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Reggae On The River 30th Anniversary - Interview with festival producer Justin Crellin

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Reggae On The River will be celebrating it's 30th anniversary this year! What an amazing accomplishment! Anything special on the agenda to commemorate the anniversary?
Well, we really wanted to honor the roots- both of the festival and reggae music in general- but also do it with an eye to the future in hopes of setting the stage for another 30 years of ROTR. From a line-up standpoint, we attempted this by hosting many of the favorite performers who really stood out and thrilled ROTR audiences through the years. Acts like Third World and John Trudell both played the 10th and 20th anniversary showcases, Israel Vibration wrote a song about the event, and of course artists like Jimmy Cliff, Alpha Blondy, Sly & Robbie, Michael Rose and Mutabaruka all have deep historical connections with the show. And in terms of the future, we tried to include a bunch of artists who we've never hosted before like Fishbone, Iration, SEE-I, Jah9, Iba MaHR, Bitty McClean, Jahdan Blakkamoore, Meta & The Cornerstones, Courtney John Project, Abya Yala, Majic, Marlon Asher, GAUDI, and Los Rakas plus some of our newer generation faves like Gentleman, Gyptian, and Etana, etc. Our emcees will also be regaling stories from our 30 year history- and a variety of photos and archival video footage will also be incorporated into our video presentation on the stage.

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With so many great Reggae artists from all over the world, how do you pick and choose who gets to play ROTR?
We have a talent committee that selects the artists. Our crew is a mix of older generation ROTR veterans and young men/ women and we strive to put together a diverse and balanced line up that features both classic and cutting edge artists performing a mix of styles that represent the diversity found within the reggae genre globally- along with some world, electronic, hip hop, and rock elements. We look to include a balance of both male and female artists with brand new works- alongside those you haven't heard from in a while- and try to put perennial favorites alongside acts that our audience has never seen at ROTR (and we especially love hosting debut Cali and North American appearances by tomorrow's stars). We also always find a place for some of our local and homegrown Cali talent. Though we mainly seek out the talent we book, we also take the time to check out new and interested artists- and always encourage groups to send us a CD or link to their music in consideration of a festival play. This year's show is obviously booked already, but the planning for the following year will pretty much start right after we get through this one.

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What were some of the your favorite performances from past years?
Some of the highlights from the year's I have attended include Ghetto Youth Crew and Ziggy Marley (1998 or 99) and Femi Kuti in 2000- these were both transcendent performances for me. Also, the Sugar Minott tribute we did with Sister Carol, Marcia Griffiths, Don Carlos and others to close out our 2010 event in Benbow was a classic moment for me. And pretty much all of last year's homecoming- which was super special for all of us after the time and energy expended in our against-all-odds effort to bring the show back home to its original French's Camp venue.

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One of my favorite parts of festivals is the food! What kind of vendors can we expect? Will there be vegan/vegetarian and gluten free options?
Definitely great food- and better yet, all food vendors support a non-profit cause! A mix of over 20 food vendors offer global fare to suit any palette, from vegan and gluten-free choices to Jamaican and Mexican cuisine, and festival standards like BBQ, pizza, and desserts.

In these environmentally sensitive times, how is ROTR working towards being a green event?
In addition to standard things like recycling, transitioning from plastic bottles, audience education, and employing best management practices in our work on the festival site, one of the most exciting things we are doing can be seen in our water forbearance program. With water being a big issue in CA this year, we started a plan to be a water neutral event by 2015. Through the development of a rainwater catchment pond and percolation gallery, we will not only be able to meet ROTR's water needs, but also drain remaining water from the pond after the event to offset the festival's usage and recharge the aquifer at the driest time of the year- an unprecedented achievement in Cali festival culture.

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Any tips for first timers?

Bring a hat, shade, and sunscreen. Pack layers since it can be chilly on the river bar at night. Definitely bring refillable plastic water containers (we recommend one gallon per person per day). Bring a swimsuit and whatever you need for river fun. Grab a copy of the festival program guide and familiarize yourself with the stage schedule/ your surroundings to maximize your ROTR experience. Bring an irie vibe, commune with your neighbors, and be prepared for the time of your life!

What are YOU most excited for?
The day to arrive.... and hopefully a little time off on the back end!

Interview by Katie Jo Cassidy

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