SPRING LAKE — For the past three years, music promoter Russ Bowers has endeavored to give jam band fans an event they can sink their teeth into: a four-day romp in the outdoors featuring three dozen top-notch groups.
As a result, the Orange Blossom Jamboree has grown into one of the state's most noteworthy music festivals.
And that pleases Bowers. Although he's eager to see the event, which kicks of Thursday at the Sertoma Youth Ranch, continue to prosper, he would rather do so without having to hire high-priced national acts.
"I think keeping it a Florida-band type of thing keeps it endearing to our particular audience," said Bowers. "Every year we have about 35 bands, and most of them play at clubs and bars on weekends and have built strong followings. That's pretty much our audience."
Keeping the festival low-cost is as important to Bowers as keeping it low-key. At a time when admission to events such as the Wanee Festival in Live Oak can top $200, he can still offer a weekend worth of music and camping for about $60.
"We've always thought that our festival is what people want to make it," Bowers said. "For a lot of people, it's just a fun weekend to stretch out and relax, and just spend time with friends."
Bowers, who lives in Fort Lauderdale, said he was inspired to start the event after attending several jam band festivals in the Midwest.
The genre, which has its roots in iconic 1960s rock bands, such as the Grateful Dead and the Allman Brothers Band, has widened in recent years to embrace worldly sounds such as reggae, blues, bluegrass and jazz.
As usual, the festival will feature continuous music on two stages and will include returning groups such as Fungus Garden Reverb, Skull and Bone, Cope, the Funky Presidents, Beebs and Her Moneymakers, and the Juanajamon Band. All bands will perform for at least an hour.
In addition, about 30 vendors will sell food, beverages and handmade crafts.
Weekend passes include rough camping. RV hookups are sold out, but campers may be set up in primitive camping areas for $15.
Logan Neill can be reached at (352) 848-1435 or [email protected]