By Keli Moore
Live Oak Music Festival kicks off June 21, but this year, there’s a new venue as it’s been moved from Lake Cachuma in Santa Barbara County to El Chorro Regional Park in San Luis Obispo County.
For the last 29 years, Live Oak has been held at Lake Cachuma, but what you might now know is that the first festival, put on by KCBX radio, was in San Luis Obispo County at Biddle Park in Arroyo Grande.
Tents were going up and sound checks were underway at El Chorro Regional Park on Wednesday as organizers got ready for the sold-out weekend ahead.
“We have come back to San Luis Obispo County for several reasons. The biggest reason is that Live Oak Camp is a designated firefighters camp,” said Marisa Waddell, Artistic Director for Live Oak Music Festival and KCBX employee.
With hot and dry conditions and lots of tall grass out there to burn, festival organizers had to make a tough decision.
“We would have to make way for firefighters if there were a fire,” Waddell said.
In that case, the festival would likely have to be canceled.
“That would be detrimental to both KCBX and the festival because it wouldn’t be covered by insurance,” Waddell said.
Based on ticket sales, festival-goers don’t seem to mind the change. Organizers expect 2,000 people per day at El Chorro Regional Park the weekend of June 21-23.
“We have had people happy about it and people who are sad about it,” Waddell said.
One of those people is Brette Womack. She has gone to Live Oak for the last few years.
“I thought, ‘oh, I am not going to camp because it’s just down the road.’ This changes the whole vibe of the festival. I think a lot of people who have been going for years will still camp and have a great time regardless,” she explained.
Live Oak organizers say 60 to 70 percent of festival-goers come from San Luis Obispo County, so it’s closer for the majority of people.
“I have definitely heard both ways. People who have been going forever have their campsites that they get every time and it’s their routine. I mean, I am into change, so I am excited to see how the place is,” Womack said.
As of midweek, campers were setting up on the fairway at Dairy Creek Golf Course, but organizers are warning campers to be careful of the orange cones. They are there for a reason – to protect the golf course’s irrigation system.
“Live Oak Music Festival is such a positive community event. People come together and kind of forget the rest of the world for the weekend. It’s kind of a Shangri-La or paradise for three days,” Waddell said.
Live Oak Music Festival is the biggest fundraiser for KCBX outside of the radio station’s pledge drive. The monies are used to pay for programming.