see a rise in attendance,” said Nordbeck. “We’ve already seen a good deal of growth from year one to year two.
“People from all over the country who are into bluegrass love to come out West and attend festivals where they can listen to bluegrass music and also jam all night.”
Nordbeck and his wife/business partner Kris have booked a stellar lineup of entertainers for this year’s event. Among them are Nu-Blue, Lawrence and Cassidy of the Hillbenders, James Reams and the Barnstormers, Chris Cerna and the Bluegrass Republic, Stillhouse Road and Desperado Bluegrass.
In addition, the Vintage Martins (comprised of Eric Uglum and Bud Bierhaus) are set to perform and will feature Ron Block from Alison Krauss’ band, Union Station, as well as Uglum’s stepsons, Christian Ward (fiddle) and Austin Ward (bass).
Uglum, a resident of Apple Valley, has appeared on stage with everyone from Alison Krauss and Ralph Stanley, to Krauss’ banjo and guitar player, Block. He also toured extensively in the 1990s through the early 2000s with the bluegrass band Lost Highway.
Bierhaus has performed alongside bluegrass greats like Herb Pedersen and Chris Hillman and also won the Texas State Flatpicking Guitar Championship in 2012.
Christian and Austin Ward have become two of the most sought-after touring and studio musicians in Nashville. As a member of Union Station, Block has earned 14 Grammy Awards and also performed on the soundtrack for the hit movie “O’ Brother Where Art Thou?”
Along with the headlining artists, the High Desert-based Southwest Bluegrass Association (SWBA) Kids will perform. The group is comprised of students from West Palms Conservatory in Victorville, where Nordbeck teaches.
Nordbeck said his festival also will offer craft and food vendors, children’s activities, instrument workshops and plenty of room for camping and jamming. In addition, there will be a Songwriter’s Showcase at the festival sponsored by the SWBA.
“A lot of new vendors have come on board this year, so there will be lots of fun stuff to see,” said Nordbeck. “And we’ve really stepped up the activities we offer to the kids.”