Valley Life » River Rhythms returns to Riverside Park

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Photo by George Stahl
The Kern River Band kicked off the 6th Annual River Rhythms on Friday, August 4. Pictured left to right are Terry Harris, Terry Twombly, Mitzi Twombly, Khris Wilber and Kat Edmondson.
The 6th Annual River Rhythms kicked off this weekend with the Kern River Band. As the crowd grew, so did the wind. What started as a strong breeze soon became an even stronger wind. It was definitely a welcome addition after another 100 degree plus day in the Kern River Valley. The attendees settled in with their coolers, lawn chairs, and sack lunches. Some even had a full picnic lunch, which has become as much a part of the River Rhythms traditions as local bands, select vendors and Master of Ceremonies, Charlie Busch.

When Busch originated the idea of the Friday concerts in Riverside Park in 2011, he really didn't know how it was going to be received by the community. "When we started these six years ago, my hair was black. I didn't know it was going to be such an anticipated event year after year," Busch said. "But on behalf of the Kern River Valley Education and Cultural Foundation, we are very happy to bring this to the community and we will do our best to keep it going," he said.

Over those six years, several dozen bands have had the chance to showcase their talents performing for faithful River Rhythm attendees as well as for visitors and guest from outside the valley. Dan and Mary Russell of Kernville have been at the party every year except one. "We only missed one year when we were on vacation," Dan said. "We have even brought our four year old Chesapeake Bay Retriever with us. Jasmine, the chocolate colored pooch was too young her first year, but she has been with the Russells for the past three years. Several people bring their four-legged music lovers, and some of these even have their own doggy bag picnic snacks with them.

At 6:00 p.m., the new start time for the concerts, the Kern River Band took the stage and for the next two hours or so they played over 40 songs ranging from artists like John Denver, John Mellencamp, Johnny Cash, and the Osborne Brothers. To label the Kern River Band as a cover band is an injustice. That evening they proved to be the ultimate cover band. Even though their stage presence is that of a country group, their repertoire included music from rock and roll, to bluegrass, to country, to folk. If you want to call them anything, it should include the words entertaining, energetic, or down home good fun. During their second set, after a short break, audience members ranging in ages from single digits to those well into the double numbers were filling a large open grass area in front of the stage, showing off a few talents of their own, mainly dancing. Even two year old Grace Fisher, who had already missed four River Rhythms, was wasting no time in trying to make up for not even being born those years, dancing in the audience with her mom, Morgan Fisher, from Wofford Heights.

The members of the Kern River Band, Kat Edmondson, vocalist and guitarist, Khris Wilber and his base guitar, Terry and Mitzie Twombly on guitar and mandolin, and Terry Harris, skillfully playing the dobro, brought the perfect element to opening night for this year's River Rhythms. The lineup for August includes 82 Deluxe from Bakersfield, Guy Jeans and the Stoneflys from Kernville, and The Just Dave Band out of Los Angeles, featuring Dave Bernal.

Another tradition that has taken hold at the annual event is that a few vendors, who also help sponsor the shows, set up around the perimeters of the crowd. Friday evening, a new booth was manned by Michael and Tonya Schroeder of Ridgecrest. The couple was offering a variety of Kettle Corn to concert goers. A few trees away under a blue canopy, Josh Kopperman of SunPower by Quality Home Services was set up, ready to answer any questions people might have about the power of solar. Also making a huge presence at the venue was the group from Wofford Heights known as FYDO (The Fix Your Dog Org) with treats for both humans and their furry friends. "In the last two months, we have, together with our rescue partners, managed to rescue 34 dogs," said Kate MacDonald, founder of the group. She and co-founder Wendy Geis have a number of volunteers who have made a huge difference in the lives of hundreds of dogs over the years they have been doing the rescue, according to MacDonald.

In line with rescue, this year's President of the KRVCEF, John Meyer, said, "All of the money raised at these concerts goes toward the scholarships the foundation offers to both Cerro Coso College and to Kern Valley High School students." "None of the six members of the Board of Directors gets paid, and the money we raise is split fifty fifty between the two schools. We are always looking for new members to join the board," Meyers said. "We don't meet again until November, but if anyone has any questions or wants to join us, they can contact me at john_meyers@kernhigh.org." he added.

Newcomers to the event, Jim and Cheryl Shain, of Bodfish, were impressed by what they saw. "We just moved here from Tujunga and this is our favorite park," Cheryl said. "We come to just sit and watch and take it all in. When we heard about tonight, we had to come. This is why we moved here. We looked all over California and when we came up to the valley, we just knew we had to live here. We love it and we love that we do things like River Rhythms," Jim and Cheryl both said.

The Kern River Band, at the urging of the over 400 people listening, gave an encore with Merle Haggard's 'Ramblin Fever' and finished the night with the Hank Williams' version of Jambalaya (On the Bayou). This year's River Rhythms is starting off with a bang and is bound to end in a roar.
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