In just a few years’ time, the California Roots Music & Arts Festival’s attendance has grown from being a 1700-strong crowd to gathering over 15,000 people every day during the three-day event.

It’s definitely not bad for a festival that can only boast of a 6-year existence, compared to some events that have illustrious histories. But then, that’s not a deterrent at all. The California Roots Music & Arts Festival trumps every other USA reggae festival with its lineups and attractions. One look at their previous lineups on their website and you’ll know just how much this festival has grown as a property.

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(Courtesy: Alex Geller)

Its main venue, the Monterey Fairgrounds, was also the spot for the famous Monterey Pop Festival, where the late Jimi Hendrix famously set his guitar on fire. This was way back in 1967, when Monterey boasted of a lineup that featured stalwarts in the world music industry like Ravi Shankar and Otis Redding, among several others.

While the two festivals may be largely different, the spirit remains the same. California Roots isn’t strictly about celebrating reggae culture: it’s about basking in the spirit of California and grooving in the sunshine to a well-curated lineup.

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(Courtesy: Alex Geller)

It’s also about eco-friendliness. You have volunteers separating your waste, food stall vendors using only recyclable material, and no vendors for bottled water on the fairgrounds. To make this more lucrative; if you get a glass from a previous edition, or if you buy a reusable glass, you get discounts on beer. How cool is that?

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(Courtesy: Bulldog Media)

It really is about the vibes here. The festival is meant to make you feel good about yourself. It’s just meant to be 3 days of chilling on the grounds, making new friends, chatting up with like-minded, free-spirited individuals, gorging on different kinds of food and admiring the art on display.

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(Courtesy: Josué Rivas)

Not many reggae festivals in the world can boast of such a magnitude. Most reggae fests prefer to be small scale, calling in a bunch of local acts to perform, and hosting a few attractions. California Roots is the complete opposite of that. The lineup justifies this statement. With two descendants of Marley, Slightly Stoopid, Tarrus Riley, Rebelution, The Expendables and many, many more, this is one lineup worth boasting about.

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One can’t help but wonder what started this mini cultural phenomenon. If the idea of a festival never struck Jeff Monser, we wouldn’t have a California Roots Music & Arts Festival. The founder has a clothing line of the same name, which was in operation before the festival was conceptualized. He just wanted a cool spot for people to gather and listen to good music. It became so big that in 2014, the festival’s organizers added another arena to increase capacity.

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(Courtesy: Josué Rivas)

Here are some other tidbits about the festival: there’s an art area for kids where they can get their faces painted, you can stream the festival live, and though there’s no camping, you can head over to Laguna Seca, which is 7 miles away, and set up your tent there.

If you didn’t know about what is possibly the world’s largest festival of its kind, now you do. The California Roots Music & Arts Festival deserves every bit of the recognition it gets, and things are only going to get bigger for them.